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Civil Rights Movement Essays

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The traditional image of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States is one that spans over a decade and has its roots in the deep south, in places like Montgomery and Memphis. However, in lieu of new information, a theory has developed that widens the movement’s scope both chronologically ...

and geographically. First coined by Jacqueline Dowd Hall, many Historians have embraced the idea of a Long Civil Rights Movement. This thesis argues that all post-war civil rights movements developed over an extended period. It also breaks away from the traditional view that the civil rights movements predominantly reside in the 1960s and 1970s. The theory also looks beyond the geography of the deep south (e.g. Montgomery and Selma) and perpetuates the idea of a nationwide civil rights movement. This theory also allows for a deeper insight into activism, supporting the existence of grassroots movements by allowing for more than one narrative.

The existence of a long civil rights movement allows for flexible parameters regarding its timeframe. Some even believe there were efforts regarding civil rights as far back as the late 1800s. A wall of resistance did not just appear in the 1960s, there were in fact widespread anti-racism movements during the 1930s and 1940s. Although these were not fully developed, they aimed to overthrow segregation. These could be referred to as ‘organized local political activism’. Korstad and Lichenstein place the beginning of the movement in the early 1940s. Black workers joined Unions(these had a membership of around ½ a million) and the NAACP, whose membership rose from 50,000 to 450,000. According to Berman, McCoy, and Ruetten, a similar movement emerged during the late 1940s. These were challenges by white liberals against white supremacy and marked the second world war and the Truman years as important periods of change. It provided new opportunities to ask for reform.

Although the thesis regards the movement as long and continuous, there were still phases within its narrative. The classical phase, named by Bayard Rustin, begins with the Brown Vs Board of Education case in 1954 and ends with the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. There were increased efforts to get rid of segregation and the emergence of non-violent action through bus boycotts in Montgomery(1955), Louisiana(1953), and Florida(1956). Grassroots groups in areas, like Mississippi, took direct, non-violent action. The MFDP taught people how power worked at different levels, how to lobby and protest and how to build organizations. They also set up Freedom schools that encouraged political thinking in young people, and federal groups that encouraged lobbying. Something that historians often gloss over is the effect of the Cold War on the movement. Anti-communist feelings destroyed the old left, made liberals go on the defensive, and allowed conservatives to thrive. McCarthyism suppressed any movement that looked vaguely communist and got rid of various civil rights conferences. However, it also helped the civil rights movement. During this period, there was a decline in rights and greater civil rights activity – riots over the Vietnam War, student rebellion, and black militancy. Fear of communism made way for the civil rights movements as the sole protest movement of the period. Then came the 1960s and 70s, the so-called movement of movements, where movements were largely nationalized. Despite these phases forming a bigger picture, the movement still heavily relies on the literature of the 50s and 60s.

The thesis of the Long Civil Rights Movement better reflects the reality of African American struggles. There is often a disconnect between the true extent of civil rights movements and what people believe them to be. The existence of such a movement considers the idea of a never-ending struggle for freedom, the movement was merely an unfinished piece of work, one which was far from being over yet. Limiting the extent of civil rights to just the classical phase of the movement leads to an underestimation of the progress made by activists and the sheer number of obstacles African Americans needed to overcome. We should look at the fight for Civil Rights as a continuous struggle, rather than at specific points in time. It is typically easier to compress the moment into a few key points or phases and figures like Martin Luther King Jr. The narrative of the civil rights movement relies on public memory, images of the movement often only appear around the time of Martin Luther King Junior day or Black History Month. His I have a dream speech remains to be a powerful image of civil rights and has become his one-defined action in the movement. His other actions have fallen into the background. The commitment Martin Luther King Jr made to civil rights should not be reduced to mere speech. This thesis presents this tokenization and allows lesser-known movements to come to light. Intersectionality is an important part of the long civil rights movement, movements were inspired by the actions of civil rights activists. For example, the Black Power movement is typically described in a negative light. The activists involved in the movement were frequently assumed to be thugs and suppressed by the corrupt FBI, police, and the US state. There was some distinction between the Black Power movement and the civil rights movement, both largely had the same goals but achieved them by different means, and the black power movement also was less well known. The movement challenged the existing rhetoric of sexism, violence, crime, and anger and encouraged more African Americans to engage in politics. It aimed to have black elected officials and a high voting turnout. Black nationalist groups were respectful towards other minority groups, built multi-racial alliances, and had white investors. However, they were not race-neutral and promoted both control of their own community and black liberation. The long civil rights movement showcases this multiplicity of movements.

