White Resistance to the Civil Rights Movement

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Civil Rights

Throughout Reconstruction, southern whites felt constantly threatened by legislation providing rights for former slaves. The Civil Rights Bill of 1875 was the last rights bill passed by congress during reconstruction. It protected all Americans’ (including blacks) access to public accommodations such as trains. With the threat of complete equality constantly looming, violence toward former slaves gradually increased in the years following the Civil War. Beatings and murders were committed by organized groups like the Ku Klux Klan, out-of-control mobs, and individual white southern men. During Reconstruction, white southerners had limited governmental power, so they resorted to violence in order to control African-Americans. Although it is true that some whites embraced the prospect of a new interracial landscape for America, many more reacted with hostility. They feared social and political change, and were very uncomfortable with the fact that their old way of life seemed gone for good. Although there were many forms of massive resistance to the Civil Rights Movement and what it stood for, the impact of white resistance, both violent and nonviolent, on this period in America’s history is truly immeasurable. There are two scholarly works that not only trace the white resistance movement with historical accuracy, but also stress the plight that African Americans felt at this tumultuous time in history. The books that I am referring to are “Massive Resistance: The White Response to the Civil Rights Movement” by George Lewis, and “Rabble Rousers: The American Far Right in the Civil Rights Era” By Clive Webb. Although these works are both written about the same period in history, they depict much different points of view concerning white resistance and what brought it on. The “southern way of life” encompassed very distinct mixtures of economic, cultural, and social practices. Because of this, integration of African Americans into everyday life...
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