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The 1960s and the fight for racial justice

The chapter The Fight for Racial Justice spoke of the rising voice against discrimination. In particular legalized segregation in the South. In the Deep South there was persistent economic inequality. Most blacks worked for white landowners who paid them very little. There was also inequality in education and blacks were routinely kept from the voting booth by the use of fear and intimidation. Segregation was rampant- white and colored signs were on water fountains, restrooms, and sections of theaters. Although a lot of this segregation and discrimination occurred in the South, it wasn t confined there by any means.

The challenge to segregation in schools came to the courts in the famed case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. It challenged the previous court ruling, Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld the separate but equal standard in public education. In 1954 Brown overruled Plessy and the notion of separate but equal was discredited as being separate but not equal. The court ruled that segregation was wrong but left it up to local officials to decide how to eliminate it.

A struggled began over desegregation. Some localities had more problems than others. In the South, in particular, problems were intensified by years of local traditions and prejudices. Many districts chose to ignore the Supreme Court ruling altogether. In Little Rock, Arkansas the Governor deployed the National Guard to prevent the students from entering Central High School. Eventually the President sent the 101st Airborne Division to restore order and allow the African Americans to enter the school. Desegregation would be an issue for a long time to come but it wasn t the only issue facing Americans in the battle for racial justice.

In December 1955 in Montgomery Alabama, Rosa parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white passenger. She was arrested and civil rights leaders (including Dr. martin Luther King Jr.) organized a bus boycott. The boycott lasted 381 days and wreaked havoc on white businesses. In the end the courts ruled that segregation on busses was unconstitutional. The civil rights leaders had a signal victory

Dr. King gained prominence through this boycott and became the most visible leader of civil right s in the 1960 s. He would carry out a doctrine of civil disobedience to further the fight for civil rights. After Montgomery, bus boycotts took place in other cities throughout the south increasing awareness of the inequities throughout America.

The civil rights movement of the 50 s and 60 s took place because of several factors. The fact that black men and women served with distinction in World War II and civil rights leaders invoked their record of service. Also black migration from the farm to the cities, development of community organizations and other social groups, and the ability of blacks to vote in northern cities and create their own political organizations served to push the civil rights movement to the forefront. Therefore in the 1960 s the civil right movement became a force that could no longer be ignored.

The chapter entitled Eisenhower Republicanism started by highlighting Eisenhower s military background and his commands and achievements. He was very popular and was elected very easily to the presidency in 1952. In 1956 he was elected to a second term in a landslide victory.

During his terms as president America was living in prosperous times. Looking back it seems (in my opinion) as though most Americans were living in a sort of Happy Days dream world. But there was an underside to all this prosperity and happiness-the hunt for communists.

Many lives were ruined over this hunt for subversives. Over 2,220 federal employees were dismissed. By 1954 however, the hunt for subversives was beginning to lose public support. McCarthy, who was the architect of the accusations, out reached himself and began to accuse high-ranking military officers who served with distinction and were popular with the public. What ensued was the televised coverage of the Army-McCarthy hearings. The public saw McCarthy as a bully and a villain. In late 1954 the Senate voted sixty-seven to twenty two to condemn him for conduct unbecoming a senator. He died within three years from complications due to alcoholism.

Meanwhile the Cold War continued. The U.S. and the USSR avoided direct confrontations for the most part and it seemed that the battleground would be the small third world nations. In 1953 and agreement was signed ending the hostilities in Korea. However the U.S. began to increase its presence in Vietnam when the French pulled out after being humiliated there. This would prove to be ominous.

In the 1950 s the Middle East produced some anxieties also. In 1948 Jews proclaimed Israel as their nation and homeland and Trumann instantly recognized the new nation giving it credence internationally. The Arab world stood vehemently against any idea of a Jewish state, especially in their backyard.

In Cuba, in 1959, a coup had taken place in which the military dictator had been exiled and Fidel Castor took over the reigns of power and established a new regime. It would turn out that his regime would become closely tied to the Soviets. By 1961 diplomatic ties were severed with Cuba and the U.S. began training Cuban expatriates for an invasion of the island.

Through all this America s main concern was to stop communist expansion in Europe. The USSR violently put down riots and rebellions in Eastern Europe. The arms race continued to escalate increasing tensions between the two superpowers. In 1960 a U-2 spy plane was shot down over Russia, putting an end to planned negotiations between Khrushchev and Eisenhower.

When Eisenhower left office in 1961, he warned of the unwarranted influence of a vast military-industrial complex. His warning wasn t heeded. His successors argued that the U.S should act more aggressively. They did.

The chapter The Resurgence of Liberalism continues with the narrow election of John F. Kennedy as President. It briefly touched on his popularity and how the nation mourned his death. The rest talked of the Johnson administration and domestic issues that confronted the nation through the 1960s. Those issues included; healthcare, the war on poverty, the public school system, and civil rights.

Johnson pushed a program called Medicare through congress in 1965, which provided federal aid to the elderly for medical expenses. In 1966 he also pushed the Medicaid program through congress that provided federal medical assistance to welfare recipients of all ages. These programs received some criticism but they the public by and large supported them and ensured their survival.

These two programs were the beginning steps of the war on poverty. The focus of the war on poverty was to train the poor, to help people get out of poverty by providing opportunities. Community Action programs were started to provide valuable experience and opportunities to the poor. However the programs fell by the wayside primarily because of abuse and mismanagement. Some other programs were successful such as Head Start and Food Stamps and had a permanent impact on society. Although these programs did not eliminate poverty, they nonetheless provided some hope and some progress was made.

In 1966 Johnson established the Department of Housing and Urban Development to revitalize decaying cities. He also to passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 through congress. This provided economic assistance to schools based on economic conditions of students rather than the schools. In three years federal spending for schools went from $5 billion to $12 billion.

All these reforms were dubbed the Great Society. The Kennedy-Johnson years reflected a growing trend in America over the concern for social issues. The Great Society programs meant an increase in federal spending. Over time these programs became far too expensive to manage. By the 1980s many became disillusioned with the Great Society programs and that government intervention couldn t solve social problems. However, the 1960s saw the greatest decline in poverty in the U.S. than any other time period. Whether it was from the Great Society programs or merely the economic growth of the time is debatable. Nevertheless the poverty level dropped from 21 percent in 1959 to 12 percent in 1969.

The rest of the chapter covered the ongoing struggle for civil rights. It was a time of unrest and violence. Many cities erupted in race riots resulting in lives lost and property destroyed. Many blacks that had grown tired of passive resistance sought other means to get their point across. Most notably were the Black Panther Party and the nation of Islam. Both of these groups would become influential and bring attention to the plight of black people in America.

Overall, I believe that the late 50s and the 60s was a time of purging and renewal for America. I think it was sometimes horrible and violent but it was something that we had to struggle through. Sometimes people have to be hit in the head with a two by four to wake them up and see things for how they are. I think that the civil rights movement was the two by four and although it didn t solve all racial problems, it did put us on the path to recovery tat we arte still traveling down today.

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