American history is full of rich facts and movements and slogans that have transformed how the country works today. Decades ago racism was at its peak in America; but has faded down. However, it is still not gone. Even recently in 2020 there have been brutal killings of blacks by white police officers because of their race. Did they deserve it? NO.
Decades ago blacks protested for their rights, made their way to the constitution, freed themselves from slavery, but the extremist racism embedded in the minds of white supremacists has really made the cause even stronger gaining popularity and support from all over the country.
America has fought for what it is today, it has lost precious lives at the hands of barbarians and if it is a little livable for blacks today, is because of the relentless efforts back then. The civil rights movements are proof of the fact that enough is enough, and that blacks are not taking anymore violence and injustice because of the colour of their skin.
Table of Contents
- 1 Civil Rights Movement Definition
- 2 Civil Rights Movement Facts
- 2.1 Jim Crow Laws- 1865
- 2.2 President Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9981- 1948
- 2.3 Little Rock Nine- 1957
- 2.4 Civil Rights Act- 1957
- 2.5 Woolworth’s Lunch Counter- 1960
- 2.6 March on Washington- 1963
- 2.7 Bloody Sunday- 1965
- 2.8 Voting Rights Act- 1965
- 2.9 Martin Luther King Jrs. Assassination- 1968
- 2.10 Fair Housing Act- 1968
- 3 Was the Civil Rights Movement Successful?
- 4 Conclusion
Civil Rights Movement Definition
The Civil Rights Movement is a decades-long movement led by African Americans to end slavery, injustice and violence against them. It started in 1954 and ended in 1968, almost a 14 year struggle for blacks to be given a seat at the table.
The movement didn’t charge up overnight, this was the product of decades and decades long injustice and violence against blacks. It all started when Africans were forcefully transported to the Americas as part of the Middle Passage back in 1699 and 1845 where they were given to whites as slaves to work in hardcore industries to produce wealth and goods for them.
Since then, blacks were considered an inferior race and were dehumanized to the point where even killing them in the name of race was no big deal. Years of segregation and torture eventually sparked the civil rights movement in 1954 in America where blacks put a full stop on the unfair treatment and malice against them.
One of the most notable figures of the movement and also known as the ‘mother of the civil rights movement’ was Rosa Parks, a 42 year old black woman who refused to give up her seat on the Montgomery bus for a white person. Transport systems were segregated with a different section for whites and blacks, and when the white section filled up, the bus driver asked three black people to vacate their seats for whites, to which Rosa Parks retaliated and was soon arrested.
This incident sparked up the movement and encouraged blacks to stand up for their rights and to support the cause of Ms. Parks. History is full of examples of such brave and heroic black activists who decided it was enough!
Civil Rights Movement Facts
The civil rights movement marked the beginning of retaliation against unjust treatment, the basic timeline of the events is as follows:
Jim Crow Laws- 1865
The era of racial injustice against blacks began as early as 1865, and were heightened because of the emergence of Jim Crow Laws that encouraged segregation. The laws made it clear that blacks and whites were NOT allowed to share common ground: public places, schools, transportation etc. So much so, blacks who were working in white houses were given separate washrooms and were not allowed to use white bathrooms.
Even though the Emancipation endorsed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 ‘freed the slaves’, the implementation of this amendment was hardly seen, and the situation in the South was even worse. The existence of Jim Crow Laws automatically made whites superior to blacks, enabling them to mercilessly torture, accuse and often kill in the name of race.
President Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9981- 1948
Even Though giving equality to blacks was introduced in the Constitution, the system was still far too cruel for blacks. When the cold war began, President Harry Truman gave an Executive Order to end discrimination in the military, and as a result many blacks and white fought side by side heroically in the union. This was one of the major steps in the civil rights movements to lay grassroots initiating the end of racial segregation and discrimination.
Little Rock Nine- 1957
In 1954, legally it was made illegal for segregation amongst students in public schools. On September 3, 1957, nine Black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, showed up at Central High School to start classes yet were rather met by the Arkansas National Guard (on request of Governor Orval Faubus) and a shouting, brutal crowd. The Little Rock Nine attempted again half a month later and made it inside, yet were still secluded in every activity
At long last, President Dwight D. Eisenhower mediated and requested government troops to accompany the Little Rock Nine to and from classes at Central High. In any case, the understudies confronted non stop badgering and hate.
Civil Rights Act- 1957
Even though many African Americans had legally gained the right to vote, the Southern hemisphere made it severely difficult for them to vote. They couldn’t stand the fact that the blacks they once enslaved were now on their common ground, thus they made blacks take literacy tests that were often too difficult to pass and made sure the process was humiliating for them.
In september 1957, President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act and made it into a law to make sure no blacks were being denied their right to vote. This also streamlined the whole system making it easier to pinpoint voter fraud and corruption.
