The Beginning of Civil Rights Movement in the U.S

Topics: Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy Pages: 9 (2695 words) Published: October 15, 2014


“Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies. It means having their legs off, and then being condemned for being a cripple.1” These were the words of Martin Luther King Jr.. For nearly 80 years after being freed from slavery, African-Americans suffered under the discrimination and segregation of their fellow Americans. After World War II, African-Americans were ready for change and the nation could feel the inevitable Civil Rights Movement coming. With nonviolence and motivation the Civil Rights wheels were set in motion led by determined leaders and brave youth, which would have a permanent effect on American society. After the Civil War ended on June 22nd, 1865 and the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced in the last states that still had slaves. With the passing of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, African-Americans had for the first time in history the privileges of citizenship and the right to vote. Unfortunately, with the withdrawal of federal troops from the South, the situation for African-Americans, all across the nation, would only deteriorate until the Civil Rights Movement starting in 1954, keeping most African-Americans unable to vote making them “economically and politically powerless”.2 Many unsuccessful attempts for civil rights, unsupportive presidents, and violence from groups like the Ku Klux Klan made Civil Rights progress nearly impossible for nearly 80 years, even under the support from organizations such as the NAACP. African-Americans had to abide by Black Codes and Jim Crow laws in many parts of America and faced daily discrimination. Segregation under Black Codes and Jim Crow laws became a part of daily life for African-Americans all over America. The “separate but equal” reasoning was backed by the US Supreme court in the Plessy v. Ferguson case after a Louisiana Law stated that railroads must provide “equal but separate accommodations for the white, and colored, race.”3 African-Americans tried to push Civil Rights on different occasions such as World War II, where the idea of a “Double V” (spreading democracy abroad and at home for African Americans) began after James G. Thompson wrote a letter to the Pittsburgh Courier in 1942; “let colored Americans adopt the double VV for a double victory.”4 Though somewhat successful with the passing of the Fair Employment Act, most consider the Civil Rights Movement to begin after the Brown v. Board of Education case5 in 1954, ruling segregated schooling unconstitutional. The Brown v. Board of Education was a major step in the Civil Rights Movement. One of the first attempts to integrate a school in Little Rock, Arkansas received national attention after the nine black students who were selected to join a previously white high school were met by an angry mob. President Eisenhower had to send troops in just so that these students could go to school unharmed, a headliner that shocked the nation.6 This would not be the only violent reaction to the Civil Rights Movement. The majority of Civil Rights activists, though, believed in nonviolence.7 Martin Luther King Jr., a leader in the Civil Rights Movement who was a supporter of nonviolence, said, “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a sword that heals. (It) cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.”8 This nonviolent approach to Civil Rights could be seen in the way African-Americans used Buses to break down segregation; both in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and the Freedom Rides in 1961. Claudette Colvin was 15 years old when she was arrested for refusing to move to the black section of a bus. Nine months later, a more famous bus arrest happened to Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King Jr. saw the...
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