The Civil Rights Movement was a movement aimed at abolishing racial discrimination in the United States of America in the 1950s and 1960s. Many things were achieved by the movement, and I will be looking at both its successes and its failures.
Historically, the black population has always been subject to racial injustice; the most notable example being the introduction of the slave trade. For over two centuries, Africans were treated like animals and lived their lifes in unjust conditions. It had been less than 100 years since slaves living in the Southern States of America had been freed, and this meant there were still very obvious social impacts.
The moderate white southern American would see the black man as nothing more than an inconvinience, both socially and economically. They felt threatened by the fact that the people they had grown up being told was inferior to them had now begun to take their jobs, earn money and go to the same school as them. So it comes as little surprise that when the segregation of schools became unconstitutional in 1954 many white southerners were outraged.
Source A shows the amount of black children attending school with white children from 1956 – 1962. It does show an increase, however I think it would be wrong to call this a success. This is because the margin by which it has increased is simply tiny. The table shows us that less than 1% of the schools had black children in it. A success would mean equality, thus a much more even mix.
Source B also backs up this point. It is a photograph taken on the 23rd of September – three years after the Brown vs Board of Education case deemed the segregation of schools unconstitutional. Yet it shows a horrifying image of a black student on her way to enrol at an all-white school in Arkansas, with a young white woman screaming at her from behind. The fact that the source was taken in Arkansas is not very surprising – as it was here that much of the black population lived, and the white southern Americans held typically more extreme views than those from northen states. These sources would suggest that although in theory the Civil Rights movement had had a success, in practice it still had a long way to go.
The black American youth knew they were being oppressed, and most were politically active in some form or another. Some followed the non-violent views of Martin Luther King, one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. He famously spoke out against racism in his “I have a dream” speech in 1963, where over 200,000
Civil Rights activists came to hear him. Others took a more violent stance, by listening to speeches by the likes of Malcom X. He believed that the “black man is king” and that he should take power in any way possible. Perhaps this influenced the Race Riots that followed shortly after he was assasinated in 1965. Source D is an article from the American magazine “newsweek” and it describes a conversation between some black youths. In my opinion the source definitely has some bias; as it refers to them as “long legs” and “gangly”. It seems to portray them as delinquents and criminals, for example “those buildings goin’ up was a pretty sight”.
And some may argue that it is not an unfair portrayal, as it was in fact black youths that started the Race Riots – but I think it is important to understand that they did so out of sheer frustration of not being treated as equals. I think they were sick of waiting for non-violent protestors and decided to take matters in to their own hands, as we can see from the quote “my kids are goin’ to study about that in school, and they’ll know their old man was part of it.” Although one might not necessarily agree with their logic, it is vital to understand it.
The opinion of many black adult Christians was more swayed towards Martin Luther King, as he himself was a baptist minister. Source C is an excerpt of his essay Chaos or Community. He outlines very well the “remarkable record of achievement” made through non-violent protests. For example, “desegregated lunch-counters” and an “end to segregation in inter-state travel.”
I think that the source is only very slightly biased in the fact that he has not mentioned any failures that were caused. However Luther King does at least show measurable successes, which is something that can not be said of violence, which in my opinion only demonstrates hatred, anger and death. One can understand why people would be violent, but in hindsight we see that it didn’t really achieve as much as passive resistance did.
Crucial to the Civil Rights Movement was the right to vote. Previously, black people registering to vote would have to take a literacy test, as well as facing intimidation from white mobs. Fortunately, after the Voting Rights Act of 1965, any adult could vote, regardless of whether they could read or write. This was extremely important, as it meant that black Americans could vote for representatives that would aid their struggle. We can see from Source E that the number of voters soared from 1965 to 1971; with a sixfold increase in Mississippi. There were two states where the numbers dropped by 1%, but in general there was a vast increase, so I would say that it was indeed a success.
In my opinion is that it is fair to say that the Civil Rights movement had some successes, with some failures. I think sources A – F do not show that the movement
achieved a ‘great deal’ so to speak, but it would be wrong to dismiss it, as there were definitely several victories. Sources A, B and D in particular show things that could have been improved. And I think the thing that links all three of them together is the fact that they were all social problems, so perhaps the biggest obstacle for the Civil Rights activists was to try and bridge the gap between black and white people, which sadly still exists to some extent even to this day.
Moreover, I feel that one of the greatest flaws of the Civil Rights Movement was that the black community should have stuck together. The fact that there were disagreements between violent and non-violent protestors only weakened their case for equality.
So in conclusion, I think that sources A – F only partially back up the notion that “The Civil Rights Movement Achieved a Great Deal”, because some of the sources in fact show the failures.