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Evolution of the Civil Rights movement in the US

Dissertation : Evolution of the Civil Rights movement in the US. Recherche parmi 240 000+ dissertations

Par   •  2 Janvier 2020  •  Dissertation  •  2 554 Mots (11 Pages)  •  66 Vues

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Eric                                                                                            06/10/15



The world’s triple heavyweight champion Cassius Clay joined the Nation of Islam two days after winning his first title in 1964, thanks to the influence of Malcolm X, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali to support the African-American movement for the civil rights. Following World War II, from 1945 to the late 1960’s, America was marked by a rising involvement of the black minorities to gain their respect from the entire white population in the United States. Their methods used evolved from moderate, pacifist actions in the early decades to a more radical, aggressive approach at the end of the period due to unfulfilled hopes and growing frustration.

The first solution African-Americans considered was to be patient hoping for the government would ensure they could exercise their civil rights without much troubles, especially in the South.  The example is found in 1946 : motivated by a possible gain in political popularity from African-Americans, the president Truman established the President’s Committee on Civil Rights by Executive Order. The group evaluated the conditions of this minority in the nation and witnessed the violence caused by a renewed Ku Klux Klan maintaining the separation between white and colored people. As a consequence in October 1947 the report called “To Secure These Rights” was issued, criticizing the hypocritical image America gave by proclaiming itself the figurehead of democracy while playing the ostrich game in front of such treatments.  It appealed the government to get involved in the fight against discrimination in the United States, as well as the claim for lynching to be considered as a federal offence in order to restore the foreign impressions over the country. The report also requested that the poll tax would be abolished to suppress the economic disadvantage of African-Americans in addition to the ban of unequal treatment in interstate travel or in the military forces and voting rights to protect them from violence in the time of elections. These demands stood in sharp contrast to the southern states laws condoning constitutional segregation. It did not stop however separation in the north and the west. To promote himself during the election year in 1948, Truman issued another Executive Order to guarantee fair employment in the civil service :  equal treatment in federal employment agencies was granted as a result by the newly created Federal Employment Board. It had its limits since conservative segregationists ruled federal agencies and it suffered from low budget. Nonetheless these measures improving the social conditions of African-Americans proved that relying on the authority of the government was a valid tactic.

         The civil rights movement asserted its progression by resorting to judiciary power. This method was used primarily in the field of education : Heman Marion Sweatt sued the Texas Law school for refusing his admission in 1950 (the Sweatt Case). The Texas trial court had time to make the decision to build a separate law school for blacks, which was appealed against by the plaintiff and his lawyers. Thurgood Marshall and his NAACP colleagues presented his case to the Supreme Court . This further proved the involvement of African-Americans into justice. Sweatt won the case owing to the statement of the Court that the separate school suffered from quantitative differences (sixteen full-time professors for the normal University and only five for the black school) and intangible factors (future lack of interaction with the lawyers).

    Another example is the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case in 1954 : years before, thirteen Topeka parents, including Linda Brown’s one had taken its Board Of Education in Kansas to court. Marshall and the NAACP presented suit in 1951 in order to challenge the segregation in education on the ground of psychological effects on children and the unconstitutionality of separation. Their wish was granted on May 17, 1954 when Chief Justice Warren and the other judges of the Supreme Court stated unanimously that separate facilities are against the Constitution. Consequently, the schools were given the order to integrate black students, with however their deliberate speed. It opened a way to the south for massive resistance, gathering fighting citizens or a hundred and one southern representatives who agreed to denounce an “abuse of judicial power” in the 1956’s Southern Manifesto. At the end of the 1950’s, less than a percent of african-american children were integrated in public schools. These efforts made to achieve desegregation convinced the president Eisenhower to push in favor of the civil rights movement and signed with the Congress the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and 1960 to protect the rights of African-American to vote. The federal courts proved themselves to be a force for change for black people to enforce their social rights.

        The problem was that African-Americans felt the lack of determination from legal authorities to support the movement. They decided to act themselves in order to have a dynamic defense of their rights. To do so they organized massive peaceful resistance of the separation system. On December 1st 1955, Rosa Parks refused to submit to the city ordinance of Montgomery, forbidding colored people from taking a seat in the front of the bus, she was therefore arrested. As a woman with clean police records, she became a model for the black community and gathered into a massive boycott under the guidance of the Montgomery Improvement Association’s leader Martin Luther King since the authorities did not listen to their demand to allow those who came first to be served as well : two hundred thousand people participated to the boycott ; after three hundred eighty-one days, the bus economy had been severely as the bus drivers were mainly black Americans who gave up their post. The resulting reaction was extremely violent : severely households were firebombed, mass-arrests in February 1956 to finally end the color line. It remained a victory at the end, with the Supreme Court defining the seating law of Alabama as unconstitutional; it cast light on the unity and the organization capabilities of African-Americans. New hopes were given to end segregation in other fields: the boycotts extended to restaurants such as Greensboro ‘s F.W. Woolworth store in February 1960 where members of the black community were denied service decided to avoid any shops in the city, crushing the economy and ending rapidly segregation. Another form of resistance was the “-ins” actions : the three hundred sit-ins in the Woolworth store, kneel-ins in churches and wade-ins. Advocating nonviolent methods were efficient to allow African Americans to cast away prohibitions.


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