Essay on Civil Rights Historiography

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Pages: 15

The Civil Rights Movement is often thought to begin with a tired Rosa Parks defiantly declining to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She paid the price by going to jail. Her refusal sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which civil rights historians have in the past credited with beginning the modern civil rights movement. Others credit the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education with beginning the movement. Regardless of the event used as the starting point of the moment, everyone can agree that it is an important period in history. In the forty-five years since the modern civil rights movement, several historians have made significant contributions to the study of this era. These historians …show more content…
Klarman argues that those landmark legislative victories for civil rights would not have been possible had it not been for white racial extremism and Northern outrage. While Klarman presents an intriguing argument, it is difficult to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is, in fact, Brown that led to the massive resistance movement. What his argument lacks is concrete proof that one caused the other. It is easy to connect the dots of his argument mentally, but there is nothing that binds the different prongs of his argument together definitively. Weisbrot and Klarman support each other’s argument in that both focus on the involvement of white liberals in advancing the Civil Rights Movement. Klarman, however, inserts the middle link between Brown, white backlash, and Northern support. The two authors also differ on the periodization of the Civil Rights Movement. The former credits the Montgomery Bus Boycott with beginning the movement; the latter discusses the Civil Rights Movement as having begun in the WWII-era. Both Weisbrot and Klarman demonstrate the changing views of the civil rights movements’ participants. Weisbrot shows that the different civil rights organizations shifted from fighting segregation to obtaining voting rights to fighting poverty in African-Americans. He also shows the changing tone of the Liberal Coalition. Whites gradually went from standing on the