What is the Significance of Civil Rights Movements in the Middle of XX Century
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENTS IN THE MIDDLE
OF XX CENTURY?
Your First Name Your Last Name
November 14, 2018
American society during the twentieth century integrated into the world
community and reformatted its foreign policy to make it more open. Shifts in the way of
daily life of people must accompany such changes. Thus, the closed conservative
America with a belief in Protestant ethics, work, and the American dream turned into a
country that quickly captures the world with its goods, ideas, culture and, unfortunately,
troops. All these processes were reflected in the form of laws and policies that influenced
everyday practices of ordinary people. In addition, one should not forget that the
democratic America, which defeated Nazism and entered into the open phase of the
struggle against communism, continued to support some discriminatory practices towards
minority groups. Under this term, one must understand LGBT-people, women, and
people of color. It should be remembered that the oppression of African Americans had a
long history and there was no evidence that such discriminatory practices would
eventually end; thus, the African American Civil Rights Movement was the most
powerful and noticeable. That is why on the backdrop of a change in the foreign policy
course, different political movements begin to emerge, using predominantly nonviolent
means of struggle trying to convey to the authorities the view that all citizens of the
country are equal, and therefore should have the same rights, the same level of protection
of rights from the government. The greatest surge of these movements occurred in the
sixties of the last century, but many of the demands and dreams that the representatives of
the Civil Rights Movement express are not completed even know. This situation provokes
the idea that the Civil Rights Movement is still occurring and gaining victories like the
legalization of same-sex marriages a couple of years ago. Thus, the concept of the Civil
Rights Movement should be understood as a broad series of events initiated by various
groups of the population that were aimed at showing the government problems and
demanding that they are corrected so that all citizens of America receive equal treatment
and equal rights.
For many years, America had the institution of slavery, which made possible the
exploitation of blacks by white people. Although a large number of states banned slavery
at the state level, the South of the country was convinced of the correctness and
usefulness of such institution. Subsequently, the Civil War began, which brought the
victory of the North and officially prohibited slavery at the federal level. Since the Black
population of the Southern states at that time did not have sufficient financial resources or
organization, who would advise them to made Black resettlements throughout the
country, a large number of black people remained to live next to their former
slaveholders. Since the South suffered a significant defeat in the war and continued to
look at Blacks as second-class people, the governments of the Southern states created
laws that discriminated the Black population by not giving them the right to vote, the
right to free settlement or to use public institutions like whites. All these discriminatory
practices today are called by the general term – the laws of Jim Crow.1
doctrine of segregation created by Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) court case announced:
"Separate but equal," which implied the existence of parallel "realities" for white and
So, there were shops, banks, schools, and universities, in which Blacks were
allowed to study, while there were various institutions only for White people. Also,
Blacks felt the difficulty in finding workplace, because the institutions led by the Whites
did not want to hire black workers or give them a raise, a decent salary.
1. Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! Vol 2. 5th ed., 2016. pp. 972.
2. Fireside, Harvey, Marc H Morial, and Alan M Dershowitz. Separate And
Unequal: Homer Plessy And The Supreme Court Decision That Legalized Racism, 2004.
Essential for the emergence of the African-American Civil Rights Movement was
the participation of Americans in the First and Second World War, especially the last one,
which enabled Black soldiers to travel abroad, see a standard of living in Europe, meet
soldiers from other states of America and cooperate. So, a large number of Blacks
returned home with a sense of self-esteem, a desire to unite and protect their rights3
The first step in the African-American Civil Rights Movement or a premonition of
this movement was court case Brown v. Board of Education (1954),4
which allowed black
students to study in schools for white children, because the court ruled that the
Constitution of America guarantees equal access to education for all children of the
country, promises to provide an equal qualitative education, and segregation excludes this
possibility. This decision caused a significant number of opponents but showed that the
Black population could try to defend their rights in the courts of the country and win.
Therefore, at the beginning of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the
Blacks wanted to abolish segregation. The first officially recognized act of this movement
is protest action of Rosa Parks, who once took place for white citizens in a public bus.5
The woman was arrested, that provoked a protest action, called Montgomery Bus
This protest lasted for 381 days; young Martin Luther King led it.7
contained the refusal of city's Black people to use public transport and went to work on
foot or used taxi services that belonged to the Black owners who put prices of the bus fee.
This boycott was financially unprofitable for official lines of public transport; the White
3. Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! Vol 2. 5th ed., 2016. pp. 971.
