The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of Liberalism
The emergence of the civil rights movement after World War II was one of the most important events in US history. It forced white Americans to recognize the systematic discrimination that affected African Americans and other non-whites. And it shattered the postwar consensus and sparked a revival of liberal reform. These reforms included landmark civil rights legislation that outlawed discrimination and restored the voting rights of blacks in the South. Reformers in the 1960s also increased government regulation of business, expanded the welfare state, and passed laws that addressed new “quality of life” issues. By the late 1960s, new political forces committed to combating discrimination and protecting the rights of minorities had gained substantial public support and sparked new tensions within the Democratic coalition. Inspired by a new “rights-oriented liberalism,” they pushed the Democrats to embrace new causes and appeal to new constituencies.
Origins of the Civil Rights Movement
Blacks were optimistic and determined after World War II. More and more of them joined organizations like the NAACP, which pressured both of the major parties to support legislation that would restore the civil and political rights that had been taken away from Southern blacks after Reconstruction. President Truman and the Democrats came out strongly in favor of civil rights in 1948, winning the support and gratitude of black voters, but also leading to the “Dixiecrat” revolt of Southern Democrats.
African American optimism during and immediately after World War II Increase in membership of civil rights organizations like NAACP Growing support for black civil rights among Norther Democrats Breakthroughs during Truman administration
The revolt of the “Dixiecrats”
Meanwhile, the NAACP continued its decades-long campaign of working through the courts to undermine the legal foundations of segregation and disfranchisement. It bore fruit in 1954, when the Supreme Court, in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, declared segregation a violation of rights guaranteed by Fourteenth Amendment. Despite this ruling and others, desegregation occurred very slowly and not at all in some regions, where whites vigorously and at time violently resisted.
NAACP legal challenge to constitutionality of segregation and disfranchisement The brown decision (1954)
milestone that turned the times in favor of civil rights movement segragation other than just schools was revoked
“Massive resistance” among Southern whites
Desegregation occurred slowly and inconsistently
white found methods to keep racial status quo
they closed schools down; or established all white academies Federal intervention was required to quell Little Rock crisis in 1957
Frustrated by these developments, African Americans in mid-1950s began a well-orchestrated campaign of nonviolent protest to press whites to desegregate. These protests were peaceful, but whites frequently sought to suppress them with violence, and these incidents compelled the federal government to become more actively involved. Protest and activism was common in the North as well, where segregation part of social customs in most communities and blacks were routinely discriminated against in employment and housing.
Led by NAACP and black ministers, African Americans in South began a campaign of nonviolent protests Southern Christian Leadership Council
Organized boycotts and sit-ins
sit-ins: dangerous bc list of arrest and created violence amongst some whites because angry Rallied huge numbers of blacks to protest conditions in particularly oppressive locales Tactic of nonviolence was crucial
Contrasted with violence displayed by whites
blacks were trained in the techniques for non-violence protests widely covered by newspapers and tv
violence by whites were shocking to other americans
Black activists also sought...
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