Civil Rights Era

Introduction

It is notable that blacks faced extreme discrimination in the historical America. During that period, the freed “blacks” of 1840s were encountering various challenges while trying to integrate in a society that racially segregated them. Previous political regimes had enacted legislation that led to institutionalisation of racism. American leaders’ assertion that the country stood for freedom was a sham, as blacks lacked access to basic social and civil rights.

This led to the formation of movements through prearranged public meetings, demonstrations, matches and boycotts as they campaigned against this social vice. Moreover, various action groups fought for the civil and social rights of Black people, which they termed “Civil Rights Era”

The “civil rights era” was amid 1955 and 1968 when the social movement was extremely vocal. “Civil right movement” is sum of all activities undertaken by various activists in the fight against segregation. The southern states had used slaves as their source of labour in their plantations, meaning that the leading population of blacks was in the south.

The whites profoundly ingrained bigotry in this region. Following the large population, the movement was very vocal in the southern states. The era is estimated to have lasted fifteen years. During the era, various leaders enacted different legislations to avert a looming social and civil crisis.

The movement activity reduced greatly after the elimination of its enigmatic principal Martin Luther. Fortified with exceptional oratory skills, Martin King led this movement by holding rallies, boycotts and peaceful demonstration. His leadership was highly applauded for being non-violent in a struggle that most expected to be bloody. However, some incidences were violent.

Thesis

It is certain that racism was rampant in the historical America; however, the rise of “Civil Rights Movement” normalized the situation thus leading to the enjoyment of various services by all citizens. During such time, associations were formed to champion for the rights of the blacks.

Despite abolition of slavery, the freed people continued to live in bondages owing to neglect by the White dominated government. Although this community constituted a significant part of the population, they had no congressional representation. This in effect meant that they lacked representation arms of the state that formulated laws that they adhered to. Existing laws did not give voting rights to the African Americans.

Due to such issues, most members of this community felt they had been neglected; on the social arena black people were not allowed to utilize the same facilities as whites. Black students could not attend educational institution set aside for white counterparts from the elementary to the tertiary level. Employment in government institution was skewed and this led to majority of black people being unemployed.

Some of the revolution leaders include Rosa Parks who was an Alabaman seamstress who entered a “Montgomery bus” on her way home. As passengers augmented, the driver ordered Rosa to offer her seat to a white. Rosa displayed bravery when she failed to give it up her seat despite subsequent arrest. Her experience resulted in more than a year and a half embargo of the “Montgomery buses” (Phibbs, 2009).

Thurgood Marshal is another personality who made noteworthy input to this struggle. His input came via multiple civil litigations that he filled. His competence in the legal field was evident as he only lost in one case that he filed at the time. In one case where he challenged the school system, resulting in an overall transformation as the Supreme Court ordered that all schools should be open to all races.

This outcome was in line with the law that provided equal education for all. As stated above Martin Luther was the leader of all movements. President Johnson who took over leadership after the elimination of JF Kennedy led to the enactment of affirmative action that King and other activists negotiated. Martin faced assassination in 1968 while in a Memphis hotel.

Achievements of the “Civil Rights Movements”

In the civil era, multiple changes were achieved that assisted the Black people integrate into the American society. The aim of the black movement was to fight for the racial dignity, economic and political rights. There was a need for a remedial action to be taken as racial discrimination was evident. Thurgood’s case was the first to bring changes. The movement was fighting for Black students who were able to attend the same school as Caucasian students.

This case brought equality into the education sector. During the mind 1960s, Johnson, the president, rallied the Congress in enacting civil rights bill and the voting act. This legislation ensured that African Americans had representation in the different governing structure like local authorities and Congress. The Civil right bill was a remedy for the racism abuses that they underwent. These movements prompted the congress to pass various acts thus preventing the country from plunging into chaos (Levy, 1998).

The Civil right Act consisted of many rights. First it allowed all voters to be registered. This did not exclude the literacy tests which applied to both whites and blacks. Secondly, the Act addressed discrimination in public facilities such as hotels, restaurants, motels and private clubs which referred to a certain group. Thirdly, the municipal government was prohibited to deny public facilities to the public facilities to people on basis of their race, religion and ethnicity.

Kerner Commission had done a thorough study on the causes of urban violence. The result was that racism was the major cause. The riots were on the increase in mid 1960s and were fuelled by the racial disparities.

Malcom X was one of the leaders in the riots and he called for armed self defence. He was later shot at the age of 39 as he gave a speech. The Black Panther’s party was founded in 1966. Huey Newton and Bobby Saele were the founders of this party. They had a concern of the police force brutality towards the African Americans (Steinberg, 2000).

Passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Greatest achievements of the civil rights occurred after the passing of civil rights legislation. The passing of the “Civil Rights Act in 1964 and voting right Act in 1965” (NAACP, 2011, p. 1) brought a great revolution in the freedom of African Americans. This was to stop any form of discrimination.

It meant that it was unlawful to discriminate anyone on the basis of their color, race, and religion or nationality. The voting rights Act was voted in 1965. It was meant to ensure the right to vote for all Americans. The right to vote for black Americans was also supported by the government.

The Attorney general Robert Kennedy was quite influential in the fight against racial discrimination. The judiciary took part in protecting personal liberties against majority power. The civil rights movement’s agenda was to give equal privileges to all Americans regardless of their race. These rights also ended discrimination in the housing. It came to action during the 15th amendment of the American constitution.

The south however experienced discrimination in voting even in the late 1960s. The basis of discrimination was from simple literacy tests that were meant to alienate the blacks from the voters. This caused only a small number to participate in the voting process. The provision of the act prohibited discrimination. The preclearance was also needed for the states and other jurisdictions that had a history of racial discrimination.

This provided an approval by the United States department of justice. This Act enabled many African Americans to participate in politics. In 1964 summer, the white students also participated in registration of the colored people. Civil rights organizations such as National Association for the Advancement of colored people (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were also involved in the same activity of registering colored voters (NAACP, 2011).

President Lyndon B. Johnson speech in May 1964 at the University of Michigan encouraged the graduating students to shun racism and work towards freedom for all. He insisted that, their imagination and initiatives would determine the kind of a society they were going to build. Richard Nixon took over the presidency in 1968. By this time about 60% of African Americans were eligible to vote in Mississippi and other Southern States. From 1965 to 1990 black state legislators number rose from two to 160.

The voting rights Act was renewed in 1970, 1975 and 1982. Before 2003 South America had more black candidates winning elections but fewer democrats overall winning office. The right to vote made a great impact to the African Americans as this led them to hold positions in local, state and national levels.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 also assisted the black people to secure more jobs. The Civil Bill of Rights Act opened equal opportunities for employment. Formation of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had a long term impact on the country. The law was clear that no discrimination was allowed in public facilities or the government and the employment opportunities. At the moment, it was not easily enforced but was gradually enforced in the later years.

The State fair employment practices Agencies together with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission were in charge of implementation of the laws in employment. They were allowed to file law suites on behalf of employees. Any complaint of discrimination could be filed within 180 days. This was in relation to pregnancy, age and disability. Employers were not supposed to qualify their employees on the basis of their race.

Johnson helped the minorities to gain equal opportunities. In November 1964, Johnson won the presidential elections against Barry Goldwater. At the end of his Presidency, there was violence as well as Vietnam War. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. This raised a question on the programs that President Johnson had started of Medicare for elderly Americans and Medicaid for poor Americans.

Passage of the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965

The immigration Act was signed by Lyndon Johnson in 1965. This positively influenced migration in the 20th century. Majority of the immigrants came in to work.

There was also a shifting in gender immigrants. Initially, males were majority of the immigrants, but the Act influenced the number of females who arrived in the U. S. There was a difference in the education levels of the immigrants. Majority of the past immigrants were not educated while the subsequent immigrants were skilled. This is now referred to as “brain drain” from origin countries.

Currently on its mission to globalization, the U.S. has increased number of immigrants. The Americans are also going to other countries as they export jobs while the immigrants are working for them. The Act allowed integration of African Americans in the country. The system allocation of Visas is based on family relationship to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. However, due to high number of visa application many people have to wait for a long time to acquire immigration Visa (Laney, 2003).

1968 was marked by the Fair housing Act that came after assassination of Martin Luther king Junior. The Act was mainly to curb discrimination in housing. It prohibited landlords from refusing to rent or sell houses on the basis of race, gender, religion or ethnicity. Racial preference in advertising, redlining and blockbusting were also prohibited by the Act.

Integration of blacks into the American society

Integration of African Americans and other minorities by the whites was as a result of violence. The task was difficult to implement because it had everything to do with changing peoples minds. The attitude of the majority was negative and it took time to convince them.

1960s was the baseline for integration of black Americans in the white society. The changing in numbers of blacks’ participation in schools, housing, military, sports and government has a major impact on the social development of the U.S. Government authority played a great role in desegregation.

