Discrimination of the Africa-American minority group was so rampant after the Second World War between 1940s and 70s. The blacks faced unfair treatment that was culminated by the American system. In retrospect, blacks did not have equal employment opportunities and share of the national cake from a political point of view. Furthermore, the rift between the Whites and Black was so intense that even violence could emerge between them. Whereas the judicial and the political class were largely composed of the Whites, many Africa-America languished in racially-motivated oppression. This resulted into the development of civil rights movement, a struggle that was aimed at fighting for justice and equity. Although the civil rights activists played an important role in achieving these goals, the American legislative system and conflicting interests of these movements deterred progression of the rights of the blacks.
The segregation law created more antagonism between the Whites and the Blacks. During this time of high racial discrimination in the United States, the law gave the American more fair treatment than the African-American. In the States of Alabama the Jim Crow Laws were a good example of how legislation burdened the blacks’ struggle for civil rights. In December 1995 in Alabama, an old woman aged 42 called Rosa Park was arrested for not giving a seat to a white passenger. This act was fueled by the segregation law which restricted the social co-existence and interactionism between the White and African-Americans. Furthermore, African-Americans were denied equal job opportunities in areas of the national defense forces and army. Also, they were paid low wages and salaries and even some employers would fail to pay them. In a statement by Philip Randolph, he says that “To American Negroes, it is the denial of jobs in Government defense projects. It is racial discrimination in Government departments. It is widespread Jim-Crowism in the armed forces of the Nation . This is an indication that the segregation law of Jim Crow played a big role in determining the future of the Blacks.
The judicial system together with the government were in the forefront in perpetrating injustices while handling Black issues. The allegation case concerning the death of young boy, Emmett Till, who allegedly whistled while in a local store. Despite the evidence being overwhelming in the eyes of the White juries, the accused was acquitted. Similarly, in Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi, the employment laws seemed to further oppress Black workers under the Crowism regime. She asserts that “She didn’t stop working until a week before the baby was born, and she was out of work only three weeks. She went right back to the café .” It was evident that women were given inadequate time when they give birth. In fact they would return to work after a short break. It is for the cruelty of the Jim Crow’s laws that Randolph also called upon the Negros to demonstrate for their abolition . Therefore, the struggle for Civil Rights in area of employment, labor and education required an abolition of the Crow’s law since it created a challenge in the struggle for equity.
Nonetheless, the Blacks were faced with challenges from within their system. Anne Mood expresses in her book how the Black community would not stand up for their rights. Most African-American were poor with a fraction of the community having the privilege to earning decent wages and salaries. This was one of the factors that contributed the reluctance of many Black people. The leaders focused so much on the political and rather than addressing racism in broader context. Even from the Randolph’s speech, the dominant message is fighting for equity in the employment. Critical issues facing the Blacks at economic level such the increasing hatred between neighbors due to the segregation were properly addressed in the speech. In other words, even despite having succeeded in pushing for amendments and abolishment, Black’s problems were still not far much solved. The blacks needed to be empowered economically through engagement in productive farming among other activities. Anne Mood would want the movement to also consider the economic situation of the Blacks so that they can get empowered and be able to stand and fight for their rights.
Formation of civil rights movements
Further, to redeem the black people, civil rights movements were formed. These civil rights movements encompassed the efforts by activists from the grassroots levels all the way to the national leaders who were tasked to ensure that he rights of African Americans were not violated. The main tasks of these organizations were to first ensure that the rights of the black Americans are secured for in the constitution. The extent of the laws was such that they should include rights for blacks that secure for their equal protection at the law and rights to due processes. Making the legal amendments was a voting process that was faced by many challenges mainly from the ant black rights movements. This saw the 1950s to 1960s extend the heights of agitation for black American rights than was during the civil war (Fairclough, 2001).
Despite the abolition of slavery and discrimination of the blacks between 1865 and 1870, the black were only accorded citizenship. This was not enough as the most fundamental rights of voting were not guaranteed. This diminished the voice of the black Americans in developing and democratizing the American society. The reconstruction of the American constitution through the 14th and 15th amendments respectively further extended the oppression to the black equality. The black Americans faced many forms of discrimination with the southern states specifically manifesting the oppression of the black people through what was famously known as the Jim Crow Customs. Legislations done between the 1890s and 1920s racially segregated the blacks mainly through public venues such as schools, restaurants, hospitals, theaters, cemeteries and beaches (Fairclough, 2001).
