American Civil Rights

Topics: Martin Luther King, Jr., Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lyndon B. Johnson Pages: 35 (11259 words) Published: April 10, 2008
The American Civil Rights Movement (1955–1968) refers to the reform movements in the United States aimed at abolishing racial discrimination against African Americans and restoring suffrage in Southern states. This article covers the phase of the movement between 1954 and 1968, particularly in the South. By 1966, the emergence of the Black Power Movement, which lasted roughly from 1966 to 1975, enlarged the aims of the Civil Rights Movement to include racial dignity, economic and political self-sufficiency, and freedom from White domination.

Many of those who were most active in the Civil Rights Movement, with organizations such as SNCC, CORE and SCLC, prefer the term "Southern Freedom Movement" because the struggle was about far more than just civil rights under law; it was also about fundamental issues of freedom, respect, dignity, and economic and social equality.After the disputed election of 1876 and the end of Reconstruction, whites in the South resumed political control of the region under a one-party system of Democratic control. The voting rights of blacks were increasingly suppressed, racial segregation imposed, and violence against African Americans mushroomed. This period is often referred to as the "nadir of American race relations," and while it was most intense in the South to a lesser degree it affected the entire nation.

The system of overt, state-sanctioned racial discrimination and oppression that emerged out of the post-Reconstruction South and spread nation-wide became known as the "Jim Crow" system, and it remained virtually intact into the early 1950s. Systematic disfranchisement of African Americans took place in Southern states at the turn of the century and lasted until national civil rights legislation was passed in the mid-1960s. For more than 60 years, they were not able to elect one person in the South to represent their interests. Because they could not vote, they could not sit on juries limited to voters. They had no part in the justice system or law enforcement, although in the 1880s, they had held many local offices, including that of sheriff.


* Racial segregation. By law, public facilities and government services such as education were divided into separate and unequal "white" and "colored" domains. * Disenfranchisement. When white Democrats regained power, they passed laws that made voter registration more complicated. Black voters were forced off the voting rolls, and the number of African-Americans elected to office decreased. From 1890 to 1908, Southern states of the former Confederacy created constitutions with provisions that disfranchised most African Americans and, in many cases, poor whites. * Exploitation. Increased economic oppression of blacks, Latinos, and Asians, denial of economic opportunities, and widespread employment discrimination. * Violence. Individual, police, organizational, and mass racial violence against blacks (and Latinos in the Southwest and Asians in California).

African-Americans and other racial minorities rejected this regime. They resisted it and sought better opportunities through lawsuits, new organizations, political redress, and labor organizing (see the American Civil Rights Movement 1896-1954). The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1909 and it struggled to end race discrimination through litigation, education, and lobbying efforts. Its crowning achievement was its legal victory in the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that rejected separate white and colored school systems and by implication overturned the "separate but equal" doctrine established in Plessy v. Ferguson.

Since the situation for blacks outside the South was somewhat better (in most states they could vote and have their children educated, though they still faced discrimination in housing and jobs), from 1910-1970, African Americans sought better lives by migrating...
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