This paper will make an attempt to shed light on their interconnectedness or, on the other hand, the different perspectives, which sew a great deal of mistrust and animosity into, what might have been considered by the majority of people as a coherent movement with set political agenda and well-thought out objectives. By taking a closer look at the most important Black performers that were shaping the future American society this paper will try to portray not only the major cleavages within the respective groups but also the reason why the movement shifted from non-violent sit-ins to more assertive and aggressive ways of advocating their claims. The studied organizations existing at the beginning of the 1960’s are the following: Southern Christian Leadership (SCLC) and Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) 1.
History and milestonesThere is a common position for all three of them, in logic that they were established of a need to materialize the gains Black movement got in the 1950’s through the very significant Supreme Court’s rulings. One of them concerned the school segregation case, which was struck down by the Topeka ruling in 1954. The court’s decision officially did away with the “Separate but Equal” doctrine in public education. In 1956 the doctrine was undermined by another key decision delivered by the Supreme Court in the wake of the Montgomery bus boycott, which followed the arrest of a prominent NAACP member Rosa Parks. It was herself who unleashed the boycott by refusing to yield her place to a white person on the bus on December 1, 1955.
The permanent inheritance of the boycott, as Roberta Wright wrote, was that “It helped to launch a 10-year national struggle for freedom and justice, the Civil Rights Movement that stimulated others to do the same at home and abroad” 10Although there were substantial improvements in the legal treatment of the African Americans in the mid 1950’s fostered mainly by the Supreme Court rulings, de facto racial segregation and discrimination went on, especially in the Bible belt region of the USA.
The Black RevoltThe feeling of inequality and being inferior had started building some frustration in the minds of the black community and this tension and frustration had exploded in the form of riots in 11th August 1965 at Watts a black ghetto outside the Los Angles. In this riot more then thirty people were dead and many were injured and arrested. The white community thought that it was the worst riots of its kind. This had confused and amazed the white community because they thought that they have given so much to the black community and instead of being thankful they were angry. The Police had not handled this event tactfully and instead of settling down the matter they had created havoc2.
In the beginning of the year 1967 the riots had started again which immediately spread into the whole country. This riot has been started from the three southern universities, and then the violence started in Tampa, Florida and some other parts of the U.S. The Worst riot of its kind is occurred in Newark, New Jersey. The death toll of this riot was twenty-three lives, among which twenty-one were blacks and the two were whites. On 22nd July the riots started in Detroit, Michigan in which forty-three were killed, among which thirty-three were blacks and ten were white.
President Johnson appointed a commission to investigate the causes and reasons of these riots. This commission in its report said that the sense of racism divided the nation into two parts; the whites and the blacks and had created a gulf between the two communities. The commission also gave many suggestions in this regard but unfortunately all were ignored by the government.
In 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was killed and the insurrections were started again. Kennedy started his campaign with the spirit to reunite America, and for the rights of whites and blacks both but in June he too was shot and killed. This had filled the nation with grief, and shock, as Kennedy was the man who was loved, praised and trusted by both the communities. After his death the violence had gripped the nationThe Black PowerThe Civil Rights Movement is the movement of black and whites both. “The American colonial frontier was no land of democratic system or financial opportunities for the preponderance of the whites. Most were disfranchised by property requirements. In the southern colonies the slave holding planter aristocracy rigidly controlled all public decision making. Even in the northern colonies, democracy was virtually non-existent3.
It had started disintegrating even before the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and in fact the militant blacks have believed that Civil Rights Movement is also one of the causes of the riots. Stokeley Carmichael said that “Each time the people saw Martin Luther King get slapped, they became angry; when they saw four little black girls bombed to death, they were angrier; and when nothing happened, they were steaming. It was helped to build their frustration.” The Black Muslims led by Mr. Elijah Muhammad although opposed aggression but believed in the need of self-defense. He had preached the black Muslims to find their own identity and said that they should not be ashamed of their color or cultural heritage.
In the summer of 1966 the slogan of “Black Power” had spread throughout the country by Carmichael. According to him ” Black power meant two things: the end of shame and humiliation, and black community control. Blacks should be proud of being black, and they should be proud of their African past” He referred his new system as the “political Modernization”4.
In 1966, some young blacks of Oakland, California formed Black Panther Party. They demanded the legal rights for the blacks and developed a ten-point program that includes decent jobs, decent housing etc. for the blacks.
As Nixon became the president the encounters between the police and the Black Panther party had started more frequently and gradually most of the leaders of the Black Panther party had been either arrested or were killed.
Events of Civil rights MovementEducation was a right not fully given to blacks as citizens of America, and many did not receive good and proper schooling. Blacks were denied access to white schools, and forced to attend all-black schools. As the segregation of the Blacks and whites grew more intense, I have recently heard of an incident about a white school refused to let blacks attend in Little Rock, Kansas. Nine black students tried to attend Central High School, but were met with resistance from the governor, who sent troops to turn away the black students. Eisenhower, the governor, was forced to send federal troops to enforce the Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. Board of Education. The students were still eventually forced to leave, as the violence was getting very harsh within the school. The Little Rock incident displays that education was denied to blacks when it consisted of integration.
Another occurrence of black denial to education I heard of, after Brown vs. Board of Education, was in 1959 where schools in Prince Edwards County, Virginia refused to obey the Supreme Court order of integration. Instead, they moved state education funds into making new white only private schools. For four years, blacks were not able to attend school, as there were no running public schools or black private schools. The people of the county would rather go to separate private schools than go to integrated public schools. It is thought that educations are meant for the entire race. As It has seen and experienced the life of a black man, there are no differences in terms of being educated. Both races are equally intelligent and I think they should attend the regular public schools together.