The Long Civil Rights moment is also a result of increased interest in African American rights. It is reflective of a time of greater awareness. White academics are no longer complicit with the racist narrative that underpins much of the literature documenting African American struggle. In the past, academics often veered away from difficult issues: FBI corruption, decolonization, anti-imperialistic values, and pan-Africanism. Historiography often featured negative representations of African Americans. Even the work of historians, who attempted to show sympathy toward Black suffering, frequently had problematic undertones. On a societal level, as well as the resistance to change from white elites, there has always been a group of color-blind conservatives who supported but didn’t truly understand the civil rights movement and frequently undermined the complexities and dynamics of it. These people acknowledged the existence of racism but failed to acknowledge the problems that still remained. They instead focused on racial reconstruction rather than the granting of rights. The historiography of today now aims to take racism in older texts into context when writing new theses. This is regularly referred to as the civil rights movement of scholarship. Academics wrote with a greater sense of respectability, using more sensitive language and changing the approach to difficult issues. Anti-racist ideas have only come to the forefront in lieu of new information. Work has been done to ensure that both dramatic movements and everyday struggles were documented as activism. In recent years, there has been increased exposure of unsung heroes of the civil rights movement, as part of an expansion of key figures. There has also been greater compassion towards Black suffering through the campaigns triggered by the deaths of Black citizens at the hands of white policemen. This compassion has led to literature aiming to grant justice for racial trauma. This literature tends to vilify the white population as monsters or provide white audiences with questions that provoke self-reflection. The Long Civil rights movement plays into this narrative of repair.

In conclusion, many Historians support the idea of a long civil rights movement because it reflects the progress in both academia and society as a whole. It also shows the progress that has been made in race relations. We have gone from a time of widespread racism to one where academics write and discuss race and racial issues in a more sensitive manner through changes to the language used and general changes in attitudes and approaches. Wider society no longer has laws of segregation and attitudes of inferiority and negativity towards African Americans, although still existent, have significantly lessened. Furthermore, the thesis allows for the creation of a bigger picture of the civil rights movement, one that reflects the African American struggle and the recognition of both everyday and large-scale activism. By ignoring the work done by activists outside the classical phase of the 1950s and 60s, you limit the greater effect that the civil rights movement had and the high number of obstacles there were to overcome. The true effects of the civil rights movements could be seen in the everyday actions of the smaller movements, which intersected with the overall aims of the larger movement.

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The Tactics Of Martin Luther King Jr. And Malcolm X Within Civil Rights Movement

Civil rights are the rights each person has in society, no matter what their race, sex or religion may be. Guaranteed fundamental freedoms to all individuals. The Civil Rights Movement was an era dedicated to activism for equal rights and treatment of African Americans in the United States. During this period, people protested for social, legal, political and cultural changes to stop discrimination and end segregation in the United States. The Civil Rights Act led to greater social and economic...
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How Did Martin Luther King Jr. Successfully Achieve The Aims Of The Civil Rights Movement?

Identification and evaluation of sources The aim of this investigation is to answer the research question “to what extent did Martin Luther King Jr successfully achieve the civil rights movement between the years 1963-1968?”, and I will be assessing how far he accomplished his aims, where he hoped to achieve three things: an improvement of the African American economic system, African American right to vote freely, and racial desegregation. Source A is a primary source as it originates from Martin...
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The Effects Of Civil Rights Movement

Throughout the history of Australia, Aboriginal people have faced large amounts of discrimination in society and have not had equal opportunities. Between 1910 and 1970, Aboriginal children were removed from their families by federal and state governments and were forced to adopt a white culture to rid Australia or Aboriginal people. The US Civil Rights movement (1955- 1968), led by Martin Luther King Jr and other civil rights activists such as Rosa Parks, had a massive influence on Australian activism...
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Malcom X And Martin Luther King: Approaches And Actions During Civil Rights Movement

Malcom X and Martin Luther king where two people who fought to achieve the one thing civilization aspires most in the world, peace. Even though they both shared a similar goal, the controversy begins at the question: Who made the right approach? Martin Luther King made the decision to stand in front of hundreds of thousands of black people and families who were hurt and fed up. He said what needed to be said for people to finally earn the...
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Civil Rights Movement In Australia And The US

For many decades African-Americans have had many of their right suppressed since the arrival of white settlers on American soil, much like the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders here in Australia. Many Aboriginals had their own children taken away from them to be ‘white washed’ and to grow up in a white community, where they will forget about their long-established and historical traditions and learn new traditions to somewhat fit into white society. These people were known as the stolen...
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The Leadership Of Martin Luther King As The Factor Of Success In The Civil Rights Movement