Black-white segregation was persuasive throughout the United States and mostly affected the southern parts. Blacks were excluded in many areas especially the prestigious and beneficial sectors. The blacks did not have chances in government, businesses, community associations and unions. World War II made a significant change in perception of whites about the blacks. The war created many economic opportunities to the blacks following the blacks’ migration to Northern and urban areas.

This created an environment of interaction and broadened the social and political abilities of the blacks. The attitude of racism was unnecessary evil. The country was experiencing a rapid economic growth. However, the blacks were migrating from the Southern region to the Northern part where black population reduced by 24% from 1940 to 1970.

Blacks mostly migrated to the large cities which had accessibility to the rail line. Manufacturing centres of upstate New York also attracted the blacks. Those blacks who went to the North were more successful than those in the South. The blacks were about a quarter of the population in big cities such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Boston by 1960.

Only Minneapolis city had a smaller population of blacks below the national average of 11.7%. The protests by Civil Rights Movement organizations demanded for the rights of black Americans as well as to shun discrimination against them. The blacks’ participation in civil rights increase in the 1960s brought conflict with the whites. Their participation was not in vain because after persistence, their demands were included in the constitution.

This was their path to freedom as they were able to enjoy many privileges that they had for long been denied. Participation of blacks in major institutions of American society broke the barrier of discrimination. Arts, Entertainment, religious institutions and public schools became flexible and allowed the blacks in their facilities and this was how the blacks became integrated into the American society.

Changes in the education sector

The Supreme Court ruling was against discrimination in public schools. This came in 1954, when Virginia political establishment had threatened to close the white schools that would allow African Americans in their schools. The ruling was named Brown II. It was a case that was held because of five different people accusing school facilities of discriminating the black children.

It was a serious case since Browns’ child was not allowed to attend a nearby school that was near their home. She went far away to the school that was meant for the blacks. In 1960s, some of the supreme courts decisions ordered for equality in schools and worked towards implementation.

The Act was in favour of stopping segregation in terms of education facilities. The law prohibited discrimination in the area of funding where all schools were supposed to get equal funding regardless of the students race.

Title VII of the Act outlawed discrimination against any person because of the relationship with another individual of a different “race, color, race, religion, sex or nation of origin” (Burton & O’Brien, 2009, p. 1). The government was greatly involved in the achievements of civil rights movements. President JFK helped in the enforcement of law that did not support discrimination in schools and many public areas.

In 1970, a U.S. judge in North Carolina gave an order that the black students could attend white schools and that the white students could be admitted in the black schools. 1974 was marked by another episode where the whites demonstrated against the black students in their schools.

The black students were harassed by their counterparts who made them to run away from school. The Brown case came up later in1979. The courts made a policy that was known as Open enrolment that gave freedom of choice to students to attend the school they wished to. Segregation in public schools was therefore outlawed by the passing of civil rights Act. The bill amendment also protected women in courts which in addition included the white people for the first time (Burton & O’Brien, 2009).

Conclusion

Racial discrimination was common in U.S. history. It deprived many African Americans their rights and privileges that made them to remain in poverty and have the dominant whites as superior. These included schools, housing, employment, voting rights and migration. This however did not last forever.

The civil rights era between 1955 and 1968 was characterized by various activists including Martin Luther King Junior, Rosa Parks and Thurgood Marshal who were fighting against segregation on basis of their race. The civil rights movement had many blacks in participation.

Their fight for desegregation resulted in achievements of the legal victories in many areas that promoted their equality. The education system changed to open for both blacks and whites and stopped racial admission. Secondly blacks were allowed to use social facilities as much as whites were. Thirdly, the African Americans got voting rights which enabled them to participate in political issues.

The immigration and Nationality Services Act also encouraged many blacks to immigrate to U.S. Moreover, the Civil Rights Act in 1968 banned discrimination in housing, both for rent and for sale regardless of ones race. The participation of the blacks in key institutions such as government, businesses and community programs enhanced their success and growth that promoted their integration in the white society.

References

Burton, O & O’Brien, D. (2009). Remembering Brown at Fifty: The University of Illinois Commemorates Brown V. Board of Education. Illinois: University of Illinois Press.

Laney, G.P. (2003). The voting rights act of 1965: historical background and current issues. New York, NY: Nova Publishers.

Levy, P. (1998). The civil rights movement. New York, NY: Greenwood Publishing Group.

NAACP. (2011). NAACP. Retrieved on May 28, 2011 from: http://www.naacp.org/content/main/

Phibbs, C.F. (2009). The Montgomery Bus Boycott: a history and reference. New York, NY: ABC-CLIO.

Steinberg, S. (2000). Race and ethnicity in the United States: issues and debates. New York, NY: Wiley-Blackwell.