All these were various forms of injustices that derailed the efforts of the rights movements as they had to face legal challenges, intimidation and prevention of the blacks form enjoying their rights as citizens. To overcome these challenges, African American activists challenged these injustices with great vigor. They formed the black press and advocated for the blacks to move to safer places. For instance, journalist Ida B. Wells encouraged most blacks to migrate to the north in the efforts to make the Africans protest against unfair practices in hiring and lynching African American men on allegations of assault to whites (Cashman, 1991).
Some of the leaders that were the face of the African American emancipation include Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois who with others formed a nationwide association of black people in 1909. In the subsequent years, this organization emerged as a body that fought for the equality of black though the legal system.
There were also challenge in the development of the movements and securing of the rights of the black people by white supremacy groups such as Ku Klux Klan (KKK) that used coercion to prevent the efforts by the rights activists and their movements to have the black people migrate northwards to areas that were considered safer. These efforts also prevented the blacks form competing for economic opportunities, voting and jobs. The white people especially from the south as well practiced segregation in addition to other forms of discrimination. For instance, there were things such as “whites only” signs in places like Chicago that limited the blacks to employment and empowerment as a society. Sometimes, blacks were only hired as casual or unskilled labor (Dudziak, 2000).
This segregation was entrenched in the American society as recent as 1940s when a prominent farmer called James founded the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) in 1942. During the world War Two, the civil rights movements invigorated themselves and galvanize the black American people and enhanced their awareness about the potential of their political influence. Despite the growing economy in the united states in the 1940, the blacks were discriminated on the basis of wages and hiring. This propped the leaders of the movement such as Philip Randolph who was the president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters to organize a grand match of 100,000 blacks to Washington DC to protest against discrimination in the industrial sector. The fruits of these protests were the signing of the executive order number 8802 by then president Roosevelt to outlaw any prejudicial treatment of the blacks (Dudziak, 2000).
Segregation was also entrenched in areas where the black worked like in the armed forces whereby over a million blacks served in units that were segregated. This was ironical of their mandates in freeing countries abroad while their internal democracy was jeopardized. This renewed the sense of the soldiers to fight for freedom and equality which further brought challenges in the military forces (Cashman, 1991).
The protection of rights for the black Americans experienced many challenges in the 1960s as this period was characterized with more segregation especially in the south. For instance, during the 1960s college students in the south initiated the sit-in at segregated Woolworth lunch counters that sparked similar acts in the southern states. Eventually, this resulted in the formation of the student’s nonviolent coordinating committee (SNCC) that entrenched the strategies of young people in their strategies to make America a racially equal society. These movements joined forced with other movements already in operation to fight for the rights of the black Americans. Through training, seminars and workshops, the black Americans were trained on non-violent strategies to push forward their agenda (Cashman, 1991).
As a result, clamors for freedom rights that sought the end of segregation for interstate buses and other public facilities that segregated blacks. These efforts led to the outlawing of such segregation by then Attorney General Robert Kennedy. African American children were also the face of the struggle with children increasingly participating in protests and matches. Challenges include use of force by the government, teargas and death of protesters though the use of force. For the adults, they ensured jail time, police assault and torture. The height of these challenges saw the CORE, SCLC, SNCC and NAACP organize biggest matches of the backs to Washington DC. For instance, on 28 August 1963 over 200,000 blacks and 50,000 whites matched to Washington Lincoln memorial to listen to black American movement leaders such as martin Luther King Jr. (Branch, 1988).
To be in solidarity with the black Americans, the white Americans especially college students participated in various protests and demonstration matches. To demonstrate the multiracial commitment in freeing up the blacks the whites were integrated in the activities of the blacks. However, this was not taken lightly by other whites and the pro-segregation quarters. For instance, the college students from universities across the United States took part in the protests like those of Berkeley and university of California during the voter registration projects in the Mississippi during 1964. This strengthened the rights movements for the rights of the black Americans as students went back to college and enlightened their peers. However, as the civil rights activism grew bolder, violence was mounted against them. During the 1950s when television had been proliferated, it enabled the viewers across the United States to witness how mobs of blacks were belted with stones by the whites, the police who used all manner of weapons to subdue peaceful protesters such dogs, clubs and fire horses among others. There were also violent reactions such as during 1963 when the white supremacists blew a church in Birmingham killing four African Americans and injuring dozens more. Leaders of the activist’s movements were also murdered such as the murder of Medgar Evers in front of his house in 1963. During the drive to register black voters in 1964 in Mississippi, three leaders of the civil rights movements disappeared. White sympathizers of the black movements were also killed o disappeared while others were wounded by gunmen (Olson, 2001).
