The Civil Rights Movement
April 1, 2012
In the mid-1950s to the late 1960s, African Americans struggled with the civil rights movements. Their African American goals were to achieve the rights equal to that of the Caucasian race which included equal opportunity in employment, housing, and education, as well as the right to vote, the right of equal access to public facilities, and the right to be free of racial discrimination. Although they were no longer slaves, their lives were no where towards being an equal citizen. African Americans were still experiencing discrimination in all aspects of their lives. During the movement for civil rights, many African American memories are embodied in recorded speeches, dramatic photographs, and newsreels, which America encountered on a daily basis in papers and the local news channels. With the movement rolling across the nation, Americans absorbed images of hopeful, disciplined, and dedicated young people trying to fulfill their destiny. African Americans were met with federal ambivalence and indifferences, hostility, as well as mob and law enforcement violence. Voter registration drives and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was a way that African Americans fought back along with direct action protest and keen political organizing. There were many barriers that African Americans had to cope with to gain equality with the practice of racial segregation and discrimination along with the effects of centuries of unequal treatment as the top three barriers. In the South, it was the custom, enforced by state laws and local ordinances, to keep Negroes and whites separated in as many activities as possible. Schools, means of transportation, parks, restaurants, hotels and many other facilities were traditionally all-white or all-black, or had separate sections serving one or the other races. This type of segregation was the South’s way of life-claimed by most white Southerners to be beneficial to both races. Federal attempts to force desegregation were protested as violations of states’ rights. Militant segregationists used legal action, economic pressure, and even violence to block the equal rights movement. Outside the South, segregation rarely was supported by law. Nevertheless, black people experienced widespread and deep-seated discrimination in housing, education, and employment. Attempts to pass anti-discrimination laws were called infringements on individual liberties or rights. The 15th Amendment guarantees voting rights to all citizens but in the South, this was not the case as many Negroes were denied the right to vote. In some states, black people were given literacy tests deliberately made too difficult for most of them to pass. The poll tax was another device employed to keep Negroes from registering and voting. Civil rights volunteers from the North came to the Southern Communities to ensure Negroes could obtain their voting rights. After large-scale demonstrations protesting voting discrimination in the South, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. The turning point for the struggle against civil rights came in 1954 with the U.S. Supreme Court’s public school desegregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. This decision overturned the Plessey v. Ferguson (1896) ruling that “separate but equal” facilities for Negroes were constitutional (Civil Rights 1954-1963).
With this ruling in place, for the first time, it allowed Negroes to believe that the laws were on their side in the attempt to gain full equality and as a result of this event, it led to other doors opening in the quest for civil rights. On December1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama where she was told during her ride to move out of her seat and to the “colored section” which was in the rear of the bus.