The American civil rights movement describes the decades-long protest which aimed to highlight and overturn the systematic discrimination African Americans faced in the 1950s and 1960s. Deep inequalities in society impacted on every aspect of civilian life, from segregated education, transportation, eateries and interracial marriage was prohibited. Discrimination and the treatment of African Americans as second-class citizens inevitably impacted on the economic opportunities and employment available, which entrenched rates of poverty. Despite segregation in the armed forces, African American soldiers...
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Influence Of The American Civil Rights Movement On The Australian Civil Rights Movement

The prejudice and misrepresentation of Aboriginal peoples in state and federal law has existed in Australia ever since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. The American Civil Rights Movement (1955 – 1968) was lead by Martin Luther King and encouraged by the people. This significantly affected the Australian people in realising the inequality in their country. One man that was greatly influenced by the social leader in America was Charles Perkins, an Aboriginal activist that was a huge...
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The Difference Between Two Prominent Civil Rights Activists: Martin Luther King Jr. And Malcolm X

During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were very prominent. They were both great speakers and shared one goal, but they had two separate ways to solve it. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to solve the problems by using non-violence to achieve the goal of promoting justice among all races. Malcolm X always wanted to reduce segregation and be separated, but to use another strategy to achieve the same goal effectively. These men’s experiences were...
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Civil Rights Movement Impact On The Freedom Rides In Australia

Children were taken from their families in violent ways, only to never see them again. This is what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had to endure for 60 years (1910 – 1970). This period is also known as ‘The Stolen Generations’. Racial discrimination and segregation in the US was also prominent, and this sparked mass protests and Civil Rights movements such as the ‘Bus Boycott’ of 1961. Movements in the US inspired protests in Australia too, and this led...
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Women And Their Role In The Civil Rights Movement

The movie that plays in our minds when we think of the Civil Rights movement is one starring Martin Luther King Jr giving powerful speeches and inspiring both the Black and White populations to carry the banner for social freedom. Although Martin Luthger King Jr was a driving force in the movement, there were so many others who bore the weight of the cause who did not draw as much attention to themselves. There were countless groups dedicated to fighting...
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Was Martin Luther King Jr. The Most Influential Factor On The American Civil Rights Movement?

Since the Declaration of Independence was issued July 4th, 1776, the United States of America has had multiple issues with Civil Rights and its recognition and protection of minorities across the country. Even in the 21st century, the world’s 11th most developed nation (as per the HDI) , with the world’s largest economy , has faced multiple claims against its treatment of minorities, showing the glaring issue of its centuries old struggle between races in America. This has including many...
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Importance Of The U.S. Civil Rights Movement And Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Many minority groups, including Aboriginals an, have struggled in finding their of these rights in the past, and continue to do so today. The late 1800s to the late 1900s was an extremely difficult time for Indigenous Australians and was is one of the darkest periods of Australian history. Many Indigenous children during this time were forced out of their homes and taken from their families due to the implication of multiple new barbaric government procedures; these children are known...
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Civil Rights Movement: Key Events and Importance to the African American Race

This essay is written to inform readers of the Civil Rights Movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott as the key its event, the importance of the movement to the African American race, and the Civil Rights Act. On December 1, 1955, the life of our nation changed forever. The start of the Civil Rights Movement began with the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the 1900s. December 1st, 1955, was a day many African Americans marked as the day to stand up for...
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Malcolm X And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As Civil Rights Leaders

There have been so many great civil rights leaders in America but the two that have stood out to me were Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Their remarkable amount of effort put forth in the fight for change is really noteworthy. Although both had two different leading styles they both accomplished many milestones and helped to make a change in the U.S. regarding equality in society. The concept that really made the two individuals different in a...
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Fighting Injustice through Nonviolence Civil Disobedience: The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Sit-In Movement

“One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” – Martin Luther King Jr. Background information strategy used during the 1950-1965, strategy used in North Carolina, and Alabama. Strategy used to get more rights that the black people should have. Strategy used by Rosa Parks, Greensboro four, and Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolence civil disobedience has proved to be the best strategy used during the...
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Civil Rights Movement as the Most Influential Movement in the 20th Century

There were many rapid changes in America in the 20th century, some of which shaped entire generations. One of the major historical events that had a significant impact on how Americans redefined themselves during that century is the Civil Rights Movement. Minorities, specifically black Americans, had always been kept inferior. This movement reinvented the way they were seen as a result of them actively fighting for their equal rights; which created a foundation for the next generation. The Civil Rights...
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The Way How The Civil Rights Movement Start

The Civil Rights Movement that began in the late 1950’s won for African-Americans basic rights long denied to them, inspired other discriminated groups to fight for their own rights, and had a deep effect on American society. After the Civil War, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution were supposed to guarantee equal rights for African-Americans. But in the South, segregation of the races, the denial of opportunities to African-American, and their disenfranchisement continued in a system known...
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The American Civil Rights Movements: Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X

