Chapter 21: Pointpoint
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Ch. 21: The Civil Rights Movement (1950-1968)
Section 1: Demands for Civil Rights
Centuries of oppression and discrimination came to a head during the 1950s, with a historic and successful push for African American equal rights.
Rise of African American Influence
Since the end of the Civil War, African Americans had increasingly migrating to large northern cities.
The New Deal
Under FDR the number of African Americans working for the government increased.
Rise of African American Influence
Increased demands led to a dependency on African American labor and service in military. The Holocaust opened many American’s eyes to discrimination within the U.S.
Rise of NAACP
Grew in size and strength. Strong legal team led by Thurgood Marshall.
Brown v. Board of Education
In 1951, Oliver Brown sued the Topeka, Kansas Board of Education to allow his daughter to attend a school for whites only. Fought by Thurgood Marshall, the case eventually reached the Supreme Court. In 1954, in a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional and that schools should desegregate.
Reaction to Brown v. Board of Ed.
Reactions were mixed African Americans rejoiced, as did many white advocates of integration. Many whites, even if they didn’t agree, accepted the decision. Others, particularly whites in the Deep South reacted with fear and anger.
Georgia Governor, Herman Talmadge said he would “not tolerate the mixing of races in public schools” The Ku Klux Klan became more active. 90 members of Congress expressed opposition in what became known as the “Southern Manifesto.”
Argued that the Supreme Court had overstepped its bounds and violated their rights.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
In 1955, Rosa Parks took a seat at the front of the “colored” section of the bus. When the “whites only” section filled up, she refused to give up her seat to the new white riders. She was arrested and stood trial for violating segregation laws.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
After Rosa Parks’ arrest, civil rights leaders quickly decided to boycott the bus system of Montgomery. Planned to boycott the buses until they changed the segregation policy. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the 26-year-old minister of the Baptist church where the first boycott meeting took place.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Over the next year, 50,000 African Americans in Montgomery walked, rode bikes, or joined carpools to boycott the buses. Although the bus company refused to change its policy, in 1956 the Supreme Court ruled bus segregation unconstitutional. Movement encouraged new leaders like MLK and the effectiveness of peaceful protests/boycotts.
Little Rock Integration
In 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus defied the Supreme Court’s ruling of integration. Posted Arkansas National Guard troops at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas to turn away the nine African American students who were supposed to attend that year. Angry mobs formed outside the school in protest of the integration.
Little Rock Integration
President Eisenhower, although privately opposed to integration, was forced to act against a disobedient Arkansas government. Placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal command. Sent U.S. soldiers to Arkansas to protect the nine students.
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
The League of United Latin American Citizens also worked to achieve equal rights for Hispanics. Mexican Americans often attended segregated schools. In 1947, it was ruled that segregating Mexican American students was unconstitutional.
Most Native Americans lived in terrible poverty on reservations. In 1953, the government adopted an approach known as “termination”, the elimination of reservations with a goal of assimilating Native Americans into mainstream society. Met with strong resistance and eventually abandoned. Poverty and lack of political representation continue today.
Section 2: Leaders and Strategies
The Civil Rights Movement was a grassroots movement, started and driven by ordinary community members. They acted through a number of different organizations.
Interracial organization founded by W.E.B. Du Bois (1909) Du Bois stated,
“the main object of this association is to secure for colored people… free and equal participation in the democracy of modern culture.”
NAACP helped win Brown v. Board case.
National Urban League
Founded in 1911, sought to assist African Americans moving out of the South to find homes and jobs in cities. Insisted that factory owners and leaders allow African American workers the opportunity to learn skills that would lead to higher employment.
Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)
CORE was founded in 1942 by pacifists. Dedicated to bringing about change through peaceful confrontation. Organized demonstrations against segregation during WWII, after the war it grew into a national organization.
Philosophy of Nonviolence
Rising civil rights leaders, such as MLK, preached nonviolence, despite violence and hostility towards African Americans. Believed that love and nonviolence was more powerful than violent uprising.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
In 1957, MLK helped form the SCLC, which advocated nonviolent protest.
