The Civil Rights Movement


The Civil Rights Movement Essay, Research Paper

The momentum of the previous decade’s civil rights gains led by rev.Martin luther king, jr. carried over into the 1960s. but for most blacks,the tangible results were minimal. only a minuscule percentage of blackchildren actually attended integrated schools, and in the south, “jim crow”practices barred blacks from jobs and public places. New groups and goalswere formed, new tactics devised, to push forward for full equality. asoften as not, white resistance resulted in violence. this violence spilledacross tv screens nationwide. the average, neutral american, after seeinghis/her tv screen, turned into a civil rights supporter. Black unity and white support continued to grow. in 1962, with thefirst large-scale public protest against racial discrimination, rev. Martinluther king, jr. Gave a dramatic and inspirational speech in washington,d.c. After a long march of thousands to the capital. the possibility ofriot and bloodshed was always there, but the marchers took that chance sothat they could accept the responsibilities of first class citizens. “thenegro,” King said in this speech, “lives on a lonely island of poverty inthe midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity and finds himself an exilein his own land.” King continued stolidly: “it would be fatal for thenation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate thedetermination of the negro. this sweltering summer of the negro’slegitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.” when King came to the end of his prepared text, he swept right on into an exhibition of impromptu oratory that wascatching, dramatic, and inspirational. “I have a dream,” King cried out. the crowd began cheering, but king,never pausing, brought silence as he continued, “i have a dream that oneday on the red hills of georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons offormer slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table ofbrotherhood.” “I have a dream,” he went on, relentlessly shouting down thethunderous swell of applause, “that even the state of mississippi, a statesweltering with people’s injustices, sweltering with the heat ofoppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. ihave dream,” cried King for the last time, “that my four little childrenwill one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color oftheir skin but by the content of their character.” Everyone agreed the march was a success and they wanted action now!but, now! remained a long way off. president kennedy was never able tomobilize sufficient support to pass a civil rights bill with teeth over the opposition of segregationist southern members of congress. but after his assassination, president johnson, drawing on the kennedy legacy and on thepress coverage of civil rights marches and protests, succeeded wherekennedy had failed. However, by the summer of 1964, the black revolution had created its own crisis of disappointed expectations. rioting by urban blacks was to bea feature of every “long, hot, summer” of the mid-1960s. In 1965, King and other black leaders wanted to push beyond socialintegration, now guaranteed under the previous year’s civil rights law, topolitical rights, mainly southern blacks’ rights to register and vote.king picked a tough alabama town to tackle: selma, where only 1% ofeligible black voters were registered to vote. the violence, the march,the excitement all contributed to the passage of the second landmark civilrights act of the decade. even though there was horrendous violence, rev.king announced that as a “matter of conscience and in an attempt to arousethe deepest concern of the nation,” he was “compelled” to lead anothermarch from selma to montgomery, alabama. The four-day, 54-mile march started on the afternoon of sunday, march21, 1965, with some 3500 marchers led by two nobel prizewinners, the rev.Martin luther king, jr. And ralph bunche, then u.n. Under secretary forspecial political affairs. in the march, whites, negroes, clergymen andbeatniks, old and young, walked side by side. president johnson made surethey had plenty of protection this time with 1000 military police, 1900federalized alabama national guardsmen, and platoons of u.s. Marshals andfbi men. When the marchers reached the capital of alabama, they were to havepresented a petition to then governor george wallace protesting votingdiscrimination. however, when they arrived, the governor’s aides came outand said, “the capital is closed today.” About this same time, the term, “black power” was coming into use. it was meant to infer long-submerged racial pride in negroes. Martin lutherking, jr. Specifically sought to rebut the evangelists of black power. “itis absolutely necessary for the negro to gain power, but the term blackpower is unfortunate, because it tends to give the impression of blacknationalism. we must never seek power exclusively for the negro, but thesharing of power with white people,” he said. Unfortunately, the thing that really moved the civil rights movementalong significantly was the murder of rev. Martin luther king, jr. In late1965. cruelty replaced harmony with nightmarish suddenness. rioting mobsin the negro suburb of watts, california, pillaged, burned and killed,while 500 policemen and 5000 national guardsmen struggled in vain to contain their fury. hour after hour, the toll mounted: 27 dead at theweek’s end, nearly 600 injured, 1700 arrested, and property damage wellover $100 million. The good that came out of all of this, is that thousands of negroes were flocking to register in the nine counties in alabama, louisiana, and mississippi where the government posted federal examiners to uphold thevoting law. in four days, 6,998 negro voters were added to the rolls incounties where there had previously been only 3,857. In that time of sorrow and guilt when King was murdered, there was anopening for peace between the races that might otherwise never havepresented itself. president johnson pleaded, “i ask every citizen toreject the blind violence that has struck dr. King.” he went on to saythat to bring meaning to his death, we must be determined to strikeforcefully at the consciences of all americans in order to wrest from tragedy and trauma, the will to make a better society.

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