Key Players of the Civil Rights MovementThe Civil Rights movement was the national effort in the 50s and 60s to eliminate segregation to gain equal rights. Many individuals and organizations challenged segregation and discrimination with a variety of activities, including protest marches, boycotts, and refusal to abide by segregation laws. My project is on the key players of the Civil Rights Movement.
1.Martin Luther KingMartin Luther king was an American clergyman and civil-rights leader. He was born in Atlanta, on 16 January 1929. .He was a Morehouse College In 1951 he received a degree from Crozer Theological Seminary and enrolled in Boston University Ph.D program. In 1954, King was became minister of the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL. He began leading the black boycott in 1955 of segregated city bus lines and in 1956 gained a major victory and stature as a civil-rights leader when Montgomery buses began to run desegregated.
King organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which provided him a base to pursue to promote civil-rights activities. Despite his philosophy of nonviolent resistance, He was arrested on numerous occasions in the 1950s and 60s. His campaigns had mixed achievements, but the protests he led in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963 brought him international attention. He organized the August 1963, March on Washington, which brought together more than 200,000 people. In 1964 he was honored the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1958 he was murdered5.
2.Black PanthersThe militant Black Panthers were founded in 1966 in Oakland, CA, by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. They were originally advocating violent revolution as their means of achieving black liberation, and they called on blacks to prepare themselves for the liberation struggle. In the late 1960s many members became involved in a numbers of violent controversies confrontations with the police and court cases, some resulting from direct shoot-outs with the police and some from independent charges. A major split took place, with Newton and Seale, who in 1972 decided to abandon their violent methods, on the one side and Eldridge Cleaver, the former chief publicist for the party, who continued to preach violent revolution.
3.Malcolm XMalcolm X was a militant black leader in the United States. Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, NB, X was introduced to the Black Muslims while serving a prison term and became a Muslim minister upon his release in 1952. He quickly became very influential in the movement with an audience almost equivalent to that of its leader, Elijah Muhammad. In 1963, Malcolm was suspended by Elijah after a speech in which Malcolm recommended that President Kennedy’s murder was a matter of the “chickens coming home to roost.” He then shaped a rival organization of his own, the Muslim Mosque, Inc. In 1964, after a crusade to Mecca, he converted to orthodox Islam and his new belief that there could be brotherhood between black and white. In his Organization of Afro-American Unity, his tone was still that of militant black nationalism but no longer of separation7.
4.Rosa ParksRosa Parks, also known as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” was born in 1913 in Tuskegee, AL as Rosa Louise McCauley. She was a seamstress and long-time member of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP. Her Dec. 1, 1955, arrest for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This successful protest marked the surfacing of Martin Luther King, Jr., to national status as a civil-rights leader and provided the model for future nonviolent movement actions. Fired from her job and unable to find work, Parks moved in 1957 to Detroit, where she remained active in the civil-rights movement and worked as an aide to Congressman John Conyers8.
5.NAACPThe NAACP is one of the oldest and most influential civil rights organizations in the United States. It was founded in 1909 to work on behalf of African Americans and the civil rights. Members of the NAACP have referred to it as The National Association, confirming NAACP’s ascendancy among organizations active in the Civil Rights Movement since its origins in the first years of the 20th century. Its name, kept in agreement with tradition, is one of the last existing uses of the term “colored people”, now normally viewed as dated with derogatory9.
ConclusionWhat did the radicalization of a part of the Civil Rights movement mean? Over all, it did harm to it, there is no doubt about it. After it had attained the Voting right Act in 1965, it failed to continue in the same line. Radical riots that became more and more frequent detracted from the earnestness of the movement and erased the image of African Americans being victims of racial discrimination, which was getting more and more engrained in white people’s minds. Violence made white people lose this awareness, so meticulously cultivated by King. On the other hand, the seemingly unrelenting approach of certain institutions, both state and federal, made Blacks lose their faith in them. Hence, the lost of faith turned from the white individuals at the beginning, while still believing in American institutions and their ideals, to complete mistrust to those in the mid 1960’s. This represented a very important shift in Black perspectives. They experienced that flaws were not only in white people who were trying to deny them living the American dream.
The new view shared by young militant Afro-Americans is that the white people embedded their personal flaws so deeply into the institutions that those institutions are beyond redemption. King’s non-violent approach was genuine, I t would say that the second to none. On the other hand, there is no doubt that violent beatings and murders inflicted upon members of any of the Civil Right’s organization, including SNCC, who helped to improve their position in society, generates violence as well. It is difficult to bear all the injustices and not to retaliate in the same manner. Taking all this into consideration, I have to pay tribute to the King’s strategy of non-violence, which bear fruit, and which was able to rally many followers ready to serve a good matter. Although both SCLC and SNCC were created under different conditions and their opinion divergence seemed to be wide, they both contributed to the major achievements of the movement, Civil Rights legislation of 1964 and 1965 and gained worldwide reverence and recognition.
1.Roberta Hughes Wright, The Birth of the Montgomery Bus Boycott2.(Southfield: Charro Press, 1991) 52-53.
3.W. H. Chafe: The Unfinished Journey, Oxford University Press. 1999. p 3114.H.Sitkoff: The Struggle for Black Equality 1954-1980. Hill and Wang, N.Y. 1981, p. 2085.W. H. Chafe: The Unfinished Journey, Oxford University Press. 1999, p.3176.James Farmer: Lay Bare the Heart. 1986. p 2967.Freehling, William: The Founding Fathers and Slavery: American Historical Review, Feb. 1972.
8.Baker, Paula: The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society: American Historical Review, June 1984.
9.Wood, Gordon S: The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787: Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1969.
10.Karen Harper; Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky Journal article, The Oral History Review, Vol. 29, 2002