African American Civil Rights Movement
The Civil Rights Movement was one of the most important changes in America.
Even though the Emancipation Proclamation had been in place for over 100 years, there was horrible discrimination still being practiced against African-Americans.
The most drastic were in the Southern states that refused to allow African-Americans to sit in the front of buses, use the same bathrooms, drink from the same water fountains, stay in the same hotels or even eat in restaurants as white Americans.
There continued to be growing unrest among the African-American communities and the ‘Movement’ to make change finally took public notice in the 1955-1956 Montgomery Bus protest, led by pacifist activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Small protests over time
It’s important to know that the Civil Rights Movement did not happen due to one situation.
It occurred over a number of years and in many phases.
Small protests that were both violent and peaceful began occurring in the Southern states, and it wasn’t until the founding of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) that the voices and protests were not only heard, but carried any power in the courts.
There were many laws that had been passed to overturn prejudice and segregation, but they were ignored in the Southern states.
On Dec. 1, 1955, an uproar happened when an African-American woman, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person.
She was thrown in jail and this resulted in protests as well as boycotting (refuse to use) the community bus system.
Sometimes violence broke out
Not all African-Americans believed in the quiet method and over the next ten years violence broke out in a number of towns and cities as they tried to achieve the freedoms that white Americans enjoyed.
Even when there were peaceful protests and sit-ins, white police officers arrived with dogs and weapons and attacked those that were trying to make a statement.
Who was Dr. King
Dr. King became the voice of the African-American people, using words of reason and hope that all could live together in harmony.
Although he was a Christian minister, he used the approach of the Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi as the method to make changes through peaceful protest and demonstration.
In 1963 the movement had grown to such an extent that over 200,000 people of all races joined Dr. King in the August 28th “March on Washington” where Dr. King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech.
The importance of the freedoms of all Americans, combined with the marches, protests and proof of discrimination led to President John F. Kennedy’s recommendation and the eventual passing of the “Civil Rights Act” in 1964.
This law did not allow discrimination of any American citizen based on race, color, religion or gender.
Civil Rights Act
Even though the law had been passed, many of the Southern states, whose roots were deeply buried in segregation and discrimination due to their history of slavery, did not choose to obey.
It became a focus for members of the African-American community to encourage their members to register to vote so that they could use their voting power to elect people that would help their cause.
The Black Panthers
Many new African-American organizations were formed across the country to help. The most powerful and radical organization was founded in Southern California by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966 and was known as The Black Panthers.
They believed in a less peaceful way to get their message to the people.
The violence increased against all that joined in any kind of protest. On March 7, 1965, a march was planned to start in Selma, Alabama and end at the Montgomery capital.
The courts passed a law forbidding the march, and when people showed up the police attacked the protesters with dogs and clubs.
This was known as “Bloody Sunday” and was an important time in the movement.
The death of some of the protesters combined with Dr. King and many people in attendance brought about the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
By the 1960’s, the Black Panthers were promoting a more violent way to get attention.
Other leaders such as Black Nationalist Malcom X continued to protest and, in some cases cause riots.
The laws that were in place were not being obeyed and there was still a lot of discrimination happening. Dr. King continued to promote peaceful protests and established the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968 to help to bring a balance of wealth distribution, which continued into the 1970’s and 1980’s.
The Civil Rights Movement was one of the most important times in American history, because it became the ground base for many other types of movements towards equality.