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Civil Rights Essay, Research Paper

The Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement in the United States is a struggle by black Americans to gain full citizenship rights and racial equality. Many people have challenged discrimination with many activities, including protest marches, boycotts, and refusal to abide by segregation laws. Many people think that the movement began with a boycott of in Alabama, in 1955 and ended with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but many people say that it has not ended yet.

The civil rights movement challenged segregation or the attempt by whites to separate the races. By 1877 the Democratic Party had gained control of government in the South and began to pass laws separating blacks and whites. Other laws denied voting rights to blacks.

Conditions for blacks in northern states were better. There were not many segregated areas, and blacks were usually free to vote. However, job discrimination against blacks was a big problem, the better jobs almost always went to whites.

In Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that “separate but equal” accommodations were constitutional. This decision provided legal protection for segregation. To protest segregation, blacks created huge organizations. One of them is The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) it was founded in 1909. The NAACP s lawyers began to challenge segregation and discrimination in courts.

Even during World War I blacks in the military were segregated from whites. Thousands of Southern blacks moved northward, seeking jobs in northern cities. In the 1930s black protests against discrimination increased.

During World War II all the armed services moved toward equal treatment of blacks, although none of them totally rejected segregation. Hundreds of thousands of blacks left Southern farms for war jobs in Northern and Western cities, where they received larger incomes. Black veterans returned home with greater determination to win civil rights and were supported by many white Americans. In 1948 President Harry Truman ordered the final desegregation of the armed forces.

In the years after the war, the NAACP s star lawyer Thurgood Marshall wanted to obtain educational equality. In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court held in Brown v. Board of Education that racially segregated education was unconstitutional. Southern white opposition to the ruling was intense. In 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas, Governor Orval Faubus ignored a federal court order to admit nine black students to Central High School. President Dwight Eisenhower sent troops to enforce desegregation. As desegregation progressed, membership increased in the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1955 Rosa Parks, a black resident of Montgomery, Alabama, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a city bus. Montgomery’s black community staged a boycott of city buses, ending in 1956 in a federal court s order for Montgomery’s buses to desegregate

In 1960 four black college students in North Carolina sat at “white-only” lunch counters, sparking a wave of sit-ins across the South. Many restaurants were desegregated after that.

In 1961 civil rights activists started the Freedom Rides, in which blacks and whites traveled around the South in buses to test the effectiveness of a Supreme Court decision declaring segregation illegal in bus stations. When the Freedom Riders reached Alabama, violence began, and President Kennedy stepped in to protect them.

In 1961 white supremacists reacted violently when SNCC and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organized voter registration campaigns in Southern states. In 1964 SNCC recruited northern blacks and whites to help register voters in Mississippi. The project received national attention when three participants, one black and two whites, were murdered.

At a SNCC protest in 1965 in Selma, Alabama, police beat and tear-gassed marchers. Televised scenes of the event shocked many Americans and created broad support for a law to protect Southern blacks’ right to vote. President Johnson persuaded Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, suspending the use of restrictive voter qualification tests, which most blacks could not pass.

After 1965 the focus of the civil rights movement began to change. Martin Luther King, Jr., focused on poverty and racial inequality in the North. Some activists criticized his interracial strategy. In 1968 King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The main opponent of King’s policies was SNCC, led by Stokely Carmichael. What had been a national consensus for civil rights began to deteriorate. In 1968 the Black Panther Party came about, using violence to achieve its goals.

For many people the civil rights movement ended with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Many say that the movement is not yet over because the goal of full equality has not been achieved. Racial problems still existed after 1968, and poverty among blacks represented a growing problem. Beginning in the 1970s children were bused outside their school districts to desegregate schools, and new affirmative action programs attempted to address the question of equal opportunity for blacks, other groups, and women.

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