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Methods In The Civil Rights Movement Essay, Research Paper
The progress toward equal rights for blacks in the U.S. has been going on for over
two hundred years. Since the first colonists settled in the Americas, slaves were a
common piece of property. This identity as property was reinforced when the United
States Constitution counted slaves as 3/5 of a human. After the civil war, a series of laws
and the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth amendments tried to set all citizens on the
same level. Unfortunately, as a result of Plessy v. Fergusen, Jim Crow Laws were
enacted as a way of segregating blacks and whites. Then during the middle of the 20th
century the second reconstruction began and civil rights movements attempted to fix the
problems with racism in America. This is where controversy started, what civil rights
movement was most effective in fighting discrimination. With the facts on hand, one
could surmise that civil disobedience had the most positive effect on the civil rights
One method, that was somewhat effective, was affecting change through the
country’s judicial system. People and lawyers tried to repeal unjust law involving
discrimination and enact new ones to fight racism or to integrate. One of the most
famous cases advancing civil rights was Brown v. Topeka Board of Education in 1954.
Hailed as the start of the civil rights movement, it said that segregation was inherently
unequal and therefore unconstitutional. This was preceeded by a less publicized, but
similar case (Sweatt v. Painter) in 1948, saying that segregated law schools at the
University of Texas violeted the Equal Protection Clause. In 1967, the Loving v. Virginia
case judged that the banning of interracial marriages was also unconstitutional. In a
more radically judged decision in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg schools were ordered
to integrate schools even where there were no black or no whites. The judicial system
was very effective in that it controlled the law of the land, and people could not act
against the will of the Supreme Court. It was ineffective too, in that all judges at the time
were white and many blacks had poor legal aid.
One of the ways that blacks were able to acheive competent attorneys was
through organizations intent upon advancing the civil rights movement. Some of the
more well known organizations exist to this day. The SNCC helped blacks in the south
by organizing political parties and helping them to get elected into powerful public
positions. The NAACP provided scholarships for education and the power of size. Many
others from CORE to SCLC fought to help civil rights at every turn. They united blacks
and gave them support; provided legal aid for important cases; and organized actions of
civil disobedience. These organizations were very effective since they turned individual
people into one powerful tool. Despite its uses, many whites viewed them as racist and
bent on destruction and upheaval, eliminating compassion for the cause.
Of the techniques used, civil disobedience inarguably created the most
compassion for the cause. Some organizations mentioned above tied in with this idea,
and a few, like Martin Luther King Jr.’s Freedom Riders were exclusively involved in
this. The goal of the people who followed this credo was to create feelings of anger
toward discrimination and compassion for the black cause. The civilly disobedient acts
frequently practiced were marches(such as the Million Man March), sit-ins at bus
terminals and stores, boycotts, and non-violent demonstrations. When people herd and
saw the brutality being inflicted upon non-violent protesters, they realized that there were
many unfair laws and unjust actions being committed. Instead of trying to appeal to the
sensibilities of blacks who already knew of the unjustice, civil disobedience appealed to
the white majority which needed to be convinced that blacks deserve equal rights. It was
only ineffective in its slow rate of progress and its inability to attract young, angry blacks.
All of these methods had one common goal: equal protection for all people under
the law. Each cause had its own way of reaching this point. This discrepancy diluted the
cause slowing each one’s effectiveness. But at a time when many such groups were
‘preaching to the converted’, civil disobedience had the allure to make many liberal
whites crossover and tip the scales. This forced the country to change its ways. Clearly
civil disobedience had the most positive effect on the civil rights movement.
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