There were many factors which contributed to the eventual success of the Civil Rights Movement during the years 1945- 57, a key example being the campaigns and peaceful protests of the NAACP which worked through the Supreme Court in the U. S. to tackle “de jure” discrimination. The group’s membership grew from 50,000 to 450,000 by 1945 and was the largest civil rights organisation at the time. Overall, the group had significant success in the years 1945- 57.
However, the work of the NAACP alone was not solely responsible for the success of the Civil Rights campaign and other factors which contributed to this include, the influence of key figures such as Martin Luther King and the actions of the Federal Government, including both Congress, the Supreme Court and Presidents, the work of other known civil rights groups and the second World War, which alongside the NAACP, influenced black Americans awareness.
It cannot be denied that the actions of the Civil Rights campaigning group, the NAACP, played a significant role in addressing “de jure” discrimination in particular before Martin Luther King was on the scene. The group supported Black Americans through the Supreme Court rulings in attempts to put an end to “de jure” discrimination. A significant example of how the NAACP was successful is the case of Brown V. Board of Education 2 in 1955; although successful during the first Brown case in 1954, the judgement of desegregating public schools was not enforced leading to the Brown case 2 which did successfully enforce the ruling.
The judgement overruled the Plessy V Ferguson case of 1896 which allowed Jim Crow Laws. Plessy V. Ferguson was essentially the beginning of the ‘separate but equal’ ideology. Although a success in terms of “de jure” discrimination, it is important to remember that the NAACP did not deal with “de facto” discrimination, something which did hold the desegregation of public schools back in the first Brown case. Another key example of how the NAACP was successful is the case of Morgan V. Virginia in 1946 in which the group tried to put an end to segregation on public transport.
As a whole, the NAACP did play a significant role in the progress towards improving the status of black Americans as it not only presented black Americans as united but also built up a positive representation of the minorities through their peaceful protests and campaigns. However, if there was to be any criticism of the NAACP, it would be their neglect of addressing “de facto” discrimination. Although the de jure victories were a success, they could not fully be successful as on some occasions, they could not be fully enforced due to the hostility of Southern White Americans in particular.
A key example of this is the radical group the Ku Klux Klan who opposed African Americans violently and attempted to prevent Black Americans from making de fact and de jure change by intimidating them and subjecting them to extreme racial discrimination. It is also important to remember that although the NAACP was successful with the majority of their campaigns, it was ultimately down to the rulings of the Supreme Court to ensure that the judgements were passed.
In terms of the Federal government, the extent of their influence during the years 1945- 55 is questionable as Congress in particular opposed most essentially positive developments put forward. For example, when Truman put forward his document, ‘To Secure These Rights’ which included an anti- lynching policy and voting rights for black Americans, congress denounced the document. However, Truman did have some positive contributions towards the Civil Rights Movement, for example, he did desegregate the armed forces something which Congress had no influence over.
Although a positive development, it can be argued that Truman was not persistent enough to pursue trying to bring about racial equality. Unlike Truman, who appeared to favour the Civil Rights campaign, Eisenhower seemed less supportive of the movement. Nonetheless, he did enforce integration of a public school in1957 during the Little Rock campaign and towards the end of his Presidency he did enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1957 which focused on the voting rights of African Americans. Looking at the influence the Second World War had on black Americans, it cannot be denied that it did affect the Civil Rights campaign significantly.
During the war, the U. S. needed the support the black community. As a result, the Fair Employment Practices Commission was set up to ensure that black Americans received fair treatment in government hiring. However, although on the service this seems like a success for the progress of the Civil Rights campaign, its success was limited as only a small number of black Americans were actually employed in the government. However, the war did increase prosperity amongst the Black community as many did have some form of employment.
The involvement of black Americans fighting in the war also meant that many travelled abroad and became increasingly aware of the discrimination they were exposed to back in the U. S. The fact that the Second World War was about freedom and the U. S. were fighting to stop the persecution of minorities, in particular Jews, almost made the U. S. look like hypocrites as they themselves were actively discriminating against ethnic minorities. Overall, the impact of the Second World War is undeniable as it was also responsible for many black Americans migrating from the South to the North in order to find employment after 1945.
This migration led to large tensions in Northern Ghetto’s and widespread riots which did bring about negative opinions of the black community and the civil rights campaign. It cannot be denied however, that the increase in Black consciousness did help the NAACP as it increased membership and support for the civil rights campaign. Probably the most well known and essentially influential figure involved in the Civil Rights campaign is Martin Luther King.
Although he did not become largely involved in the campaign until 1955 during the Montgomery Bus boycott which did lead to the NAACP’s court case, Browder V. Gayle, ruling segregation on buses illegal, King was successful in providing the Black communities with a political voice and building up widespread awareness through the media, something which helped to gain the civil rights movement more sympathy from White Americans, particularly in the North. King also founded the SCLC in 1957 which also helped contributed to the movement. However, during the early years of the campaign the NAACP can be seen as the most successful organisation in campaigning towards improving the status of Black Americans in the U. S.
In conclusion, I believe that the NAACP was largely responsible for the success of the Civil Rights campaign in the years 1945- 57. However, I also believe that the group would not have been as successful in fighting de jure discrimination in the U. S. if it wasn’t for the actions of the Federal Government, in particularly the Supreme Court and the Presidents as these were essentially the ones responsible for the enforcing change. I also believe that the Second World War is also responsible, to some extent, in increasing awareness amongst the Black community which essentially led to increased popularity for the NAACP and its success.
Courtney from Study Moose
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