“To understand that nonviolence is not a symbol of weakness or cowardice, but as Jesus demonstrated, nonviolent resistance transforms weakness into strength and breeds courage in the face of danger.” –SCLC statement
Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK)
Grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, father and grandfather were both Baptist preachers. Eloquent speaker in his youth, graduated early from high school. Attended
Morehouse College in Atlanta Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania Boston University for his doctorate. (at 26)
King was greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi led India in a nonviolent revolution to gain their independence from Great Britain. Gandhi believed in protest and disobedience, but that despite violence, one must not be provoked to retaliation. This won Gandhi and India widespread international sympathy.
King began training volunteers to Gandhi’s methods. He showed films, songs, and skits demonstrating the success of passive resistance in India. King understood that violent retaliation would only justify discrimination and racism.
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
The SNCC helped young people join the activism. More aggressive in their demands, sought immediate change. King praised the organization, calling them “a revolt against the apathy and complacency of adults in the Negro community.”
Bob Moses was a Harvard graduate student and math teacher in Harlem. Moved to Atlanta to join the SNCC. Recruited volunteers to help rural blacks register to vote. Helped the SNCC grow to become a powerful force.
Section 3: The Struggle Intensifies
Sit-ins became popular. Protesters sat down in the white section of segregated restaurants and refused to move until served. Opponents often persecuted the sitters. By 1960, 70,000 African American youth had been arrested.
In 1960, the Supreme Court banned segregation on interstate buses. To see if the South would obey, CORE and SNCC organized the Freedom Rides in 1961, where African Americans rode the newly integrated buses.
Violence on the Freedom Ride
Leaving from Washington, D.C., the thirteen freedom riders experienced only minor conflicts at first. In Anniston, Alabama, a mob slashed tires of the bus and when the bus broke down outside town, they broke a window and threw in a firebomb. Riders escaped to the beatings of the mob.
The nation was horrified to see pictures of the burning bus. Violence continued as new riders replaced old ones. In Jackson, Mississippi, riders were arrested immediately and the first ride died out. 300 more Freedom Riders, however, continued riding throughout the rest of that summer.
Integration at “Ole Miss”
In 1961, James Meredith attempted tried to transfer to the all-white University of Mississippi, “Ole Miss”. He was rejected before the Supreme Court ruled him eligible. In defiance, Mississippi’s Governor blocked Meredith’s way into the admissions office.
Integration at “Ole Miss”
President Kennedy was forced to uphold the Supreme Court’s decision and sent in federal marshals. Violence erupted, tear gas used. 2 people were killed and hundreds hurt. Kennedy sent army troops to restore order and ensure Meredith’s safe admission.
Clash in Birmingham
MLK when to Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 to organize protests and boycotts in what he called “the most segregated city in America.” Almost immediately, he was arrested and placed in jail for trying to organize a march without a permit.
Clash in Birmingham
MLK was released on bail and reorganized the march, this time allowing young people to join. During the march, Birmingham’s police arrested 900 young people, used fire hoses and violent dogs on the marchers. Policemen clubbed and jailed the protesters.
The one-sided violence of the Birmingham police sparked national outrage. Television cameras and pictures brought the images to the entire nation and ultimately led to desegregation in Birmingham.
Section 4: The Political Response
Kennedy on Civil Rights
John F. Kennedy became President in 1961. Campaigned heavily for the black vote with bold rhetoric. “If the President does not himself wage the struggle… the battle will be lost.” –JFK Once in office, Kennedy proved more moderate, afraid to anger southern senators.
With escalating Southern violence, JFK spoke up on television…
“We preach freedom around the world… but are we to say to the world… that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes?... The time has come for this nation to fulfill its promise.” –JFK
Hours after the speech, NAACP leader Medgar Evers was gunned down and murdered outside his home. White supremacist Byron de la Beckwith was charged with murder. After 2 hung juries, he was convicted in a reopened case in 1994 (30 years later).
