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Black Power Movements of the 1960’s Essay Sample

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Black Power Movements of the 1960’s Essay Sample

How accurate is it to say that the Black Power Movements of the 1960’s achieved nothing for the Black people?

In some ways I agree that the Black power Movements of the 1960’s achieved nothing for the Black people because by 1968 little had changed, and it is therefore easy to claim that Black Power movements achieved nothing, and in fact had a negative impact on black Americans. However in some ways I disagree because the Black Power movements in the early 1960s coincided with the peak of success for the Civil Rights campaign such as the freedom cities of 1966 or the Free D.C. movement. Firstly I agree that the Black Power Movements achieved nothing for Black people relations between King and other Civil Rights groups were never entirely secure, and he was often accused of taking credit for the efforts of others, for example in the student sit-ins of 1961. He was criticised for a cynical use of children in the Birmingham campaign of 1963 and for cowardice in halting the first Selma March.

These attacks reflect internal rivalries that had nothing to do with Black Power. They increased after 1966 when he moved his focus to the north. The Chicago campaign of 1966 was a dismal failure and also revealed a cultural gap between the respectable bible-belt leaders of the south and the ghetto-based youth of the north, who found Malcolm X a more inspiring figure. The whole situation was made much worse by the war in Vietnam, which diverted money and media attention and created a widening gap between black and white communities. Many black people resented having to fight for a country that valued them so little, while white public opinion saw the refusal of some to serve, like Mohammed Ali, as unpatriotic. The most important point, however, is that once legal equality had been achieved in 1965 and the focus shifted to the social and economic effects of long-term discrimination, King’s methods were ineffective.

Secondly the Chicago campaign. The Albany movement
Thirdly the Memphis Sanitation workers strike. The Mississippi Freedom Summer On the other hand the Freedom cities were aimed to bring ‘home rule’ to the black community of Washington D.C. The project was started with the demonstration against the way the local schools were administered. Towards the end of 1966 the black citizens of Washington D.C. had won the right to elect their own school boards. SNCC gained $3 million worth of government funding to improve community policing. SNCC innovated similar projects for example in New York the campaign saw black people take control of the intermediate School in Harlem as well as in Mississippi set up a Child Development Group in which the group raised $1.5 million from the churches and the federal government in order to set up 85 head start centres to support young children . Furthermore the March on Washington was a massive success groups such as the SCLC.SNCC, CORE and the NAACP were involved it was also to commemorate the 100 years since the Emancipation Proclamation was created the campaigned was initially designed to pass a Civil Rights Bill.

250,000 people marched to the Lincoln memorial to hear Kings famous ‘I have a dream speech’ as well as other figures of the Civil Rights Movement. The March drew a vast amount of media attention. The March ensured support for new civil rights legislation which gave the government power to desegregate southern states. It presented the civil rights movement as a united front. Additionally the Birmingham campaign aimed to desegregate the city’s largest shopping areas schools and public parks as well as demanding an end to racial discrimination in employment. ‘Bull’Connor obtained a court injunction against demonstrations in certain precincts to weaken protests. The 3rd of May the police demonstrators with high pressure fire hoses and arrested and imprisoned 1300 children which caused a media frenzy Kennedy was sickened by the images of police violence from Birmingham. The significance of the campaign was that the department stores were desegregated and the racial discrimination was ended.

The Greensboro sit-ins were a success it aimed to desegregate public places such as restaurants or swimming pools. In February 1960 the sit-in escalated to 300 students by the fourth protest it became highly influential as there were similar protests like watch-ins in cinema which by the start of 1961 over 70,000 people black and white had taken part in demonstrations. The significance of the sit-ins brought a mass of media attention which increased the support towards the civil rights campaigns. By the end of 1961 810 towns had desegregated their public places. Woolworths lost decreased by a third during the campaign which showed the economic power of black people. Finally the Freedom rides designed to turn de jure victories of Morgan v. Virginia and Boynton v. Virginia into de facto desegregation of interstate transport and interstate transport facilities set up by SNCC and CORE.

