Goals and Strategies of the Civil Rights Movement

Topics: Black people, Martin Luther King, Jr., African American Pages: 7 (2441 words) Published: April 22, 2008
African-American Civil Rights Movement

Throughout the 1960’s, the widespread movement for African American civil rights had transformed in terms of its goals and strategies. The campaign had intensified in this decade, characterized by greater demands and more aggressive efforts. Although the support of the Civil Rights movement was relatively constant, the goals of the movement became more high-reaching and specific, and its strategies became less compromising. African Americans’ struggle for equality during the 1960’s was a relentless movement that used change for progress. In essence, the transformation of the Civil Rights Movement throughout the 1960’s forwarded the evolution of America into a nation of civil equality and freedom.

In the late 1950’s – early 1960’s, the Civil Rights Movement was a peaceful, relatively low-key fight for equal rights. The movement had moderate goals, and generally did not aim to overcome prejudice in a swift and aggressive manner. At the start of the movement, many African Americans were outraged with the clear ineffectiveness of President Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Act of 1957. This political action intended to provide suffrage for blacks in Southern states; however, with the prevalent racism in the South, it was ignored. In response, black leader Martin Luther King Jr. would often deliver idealistic speeches about the triumphs blacks could achieve politically, socially, and economically. This is evident in Dr. King’s famed “I Have a Dream Speech,” which he made in 1963. As indicated by its title, the speech merely stirred the souls of countless blacks for no particular political action or specific demand. This is evident in one of the most famous lines from the speech, “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low; the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” Though Dr. King is speaking in the name of African American civil rights, he discusses no specific set of goals to accomplish to gain equality. The people are, therefore, inspired without a means to advance their campaign. For this aimless idealism, King was nicknamed “De Lawd” (a derivation of “The Lord”,) implying the man preached of magical things happening to the black people. In the Statement of Purpose for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) of 1960, which reads, “We affirm the philosophical or religious ideal of nonviolence as the foundation of our purpose, the presupposition of our faith, and the manner of our action. Nonviolence as it grows from Judaic-Christian traditions seeks a social order of justice permeated by love.” Here, we find no declarative statement on what the committee aims for, but rather a vague remark on a society that may one day be enriched with kindliness and equality. What is supposed to be a statement of purpose is essentially a description of the non-aggressive nature of its purpose. As its name implied, this band of Civil Rights Activists was established in 1960 in Raleigh, North Carolina, in the interest of civil disobedience to achieve freedom. This group was responsible for a number of sit-in demonstrations, and many members were also Freedom Riders (which is discussed further on in this essay.) However, this group eventually changed its name in light of the changing forms of the civil rights movement. Therefore, the transformation of the goals of the Civil Rights Movement is indicated in the change from Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to Student National Coordinating Committee. The passive connotations of the word Nonviolent disappeared just as more assertive motions were made throughout America, with a clear set of goals. These more specific goals are outlined in “What We Want” by Stokely Carmichael, a prominent black leader of the very same committee mentioned above (SNCC.) The...
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