4. Ibid., 973-974.
5. Ibid., 974.
6. Ibid., 975.
7. Ibid., 975.
population opposed any initiative of the Blacks to unite and defend their rights.
Consequently, it was forbidden to carry people in a taxi at lower rates; taxi drivers were
deprived of licenses and pursued. Subsequently, King filed a lawsuit with the federal
court, which recognized the unconstitutionality of the law on segregation in public
transport. White racists continued to attack Black people and, in particular, King.
In 1957, the public schools of the city of Little Rock (Arkansas) were forced to
accept Black schoolchildren, that also caused incredible resistance from the White
In response, President Eisenhower was forced to send troops, which ensured
that children could enter the building of the school. In the same year, the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference, one of the most important centers for human rights
activities of African Americans, appeared with the center in Atlanta.9
The next significant action took place in 1960 in North Carolina, when four Black
students sat in a cafe in the places reserved for Whites.10
The violators were kicked out,
but the next day even more Blacks visited the diner and occupied seats for whites. Such
actions, which received the name "sit-in," were picked up by a large number of American
For the majority of African Americans, King was the spiritual leader of the
movement at that time; he preached non-violent methods of struggle. In the same year, a
large number of public catering establishments were desegregated in the South of the
8. Sitkoff, Harvard, and John Hope Franklin. The Struggle For Black Equality.
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013. pp. 96.
9. Ibid., pp. 111.
10. Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! Vol 2. 5th ed., 2016. pp. 981.
11. Ibid., 981-984.
In the summer of 1961, an incredible number of freedom rides took place, during
which participants walked through the cities of the country, checking how much
institutions, public transport adheres to federal laws.12
Local authorities began to actively
appeal to the law on the prohibition of unauthorized rallies, which gave grounds for
imprisoning a large number of protesters.
In June 1963, President Kennedy sent some bills to Congress that should make
In August, the famous march to Washington took place, in which a
large number of both White and Black people were involved.14
In this action, King read
out his speech "I have a dream," which became the visiting card of the Civil Right
Movement. During the following years, the President of the United States signed a series
of laws that provided Black citizens with equal voting right and some civil rights.
However, at the same time, the activity of Black defenders moved from the Southern
states to the North and gained radical approach. Thus, the Black Power movement
emerges, which claims that Blacks do not need to assimilate completely with the Whites
but to keep the memory of their history, traditions. In 1967, the riots in Detroit occurred,
against which the authorities allowed to use force. In the next year, Martin Luther King
In conclusion, African-American Civil Rights Movement has managed to achieve
great success by giving Blacks the right to work, study, live, vote on a par with White
citizens of the country. It is evident that the White racists and the segregationists could
not immediately change their beliefs, but Black improved their conditions and gained
12. Sitkoff, Harvard, and John Hope Franklin. The Struggle For Black Equality.
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013. pp. 132.
13. Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! Vol 2. 5th ed., 2016. pp. 991.
14. Ibid., pp. 988
15. Ibid., 987.
legal protection. Despite this, the Black population of the country continues to be battered
by racism even today, although society has changed and there are no spheres in which
Blacks could not exist on a par with Whites.
So, simultaneously to the movements of Blacks, other America's people of color
also began to protest. The Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement (Chicano
Movement) was active, trying to achieve equal rights and develop the level of working
opportunities, decent wages, access to education.16
In addition, since there were a large
number of Mexican illegal migrants in the United States, the movement demanded
changes in migration laws that could make life easier for Mexicans. It is worth
mentioning that although Mexican-Americans did not experience such institutional
discrimination, protecting their rights and the ability to preserve their own culture were at
a low level. It is worth noting that at that time, America believed that it could create a
"universal" American nation, in which the culture and identity of the white Americans
who had come to America from Europe would prevail.17
Such a policy required people of
color to be engaged in aggressive assimilation and stop practicing their cultural practices
and traditions. Therefore, the Civil Rights Movement actively advocated the possibility of
Another group of the population that was marginalized were Native Americans.
Throughout the centuries, White Americans have supplanted indigenous peoples, giving
them into the possession some specific territories. However, even this land was used by
the federal authorities for its own needs. Thus, the movement of Native Americans was to
rectify the existing territories, increase them, eliminate police arbitrariness, respect the
rights and economic freedoms of the indigenous population and provide conditions for the
16. Lewis, Catherine M, and J. Richard Lewis. Race, Politics, And Memory.
Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2007. pp.71
17. Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! Vol 2. 5th ed., 2016. pp. 969.
preservation of their own culture and material monuments of this culture.18
this movement actively cooperated with the African-American Civil Rights Movement.
