The Civil Rights Movement of 1964 from a Psychological and Sociological Perspective

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The African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s focused on attaining the most basic rights for African Americans. This Movement focused on the fundamental issues that for White Americans were a basic right. They were freedom, respect, dignity, and economic and social equality. This was a movement of ordinary people who made the difficult decision to stand up for what they believe in. They did this knowing that there would be a price to pay, whether it be being jailed, assaulted, or in some cases even killed. The sociological and psychological motivation behind this Movement, and what drove ordinary people to stand up for what they believed in, and accomplish extraordinary achievements for African-American Civil Rights is that of strength, and determination to stand up for what is just.

From a psychological perspective it is important to understand the period before the Civil Rights movement was born. This struggle had been fought since the post-Civil War years, when African-Americans fought for the emancipation of slavery (Farber, 1994). It then continued on through the first decades of the twentieth century, when the Ku Klux Klan paraded down streets demonstrating that whites were the superior race. The masses of African-Americans were obeying the social norms that were established even though they were un-just and cruel. They were treated as second-class citizens, and treated with brutality if they stepped out of line. This type of behavior was far more prevalent in the South, as white Northerners began to see that stopping racism and segregation was a matter of un-contested common sense (Farber, 1994). It took the courageousness of NAACP member Rosa Parks in December of 1955 to not give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus which set off a chain of events that generated a momentum the civil rights movement had never before experienced (Congress). This struggle for freedom was far from over. In fact, it had just gotten started. On February 1, 1960, four students from the all-black North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College took stools at the “whites only” lunch counter of Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina (Farber, 1994). This behavior is one that had been manifesting in these individuals their whole lives. They stated when asked by a reporter that they had been planning for this event their whole lives. In this act, they demonstrated that they were part of an elite group of individuals responsible for the progression in the chain of events that would lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The Woolworth sit in spawned a movement in the 1960’s that provided a more direct and immediate way to fight racism and discrimination (Farber, 1994). It showed young African-Americans that they could be strong and act on their own without waiting for the larger organizations such as the NAACP. These young people realized that it was up to them to enforce change upon the United States that they so desperately needed. They struggled with the fact that the social stratification that they lived with was unjust, and their needed to be change in order to equalize the power and social classes (Brigid & Thomas, 2008). It was the injustices that they were exposed to their whole lives, and being forced to live in poverty that drove them to impose their struggle on the masses. The conflict theory played a huge role in the Civil Rights Movement. This was clearly a struggle among competing groups, the African-Americans and White-Americans to achieve equality in society. African-Americans wanted the right to own property, and to attain employment in a “functionally important” position (Brigid & Thomas, 2008). White-Americans were not willing to allow them this, as this would mean that they would have to give up a share of what they had. In the 1960’s African-Americans took four crucial steps that changed the nation (Farber, 1994). The first step was that they took a stand against...
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