The ebb of civil rights movements
Arrests, degradations and other forms of violence embittered most black activists who endured abuse without the right to fight back. Most critics such as nation of Islam Malcolm X was forced to denounce the strategies used by the civil rights movements such as the nonviolent resistance and integrationist goals as a way of defending the activists and their followers from attacks. Blacks were encouraged to form their own communities to fight for their space to religious, cultural and economic freedom and development. This called for radical views such as the ‘black power” that sought to empower blacks to economic self-reliance, pride and necessary self-defense. This necessitated conflicting actions such as the demand that whites leave the movements so that blacks take full control of their liberation. These further raised the animosity between different races and the white controlled governments that strengthened their stance against the blacks. The removal of whites from the leadership of the civil rights movements also brought other challenges such as financial problems because they were the main funders of the organization. This acted as breaks to the established momentum of the groups (Matusow, 1984).
Leaders of the movements were also disgruntled that despite their efforts over many years, the racism problem was not ending. For instance, despite leaders such as martin Luther king remaining committed to nonviolence and integration, he was awake to the reality that it would take black Americans more than voting rights and desegregation to solve the problems facing the black American society. King inspired black Americans to denounce wars by America abroad that segregated people on racial lines such as the racial conflict against Asians, the Vietnam War. This provoked the government and its agents to institutionalize racism towards black Americans and other Americans of color who in their fight against these forms of oppression disproportionately fought and died in big numbers (Collier and Franklin, 2001).
To hit the last nail on the coffin, Martin Luther King as assassinated by snipers when he visited striking garbage workers who were in the process of launching the Poor People’s Campaign. This underscores the heights of challenges that the black American society has faced for centuries and king’s assassination inspired the black people to put more push. It also inspired the black civil rights movements to stop the infighting and bring the necessary change that eventually made the white American society to tolerate black Americans as a formidable part of the American society (Sitkoff, 1993).
The turning points
Various actions by the leaders of the civil rights movements for the black Americans led to landmark decisions and the signing executive orders by American presidents outlawing some actions by the status quo gave the civil rights unprecedented momentum and strength. As a result the black American society gradually gained various freedoms. As from 1963 onwards, there was near total freedom as black Americans had more equal access to political power and opportunities, economic and social empowerment. The civil rights movements also found ideas of national cohesion and integration in Christianity, philosophy and economic empowerment as sure strategies for fighting racial segregation. Other events such as the brown rulings, the questioning of racism in a country that claimed to be a global leader of democracy and freedom and the success of Montgomery bus boycotts among other events, called upon the American national establishment to live its moral claims (Plummer, 1996).
The legacy of the civil rights movements
The influence of the civil rights movements in the United States has been enduring and extensive. Various civil rights movements for the black Americans and the Americans in general have been inspired to promote the equality and rights of men and women in the United States, the disabled, the Chicanas, the Indians, Asian Americans and even gays and lesbians. Decades now after the peak of the American civil rights movements, contemporary activists are now fighting a variety of causes both local and international and employ all manner of strategies like civil disobedience, sit-ins, legal and constitutional interpretation. Following the wok of the civil rights movements, the participation of black Americans in all levels of politics right from the local, to federal to national levels have increased dramatically. Already the dream of America having a black president has come and passed. More blacks are now voters; they dominate various sectors of the economy and may soon turn the American demographics upside down (Takaki, 2000).
The struggle of the Civil Rights movement was coupled with legislative and economic challenges. The Jim Crow laws oppressed the African-American and in order to bring equity in other areas such as education and employment, amendment or abolition of such laws were necessary. The segregation law contributed to the rivalry between the Whites and Blacks. This antagonism would make it difficult to pursue civil rights goals since the legal system would cushion the Whites and protect them. Also, economic empowerment of the Negros was not enough to make the people stand and fight for their rights.
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