However, it held some autonomous actions. One of the most famous acts is the capture of
the village Wounded Knee (1973) to show a protest against the policy of the American
government regarding the indigenous population.19
Consequently, Native Americans were
exposed to use not only non-violent methods of struggle.
During the Civil Right Movement, the second wave of feminism intensified, its
primary goal was to overcome discrimination against women and the system of
patriarchal values, in which the woman was perceived exclusively as a mother and a
By that time, hormonal contraceptives were created, and some works about
women's place in society were published that showed how much the existing system
discriminated against women21
. Thus, females advocated for women's equal rights to
education, employment, demanded the creation of a system federal funded day-cares. It
should be noted that Kennedy created the Presidential Commission on the Status of
Women which honestly described existing practices.22
Thus, the demands of the feminists
of the second wave were perceived by the government as logical, which can be traced in
laws that encouraged employers to accept women for work, allowed free access to
education. At the same time, women criticized popular ideas about the nuclear family and
criticized the image of a female in popular media and culture that portrayed a woman as a
18. Smith, Paul Chaat, and Robert Allen Warrior. Like A Hurricane: The Indian
Movement From Alcatraz To Wounded Knee. New York: New Press, 1997. pp.15
19. Ibid., 213.
20. MacLean, Nancy. The American Women's Movement, 1945-2000. Boston,
Mass: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009. pp. 35.
21. Ibid., 30.
22. Ibid., 100
beautiful doll or a not very intelligent person who requires a strong man next to her and
sees marriage as the only way to realization. It is worth noting the thesis of Carol
Hanisch: "The personal is political," which became the slogan of the actions of feminists
of the second wave and criticized the excessive involvement of public morals, laws in the
private affairs of citizens.23
In parallel, the LGBT movement was developing, which received intense lobbying
and demanded the right to exist and prohibit the attitude to the representatives of this
movement as criminals or patients who need to be hidden from society and be held in
captivity. An important event was in 1962 when probably the first gay march took place
in the world.24
This movement was active in creating different medias about own
problems and views.
As a result, the Civil Rights Movement unites some political actions that were
initiated and supported by various organizations that can be united by their demand for
the creation of such legislation that applies to all citizens of countries as equal and equal
protection of their rights. The flowering of these movements occurred in the sixties of the
last century, although there are still many problems that remain unresolved, which does
not allow one to state that the era of these movements has ended. One of the most notable
was the African-American Civil Rights Movement, which united Black population of
America, demanded the abolition of segregation. Since segregation was abolished at all
levels, the primary goals of the movement can be considered fulfilled although racism in
American society has remained until now. Other active participants were the
representatives of the Mexican-American community and Native Americans, who also
23. Hanisch, Carol. "The Personal Is Political: The Original Feminist Theory
Paper At The Author's Web Site". Carolhanisch.Org. Last modified 1969. Accessed
August 29, 2017. http://www.carolhanisch.org/CHwritings/PIP.html.
24. Cruikshank, Margaret. The Gay And Lesbian Liberation Movement. Hoboken:
Taylor and Francis, 2014. pp.11.
demanded equal rights and the possibility of preserving their culture. At this time, the
feminism of the second wave was active, wanting to free a woman from the function of
the housewife, giving her the right and the opportunity to study and work on a par with
men. LGBT community also created protests and demanded respect and protection from
Cruikshank, Margaret. The Gay And Lesbian Liberation Movement. Hoboken:
Taylor and Francis, 2014.
Fireside, Harvey, Marc H Morial, and Alan M Dershowitz. Separate And
Unequal: Homer Plessy And The Supreme Court Decision That Legalized Racism, 2004.
Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! Vol 2. 5th ed., 2016.
Hanisch, Carol. "The Personal Is Political: The Original Feminist Theory Paper At
The Author's Web Site". Carolhanisch.Org. Last modified 1969. Accessed August 29,
Lewis, Catherine M, and J. Richard Lewis. Race, Politics, And Memory.
Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2007.
MacLean, Nancy. The American Women's Movement, 1945-2000. Boston, Mass:
Bedford/St. Martins, 2009.
Sitkoff, Harvard, and John Hope Franklin. The Struggle For Black Equality. New
York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.
Smith, Paul Chaat, and Robert Allen Warrior. Like A Hurricane: The Indian
Movement From Alcatraz To Wounded Knee. New York: New Press, 1997.