The American Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and 60s, was an important time in American history with many influential and pivotal people, most importantly of these people are Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. While both of these men believed in the same thing, Equal Rights, they each had very different ways to achieve it. This has been demonstrated through their motives and personal experiences, the significant change they had on the civil rights movement and the support...
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Importance of the Civil Rights Movement and Its Key Events

Human rights are an important aspect to your life and to law making and everyone needs them to have a good life. If you live in the United States, you have many rights unless you’re trying to do something wrongful like murder or steal. It wasn’t always like this however, before the Civil Rights Movement you could be denied public access to a public area because of your race or religion. Thanks to the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights...
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Frederick Douglass As An Activist Of Civil Rights Movement

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Forced Sterilization And The Reproductive Rights Movement

The fight for reproductive rights has been a long and continuous one that has been prominent for centuries. A woman’s right to have control and power over her own body and its abilities has been historically difficult to achieve, due to the patriarchal structure of our society, and is a battle that women are still fighting globally. However, there was rapid growth of the movement in the second wave of feminism that happened between the 1960s and 1980s. The rise...
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Essay on Civil Rights Movement

The traditional image of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States is one that spans over a decade and has its roots in the deep south, in places like Montgomery and Memphis. However, in lieu of new information, a theory has developed that widens the movement’s scope both chronologically and geographically. First coined by Jacqueline Dowd Hall, many Historians have embraced the idea of a Long Civil Rights Movement. This thesis argues that all post-war civil rights movements developed...
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The Aspects Of Civil Rights Movement In Letter From A Birmingham Jail

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. At the peak of the Civil Rights Movement in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) and other African American leaders decided to concentrate their power in the most segregated city in America’s Birmingham, Alabama. As the nonviolent protest increased MLK was arrested in April 12, 1963 for breaking an unjust law against political demonstration, held for a day with no permission to his right to call a lawyer. When he finally contacted...
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Why Civil Rights Movement Was More Effective Than The Suffragette Movement?

In the late 19th century, British women fought for suffrage. Decades later, cross the Atlantic, black people in the US fought for civil rights. We can see the similarities in both revolutions: vulnerable groups fought for their rights, they resisted again the backward social perceptions and discrimination. Both demonstrate the inalienable human rights and equality are sure to be realized. Pursued a common goal, yet differed in paths. Based on the causal chain of the direct impact, the effectiveness of...
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The Civil Rights Movement: An Extension Of Progressivism

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was a beloved figure of freedom and a controversial figure during the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s and 60’s. Claybourne Carson, editor of ‘The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr’ had accumulated hundreds of documents, and audio recordings to create this autobiography that allows the reader to get into the deepest insight of King’s thoughts and the role he portrayed to help America overcome the racial bigotry. The Civil Rights Movement...
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Australian Civil Rights Movement Process

The creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights helped pinpoint the discrimination of many Indigenous peoples around the world. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was made after World War II, in 1948, to prevent any similar events. When this was created it showed how, in many countries around the world, Indigenous people had little to no rights in comparison to others. Thus, the Civil Rights movement was created. Many Indigenous people stood up for their rights and protested...
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Indigenous Civil Rights Movement

In the mid-1960s an indigenous civil rights movement was starting to occur and there were several individuals that had massive impacts on how indigenous Australians live today. One of these people was Eddie Mabo. Eddie Mabo was born in 1936 on Murray Island but by the mid-1960s found himself fighting for his rights as an individual and for the rights of all indigenous Australians. This endeavour began when he told two academics about how he dreamed about spending his last...
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Review of Howard Zinn's 'A People's History of the United States'

Howard Zinn was an American historian, a playwright and an active social activist. He attended college on the G.I. Bill, earning a B.A. at New York University; and went on to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate at Columbia University. Zinn later on became chairman of the history department in 1956 at Spelman College. Before completing his academic endeavors, Zinn joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, which would make him a bombardier. Embodying his socialist views, Zinn opposed...
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Impacts that Shaped the United States

United States is a country where there are people with different social levels, nationality, race, skin color, and religion. The history of the United States is one of the most interesting of all time, because of the different obstacles, difficulties, and setbacks that its inhabitants had to cross with to consolidate what is today of our nation. It is necessary to remember that the United States has had extremely important events and individuals that impacted the shaping of the United...
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Research Paper on Influence of Great Depression on the Civil Rights Movement

Since the beginning of time people have always found a certain aspect in one another to find a fault in, as an excuse to discriminate and persecute others they don’t deem deserving of human decency. The time period that notably spurred on an ever-growing movement for all-inclusive equality would be the 1930s; while this decade caused progressive thinking for future generations this achievement was a result of many sacrifices and tragedies. While this decade may have propelled the movement for...
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