March on Washington
Leaders in the movement organized a massive March on Washington in August 1963. Over 200,000 people. Many celebrities participated including Jackie Robinson, Bob Dylan, and Peter, Paul, and Mary. MLK gave the keynote speech… “I have a dream”
“I Have a Dream” -MLK
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood… I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character… All of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Under Lyndon B. Johnson (after JFK assassination) government passed its most far reaching civil rights act. The Civil Rights Act of 1964…
Banned use of different voter registration standards for blacks and whites Prohibited all discrimination in public accommodations Allowed withholding of federal funds from institutions which practice discrimination Banned discrimination by employers and unions
Section 5: The Movement Takes a New Turn
The slow pace of progress frustrated many African Americans who turned away from MLK’s message of love, integration, and nonviolence for more radical, militant black power movements.
Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska. Father spread the “back-toAfrica” message of Marcus Garvey. Grew up in ghettos in Detroit, Boston, and NYC; turned to crime. At 20, he went to jail for seven years for burglary.
Nation of Islam (Black Muslims)
In Jail, Malcolm joined the Nation of Islam, often called the Black Muslims. They viewed white society as oppressive and preached black separation. Their leader, Elijah Muhammad, taught that Allah (God) would bring about a “Black Nation”
Malcolm changed his name to Malcolm X, “Little” he said had come from slave-owners. Exiting prison in 1952, he began preaching as a minister for the Nation of Islam. Preached black nationalism, that African Americans must be a strong, unified, and separate community. White society was perceived as the enemy.
Opposed to Integration
Malcolm X disagreed with the goals and strategies of the early civil rights movement. “all of this non-violent, begging-the-white-man kind of dying” Believed blacks shouldn’t integrate but form a separate, self-reliant society and economy.
Malcolm X: Mecca
As an Islamic pilgrimage, Malcolm X traveled to Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 1964. Seeing millions of interracial Muslims worshiping peacefully together completely transformed him. Changed his hatred toward whites and separatist views.
Malcolm X Assassinated
When he returned, he appeared ready to work with other civil rights leaders and white Americans. His radical transformation created enemies with his former friends. In 1965, just nine months after returning, he was shot to death in NY by members of the Nation of Islam.
The Black Power Movement
Figures such as Malcolm X, despite his change of heart, gave way to a new, more aggressive and militant movement, the Black Power Movement.
SNCC Shifts Gears
Stokely Carmichael, born in Trinidad, came to the U.S. and became involved in the SNCC. Grew tired of nonviolence and arrests, called SNCC members to begin carrying guns and wanted the group to be exclusively black. At one of King’s rallies, he took the microphone and challenged leaders…
“The only way we gonna stop them white men from whippin’ us is to take over. We been saying freedom for six years- and we ain’t got nothin’. What we gonna start saying now is ‘black power!’” –Carmichael
In 1966, a new militant political party, the Black Panthers, were formed. Panthers wanted African Americans to take charge in their communities. Wanted government to rebuild the ghettos and often were involved in violent confrontation with police. “Power flows from the barrel of a gun” “Black is beautiful”
Law v. Reality The
early civil rights movement focused on fighting legal discrimination. Fighting de facto segregation and African American poverty, however, was much more difficult. Poverty, poor living conditions, lack of education, and general discrimination continued to plague blacks despite changing legislation.
Riots in the Streets
Residents in ghettos often viewed police as dangerous oppressors. In the mid 1960s, major riots broke out throughout the country. In 1965, the Los Angeles riots were most famous. A normal arrest turned violent and resulted in six days of rioting.
In 1968, King was campaigning for his movement to help reduce poverty in Memphis, Tennessee. Gave “mountain top” speech Next day, shot while standing on hotel balcony.
nations was devastated by King’s assassination. President Johnson order flags to half mast. Frustrated, many African Americans believed King’s death meant the death to nonviolent change. Riots broke out throughout the country.
Robert F. Kennedy Assassinated
Robert F. Kennedy was a major civil rights supporter. Served as Attorney General for brother, JFK. Robert was running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968, and winning, when assassinated.
Legacy of the Movement
The death of MLK and Bobby Kennedy caused many to question if true progress was made during the movement. Even today, racial, economic, and social divisions remain both nationally and globally. However, the civil rights movement succeeded in ending the legal discrimination of African Americans in the U.S., and in raising awareness of race issues in our world.