The importance of civil rights for Black Americans was at an all time high within in the late 1950s.Black Americans having been oppressed not only within in their rights of freedom yet also in terms of education and employment felt that it was time for a major change. Thus various civil right movements had to be implemented. However, it is key to understand the reasons why a civil rights movement did not occur earlier on for it allows us to gain an insight into the levels of segregation and lack of opportunities that Black Americans faced.
During the inter-war year period of 1920 to 1941, Black Americans amongst other minorities suffered from the racial segregation that had deemed to govern the way in which they would live their lives. During the year known as the ‘Roaring Twenties’ America was enjoying unprecedented prosperity having become the worlds leading industrial nation. However, this affluence was only shared mainly by the white Americans, whilst conditions for Black individuals only seemed to get worse; arguably discrimination, prejudice and racism reaching a peak during these years. Moreover, the latter was upheld by a radical groups known as the Ku Klux Klan made up of different individuals some possessing a great deal of power such as governors and police officers. They felt that segregation of Black and White Americans was correct and used violent means such as ‘lynching’ to enforce the same.
It is ironic then that Black Americans played a huge part in providing the financial support for some of the Southern states, yet only 5% registered were allowed to vote. Thus changes that could have been brought about for Black American’s was forcibly at an all time low for their influence on any political agenda was minute in comparison to the power heralded by White individuals. Furthermore, there was no apparent leader who had any political interest for Black civil rights, for fear of affecting their career and the level of authority they possessed due to White Americans turning against them. In addition to that there were no real judicial laws that would enhance things for Black Americans and the courts could do very little for them. This was not only due to the lack of influence the courts would have on White Americans but on occasion it was because the courts themselves where made up of White individuals who believed in deep rooted segregation. Many members consisted of the Ku Klux Klan who would utilize various means in order to keep Africans powerless and to maintain the state government.
There were several methods induced in order to keep Black Americans powerless and none more so then in education for a lack of education resulted in many Black Americans not having the ability to challenge or understand their circumstances. Thus resulting in many Black individuals remaining illiterate. Moreover, the strict control over the infrastructure made opportunities for them that much more harder for joining groups such as Trade Unions was bared, knowing the great influence they could cause if they were given any power.
However, it is also important to understand the extent to which Black Americans tried to help themselves and their cause. First and foremost during the inter- war periods there was no real sense of leadership and Black Americans were lost in terms of knowing what to do and how to react within their situation. Moreover, it did not help when a prominent figures known to the Black Americans; Marcus Garvey preached the fact that he felt that Black Americans should actually return back to Africa where they would be accepted. His impact on ordinary Black people was significant and it can be said that his greatest contribution was his encouragement for Black people to have pride in themselves. However, it was an attitude like that, that demoralized the Black community for he was basically stating that they should give up and just leave. Thus there was no real momentum to actually try to implement any changes but it was more of an acceptance of circumstances that brought pessimism on any chance of change.
Furthermore, the Black community suffered from a lack of opportunity due to poverty and unemployment. Even though during the 20’s America was going through an affluent period it was not shared by the Black community due to the racist views and the segregation the White community seemed to adhere to. In spite of the claim of President Herbert Hoover in 1928 ‘The poor are vanishing among us’, poverty levels were at an all time high for the minorities. The fact that president Hoover did not acknowledge this allows us to realize that he was either ignorant of the situation or rather that he wanted to present USA as being ‘liberated’ and ‘permissive’. The poverty increased massively during the ‘Great Depression’ in which many people were kept poor and more so those mentioned in the latter. Even though the Federal Government was given much greater influence over the states they actually did very little for African Americans.
Most of the racial segregation was actually a prominent feature of the Southern States. For they acted independently and singled themselves from the other existing states. Thus their laws were not affected by any other state and were not in favour of disintegration for they felt that their rules and regulations were correct. Furthermore, Federal Government was unwilling to interfere in political matters because the Southern States affected the majority of the votes. Thus the laws were in support of segregation which resulted in many Black Americans having to face the harsh reality that they would be treated unequally unless they actually did something. Even though many migrated to the North where segregation was not as fierce; they still suffered from racism and a lack of opportunity, thus many finding themselves living in ghettos and run down areas.
On the other hand however, things did eventually start to change and World War 2 was a catalyst for it. The black soldiers that had been sent abroad to places like Britain for the first time had been exposed to conditions in which they were actually treated as equals far from the derogatory manner they had become accustomed to. Thus Black people thought that conditions for them back in America once the war had ended would actually enhance for the better. The war itself for Black Americans had endless irony that seem to linger; for their purpose in the war was to fight for freedom yet it was this freedom that they lacked within their own country. As a result, Black people were much more aware of there situation and those that returned from the war made it apparent to others, which therefore led to the ideology of freedom verses fascism in which for many of the political leaders and White people in general felt that the state itself was the highest priority and not actually the people within it.
In theory it seemed that USA becoming a new superpower would be a beneficiary for all and in that period raised many Black American expectations, unknowingly to them that this was indeed a folly ideology. On the other hand however, one can only draw the conclusion that in the late 1950’s things began to change significantly. This is highlighted predominantly through the involvement of the Federal government, and it is correct in saying that the formation of a somewhat forced union between the Black Americans and the latter began to occur.
There are various examples that reinforce the idea of this union, none more so predominant then the Bus Boycott. In which the Supreme Court had to give into the demands of the Black Americans and annul the law that prohibited the use of busses. In doing this, the Supreme Court eventually reached a decision that would not only comply with the demands of Black Americans yet meet the standards set by the Federal State.
Another prime incident that conveys a willingness to bring about change is the involvement of President Kenney in the Little Rock incident, where Black Americans previously, due to the Brown v Topeka Education Board of Kansas Case had won the right to mixed raced schools. Furthermore the fact that Kennedy was ‘forced’ to become involved in the Little Rock incident reiterates the idea that the Federal Government had to work alongside Black Americans in order to create a fair and just society. Thus in the late 1950s a rapid wave of Civil Rights movements began to occur and with the aid of great motivational leaders such as Martin Luther King things steadily began to change.
To conclude, it is apparent that in order for any actual civil rights movements to occur the use of motivation and having a leader is required. Moreover, it becomes understandable as to the reason of why civil rights movement actually took so long to be implemented. Thus it can be said that it not only requires a lot of dedication but self will in order to be able to handle such conditions and being oppressed to such levels.