The significance of the freedom rides was that it showed that Kennedy supported the civil rights movement and that it marked a new high cooperation within the civil rights movements. The Poor Peoples Campaign aimed to create a coalition big enough to solve the social and economic problems identified during the Chicago campaign In conclusion the Black Power declined very quickly in the late 1960s because its organisation was very poor and it had little money to support itself. It also declined because the government preferred King’s the peaceful methods to the violence and hatred of Black Power. Thus it seemed as if Black Power had not achieved anything of real importance for black people, and was a factor in the ending of the civil rights movement as a whole. However, it can be said that Black Power did manage to achieve something for black people as a whole. Black Power leaders did try to help the people in the inner-city ghettos, and they did increase black pride and a sense of Black Nationalism. Malcolm X in particular was very important in raising the morale of many black people, and became a hero to young black people in the USA and around the world.

The emergence of the Black Power movements in the early 1960s coincided with the peak of success for the Civil Rights campaign – the legislation of 1964-65. Thereafter, the focus of campaigns had to move the practical issues related to social and economic deprivation, and the ability to exercise the rights that had been gained. By 1968 little had changed, and it is therefore easy to claim that Black Power movements achieved nothing, and in fact had a negative impact on black Americans.

It is hard to deny that the Black Power movements had a damaging impact in the 1960s. The preaching of Elijah Mohammed and later Malcolm X that integration was impossible and undesirable, that white people were devils and Christianity just a legacy of slavery, created a mirror of white racism that could only be divisive. They rejected the support of white liberals and divided white from black. They subjected integrationist leaders like Martin Luther King to campaigns of personal abuse, calling him a hypocrite, a coward and an Uncle Tom. They even indulged in vicious internal feuding, such as the assassination of Malcolm X by members of the Nation of Islam in 1965. Incidents of violence, such as attacks on white people, the race riots of Harlem in 1964 and Watts in 1965, damaged the black community and created a white backlash.

This threatened the promised government expenditure on housing, schools and job creation under the Great Society. As casualties from Vietnam increased, they campaigned against the draft and argued that black youths should not serve, infuriating an increasingly patriotic public and media. The existing Civil Rights movement disintegrated, as the student organisations led by SNCC under Stokely Carmichael adopted Black Power symbols and slogans, and refused to co-operate with Martin Luther King’s SCLC. The government and many white Americans saw the black communities as ungrateful, and King as a spent force. The links that had helped him to gain reforms and investment disappeared, and nothing of significance was achieved for black Americans after 1966. The emergence of Black Power was totally negative.

In many ways, however, this argument is over-simplified. The problems faced by the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s had begun to surface before the Black Power movements developed, and could be said to have contributed to their growth. Relations between King and other Civil Rights groups were never entirely secure, and he was often accused of taking credit for the efforts of others, for example in the student sit-ins of 1961. He was criticised for a cynical use of children in the Birmingham campaign of 1963 and for cowardice in halting the first Selma March. These attacks reflect internal rivalries that had nothing to do with Black Power. They increased after 1966 when he moved his focus to the north.

The Chicago campaign of 1966 was a dismal failure and also revealed a cultural gap between the respectable bible-belt leaders of the south and the ghetto-based youth of the north, who found Malcolm X a more inspiring figure. The whole situation was made much worse by the war in Vietnam, which diverted money and media attention and created a widening gap between black and white communities. Many black people resented having to fight for a country that valued them so little, while white public opinion saw the refusal of some to serve, like Mohammed Ali, as unpatriotic. The most important point, however, is that once legal equality had been achieved in 1965 and the focus shifted to the social and economic effects of long-term discrimination, King’s methods were ineffective.

This means that by 1966, methods of campaigning to improve conditions for black people had to change, and the Black Power movements did offer some alternatives. When the Black Panthers set up community projects and policed the housing estates of Chicago, they offered a more direct and practical form of help. More generally, Black Power offered black people a sense of their own culture and pride in their identity. The late 1960s saw changes in music, fashion and style that celebrated black identity rather than attempting to look like whites, such as the Afro hairstyles, the growth of a new soul music and the later development of hip-hop and rap. The use of Black Power salutes by American athletes offended many whites, but it drew the attention of the world to the continuing levels of discrimination suffered by many black Americans.

It is difficult to measure the results, but it can be argued that by helping to maintain attention on the problems and demanding change, the Black Power movements helped the black communities to keep fighting for better conditions. By comparison with the gains made through ‘peaceful’ protest, the impact of Black Power was mixed and its achievements limited, but to claim that it achieved nothing for black people is an exaggeration.

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