Civil rights movement can be described as the non violent protests against something that the public feels does not auger well with them. Dierenfield, (2004, pp 23) differentiates civil liberties and civil rights by describing the former as entailing the right of every citizen to receive fair treatment from his government whereas the latter, he says involves citizens gunning for fair treatment from their fellow citizens and local authorities. Therefore, civil rights can also be described as social rights.
However, the mammoth effects of the civil rights movement against slavery and the more conspicuous civil movements against racial segregation have taken credit for defining the term. This paper discusses the civil rights movement in the US by tracing its history, the key leaders involved and how their activities influenced the American government of the time. History of civil rights movement Civil rights movement are most famous in the US between 1955 and 1965 where there happened numerous historical accounts led by civil rights leaders protesting against racial segregation in the US more so in the south.
The leaders were mainly black who were protesting against mistreatment by their white counterparts who by then treated them as second class citizens. Key activists Martin Luther King This is definitely one of the most renowned African American leaders in fighting for equal rights for African Americans living in the US who were mainly descendants of early slaves. He is most remembered for leading the Montgomery bus boycott among other protests. This Montgomery bus boycott is recorded to have officially started on 1st December 1955.
The boycott involved the black American living in that area boycotting using the city buses unless they were allowed to sit anywhere they wanted to sit in the bus instead of the area specifically set out for the blacks. The boycotts were triggered by the arrest of one woman Rosa Park who had defied giving up her sit to a white person in the bus. Having the fronts seats reserved for whites sonly, Rosa Parks defied the order o give up her seat and was subsequently arrested for that. Rosa Parks This is one woman who the US congress came to nickname the “mother of modern-day civil rights movements” (Boyd, et al 2004, pp 125).
As said above, her defiance into giving in to mistreatment in the public transport system triggered the massive boycotts which were to last more than a year until their pleas were heard. Her arrest was even against t the law which she claimed to have observed. A 1900 law on segregation in the buses by race allowed the setting up of specific areas for blacks and whites in the bus but did not give specifications as to force one to vacate his/her seat for another in case there were no more seats. However, custom and culture and mis-configured the law and interpreted it for the benefits of the whites.
Park was charged in a court of law and was found guilty but some of her friends bailed her out (Boyd, 2004, pp 125). The same friends who bailed Park out formed an organization by the name Montgomery Improvement Association to spearhead the boycotts and among the leaders was Martin Luther King Jr. Black churches were used in communicating about the boycott which was to last exactly 381 days. The public transport buses stood idle as 75% of the commuters had decide to either walk or used blacks operated taxis (Dierenfield, 2004, pp 23).
The bus companies were making losses and thus they had also to join the blacks in calling for the abolition of the law on segregation in order to save their businesses. Leaders of the movement such as Martin Luther King had their homes torched by segregationists and their families threatened. The United States Supreme Court, on13th November 1956 outlawed racial segregation on buses operating within the individual states and cities. The court order was received with a lot of celebration in Montgomery on December 20, 1956, and the bus boycott ended the very next day. King did not stop there.
He went ahead and met with President John F Kennedy who was also for equal rights for blacks. Unfortunately, changing the constitution to outlaw segregation by race was not that simple. Other protests were planned to push for what they believed was naturally theirs by the virtue of being a human being and an American citizen. The bus boycott had planted a seed of freedom in blacks. Since the need of the boycott, many cases wee reported where blacks were being accused of disrespecting the segregation laws or the Jim Crow’s laws as they were famously known. Other protest marches were also organized by Martin Luther and other fellow activists.
The major ones being the Birmingham March, The freedom rides, The Washington march among many others (Dierenfield, 2004, pp 23). Unfortunately, the man was later to be assassinated due to his civil rights activities. Many of these subsequent marches turned violent with the local authorities and civil segregationists turning violent towards the protesters. One of the most violent march was the Birmingham march which involved children aged from 6 to 18. The local authorities used fie extinguisher hoses to chase the children out of Kelly Ingram Park where they had gathered.
Many were injured and over 950 of them arrested. Jails were packed to the brim as more protests and arrests followed. The police had no other wise but to watch in despair as the marches took over the lives of everyone. Business was down and the economy of Birmingham was at a standstill. Finally, the Birmingham community had to give in. They allowed integration in the city’s eating counters and even offer equal employment services to the blacks (Boyd, 2004, pp 125). Medgar Evers This man specifically sought to have equal education rights for the blacks in America.
Being a former army man during the Second World War, he felt his denial of entry at University of Mississippi Law School was race based which was not in harmony with his acceptance in the army as a full American citizen. He therefore challenged racial discrimination in education centers. The man also organized massive boycotts against gas stations that could not allow blacks and whites share restrooms (Newman, 2004, pp 164 ) Working under the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Evers had more avenues for airing his views.
He therefore also organized campaigns for the blacks to be registered as voters. His attempt to have his friend admitted to the University of Mississippi attracted the intervention of the federal government after he had been denied entry on racial basis. Many interventions were to follow and more and more blacks found their way in to university. The whole process was to change on how blacks felt about themselves and even motivated them to seek integration in other areas and receive fair treatment as equal citizens with their white counterparts.
Unfortunately, the man was also to be assassinated 1962 due to his involvement in the civil rights movement. However, his legacy of no violent protests and equal education rights were to be observed and remembered up to now. The culmination of all these deaths, arrests, marches and protests was the passing of the civil rights act of 1964 which outlawed racial segregation in schools, public places and employment which was introduced by President John F. Kennedy. This act was followed by the civil rights act of 1968 which criminalized discrimination in housing which had prior enforcement in the constitution (Newman, 2004, pp 165)
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Topic: History of civil rights movement
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