Woolworth’s Lunch Counter- 1960
Four college students went to Woolworth’s Lunch Counter and were not being served, thus, they took their stand and refused to leave without being serviced. This created a huge scene and in the next hundred days, hundreds of people joined the cause, where most were arrested for the protests and trespassing. This eventually led to a boycott in all sit-ins that were segregated, until the owners caved in and ended this discrimination in their restaurants.
The original four students who were refused service in Woolworth’s were given their orders in the very same spot they stood their ground months ago.
March on Washington- 1963
The March on Washington was a peaceful protest in August 1963, led by famous African American activists like Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr. The main purpose of this protest was to force the civil rights legislation and to have equal pay in the corporate sector.
Almost 200,000 people joined the cause which led to President John F. Kennedy signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, guaranteeing equal employment opportunities, no literacy test for black voters and to make sure that all public facilities were integrated.
Bloody Sunday- 1965
There has not ever been a peaceful protest where white supremacists didn’t interfere. And their interference caused killing and torturing of blacks on the streets. When in 1965 a black civil rights activist, Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed by a white police officer, 600 peaceful protestors marched from Alabama to Montgomery demanding justice.
As the nonconformists approached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were impeded by Alabama state and neighborhood police sent by Alabama lead representative George C. Wallace, a vocal rival of integration. Declining to remain down, dissidents pushed ahead and were violently beaten and tear gassed by police and many nonconformists were hospitalized. This incident was widely broadcasted on mass media and was then given the name of Bloody Sunday.
Voting Rights Act- 1965
After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act was signed and made into law in 1965 which banned all literacy exams and poll taxes were declared unconstitutional. This was an important step where voting rights were further legalized.
Martin Luther King Jrs. Assassination- 1968
The civil rights movement had suddenly started facing immense criticism and backlash as a result of blacks being given their space and voice. In 1965, an African American activist, Malcolm X was assassinated at a rally and soon after in 1968, nobel peace prize winner and a hero in the black community, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
KIng’s death outraged the black community because as a leader he always chose non-violent ways of activism and his brutal assassination on a hotel balcony. In the spring of 1968, King gave a heartwarming speech about his mission and goals, and said, ‘I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.’
This speech moved thousands of blacks in the community and some white people who were fighting for the same cause. But African Americans saw their leader’s assassination as a rejection of equality and justice they had been fighting together, for years.
Fair Housing Act- 1968
Shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the Fair Housing Act became a law which allowed equal access of housing to all blacks and whites alike. No one would be denied housing based on their race, sex or religion, and this was also the last legislation enacted in the era of the civil rights movement.
Was the Civil Rights Movement Successful?
The question shouldn’t be as simple as this, was the movement successful? Yes and No.
The movement gave birth to the spark and rage that was piling inside of blacks for years! The movement is successful because the goal of including African Americans in matters of politics, safety, health and even social norms was somewhat achieved through protests and laws. The race that was once acting slaves to white supremacists had almost come on as equal to them, with voting rights, with anti-segregation laws and justice being slowly granted to them.
For 14 years that the movement was at its peak, many activists and many people joined the cause and marched for the rights of blacks. The end goal was still far away, but the movement gave birth to the beginning of an era, a time where people aren’t discriminated against for their colour.
But the movement hasn’t reached its end goal yet, blacks are still oppressed and discriminated against today, in 2020. Starting with the case of a 46 year old male George Floyd who was brutally murdered by a white police officer, who had cuffed the man down on the neck with his knee for eight minutes. Floyd repeatedly let out suffocated screams yelling that he couldn’t breathe, but that didn’t stop the officers to retreat back. Eventually, he died in a gruesome way.
Breonna Taylor, 26 year old black female, was shot eight times by police officers who barged into her home at night while she was sleeping. They apparently had a search warrant of the house regarding a drug case and in the event killed Taylor who was also unarmed.
Last year in 2019, Atatiana Jefferson aged 28 was killed at home in the presence of her eight-year old nephew. She was shot through the window of her own home where she was sitting peacefully just seconds ago.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. For years, there have been hundreds of such cases where blacks were killed brutally by white people, their only crime being the colour of their skin.
The civil rights movement is widely known as a movement to stop injustice and racism against blacks in the US. What started in the 1950s still has a mark today, all the way in 2020. Racism isn’t a concept that was built overnight; it stems from years of oppressive and superior thinking against one particular race, and often sprouts extremist behavior like killing and torture.
There has been a change in how the world views blacks now, they are given a seat at the table, they are given voice, and even a role in popular culture. However, the problem is still there. The oppression is still there. It may be masked behind subtle actions, but it is very much still alive. And it may take another decade of protests and marching for rights to reach the goal that the founders of the civil rights movements once dreamed of.
Even in all the rigorous hate against them, African Americans rose above all and fought for their status today, and if anyone stands in their way, they will retaliate when the revolution comes.