Civil Rights Research Paper
The pursuit of racial equality after Word War 2 was a long and perilous journey. In the minds of most Americans, people of high influence or power were the vehicles that drove the civil rights movement forward from where it was started. Influential and popular characters like Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, and Rosa Parks were constantly in the spotlight, for eliminating Jim Crow Laws, working towards desegregation of the education system, and standing for the rights for African Americans respectively. However, the success of the civil rights movement can mainly be attributed to the hard work, and dedication of the “unknown” masses of people rather than the Government/Public Figures. This is based upon the documentation of personal examples of civil right activists of the time, and the observation of the Government’s participation through the eyes of the people.
The book, “Debating the Civil Rights Movement 1945-1968” starts off with Steven Lawson’s interpretation of the civil rights movement. He believes that the government and public figures like Martin Luther King Jr. contributions weighed more heavily than the people behind them, although he does state their importance in the matter also. He believed the Government was more effective in getting changes to happen, because what they decreed was law. However, their effectiveness was brought upon through the prodding of the people. This is because while the Government decreed the law, it was created to where it could be manipulated. Whether through not setting a time limit for the changes to happen, to it being broad, legislation passed ultimately in the end guaranteed to set equality in place, but took a while to reach that point. Lawson also details on the effectiveness of Martin Luther King and other important figures similar to him. King and the major organizations, like NAACP made it impossible for the government to ignore the issue of racism. The effectiveness of sit-ins and boycotts increased when King participated in them, because he was like the spokesperson of the movement and the media mainly followed him. If he was harmed, it was bound to be in all the newspaper and word would spread to Washington like wildfire. It forced the president to spring into action to quell the fire started by the incidents. He voiced the opinion of the people in interviews from the media. Organizations hired lawyers to interpret the law, allowing them to take the case, to the Supreme Court. Through the Supreme Court ruling in the people’s favor, also set the wheels of progression into motion. Although Lawson seems to make it clear that these factions where what brought about the change, he didn’t leave out the contributions of the people. He even seems to kind of contradict his argument/interpretation through saying, “African Americans must organize to achieve their freedom… the fed. Government made racial reform possible, but Blacks in the South made it necessary.”# However he ends the section with the thought that the Government was essential for the African Americans to succeed.
The second part of the book states the views of co-author Charles Payne. He opens his interpretation with questioning how, we the reader perceived the movement. He touched on the fact that out view of the Civil Rights movement was shaped through the familiar images history textbooks produced. He argues that the participants, and events of the Civil Rights movement had been romanticized, told through a viewpoint that may not have been biased, but removed the elements of realism from the text(death, beatings, acts of violence, etc) He goes on to mention people like, Charles Hamilton Houston, Myles Horton. Most people aren’t familiar with these names, yet through their actions they produced the activists of their future, an example being Thurgood Marshall. He also goes on to talk about people like Ella Baker, and A. Randolph, members of civil rights organizations, and...
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