Between the periods of 1877-1981 there were many significant figures who contributed towards reducing racial discrimination in the USA. Although without events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, WWII or the actions of the NACCP to change attitudes towards African Americans, these individuals would have had little effect. The likes of Booker T Washington and Du Bois set the foundation for civil rights along with the Second World War; however other individuals such as Martin Luther King help to actively progress the movement.
Along with this the government and various presidents more so in the latter of the period of 1877-1981 helped to change attitudes and enforce legislation which was vital in reducing racial discrimination in the USA. Booker T Washington began to provide the foundations to the civil rights movement in his actions. Although I believe that during this early period of the movement little was achieved, Washington was still able to provide education, and show African Americans that they had a future and it was at their own mercy. This helped to relieve some who were less fortunate.
On the other hand Du Bois took a route which directly campaigned for civil rights for African Americans; alike to Washington he achieved little due to the already widespread racial situation in the USA. It is noticeable that these individuals had no short term meaningful effect on reducing racial discrimination, however much was achieved long term as they created the path for the civil rights movement in the future, this was also aided with the work from the NACCP, which raised awareness of the racial discrimination situation in America.
Another individual which had little short term significance in reducing racial discrimination was Marcus Garvey, who unlike Du Bois and Washington believed that blacks and whites could not co-exist and they should be separate, he held the belief that African Americans had to start their own nation in order to advance. Whilst he failed to make much impact on the movement itself, alike to his predecessors Du Bois and Washington, his ideas were valued and widespread, they inspired many including future activists such as Malcolm X.
Garvey gave African Americans at that time a sense of confidence that they would be able to advance as a race, and they need not be bound by the constraints of racial discrimination. This is why in the Long term Garvey was a valued activist, and his ideas were useful in progress in the movement towards equality. Also he gave confidence to other African Americans in campaigning against racial discrimination which could be seen in the likes of the Greensboro Sit Ins further into the civil rights movement.
The likes of the NACCP helped to put an end to racial discrimination with the use of court cases and legal methods which were unlike the methods that the likes of Washington used with his attempts to educate. Examples of this were Brown Vs the board of education which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of reducing discrimination and segregation within schools. However the NACCP failed to diminish discrimination totally the organization still managed to do some good in the fight for equality.
Furthermore, whilst the likes of Du Bois were unable to make a direct impact on reducing discrimination, he was able to work alongside the NACCP using other methods to succeed in his goals, and together this would reduce discrimination more. Therefore the NACCP played a more important role than early individuals in reducing racial discrimination towards African Americans through its early successes in successes in removing segregation, and although things to come would show to be more valuable to the civil rights movement, the NACCP was still a vital element in setting the foundation of the civil rights movement for the future.
Although individuals had led the campaign for civil rights for African Americans throughout the early 20th century and towards the end of the 19th, as WWII commenced it would prove to be a key factor in aiding reduction of racial discrimination. It helped to change attitudes towards black American’s, as they went to war; they were portrayed to be worthy American citizens which changed many white American’s attitudes towards them.
The war also created stepping stones for the likes of Martin Luther King to breach into the civil rights movement, therefore not only did it have an impact on black American’s, it also created some success for many civil rights activists. However the war did nothing to reduce discrimination towards other ethnic minorities, for example Japanese Americans received much racial discrimination due to Japan’s role in WWII.
Although the war was bad for the civil rights of Japanese Americans, Chinese American’s received a better way of life, with more civil rights as America forged a great political relationship with China after the war due to their help during it. Therefore WWII was a great influence on reducing racial discrimination within the USA for only certain minorities, although for the likes of Japanese American’s way of life got worse as they were sent to camps until the war ended due to suspicions.
The war was more important than earlier individuals as it had a direct impact on reducing racial discrimination, and further effect in the emergence of fresh civil rights activists who would later have a significant role in the movement. As the attitudes towards African Americans changed after the war in the 1940’s many civil rights activists saw their time to join the civil rights movement. One of these activists was Martin Luther King who used methods of non-violence in order to gain sympathy from whites and in doing so change attitudes towards black Americans.
Although his views were similar to those of Du Bois’ views, King had more effect on reducing racial discrimination. Particularly in attempts to eliminate desegregation. This was likely to be partly due to how far the civil rights movements had advanced by King’s time, in particularly down to WWII which changed attitudes. King gave confidence to Black American’s; he used television and media to convey his ideas through speeches which were very influential and very much a trait of his. King was often compared as similar to Washington and Du Bois, although he did much more to reduce discrimination.
His direct actions in the likes of the Montgomery Bus boycott. This event was critical in reducing racial discrimination as it saw black Americans united as one to fight for their cause, its success showed that with the unity of African Americans civil rights could be achieved, and also proved that the likes of King needed events such as the boycott to achieve anything as an activist. This event was significant to him. Also significant to King’s civil rights success was the use of television. With the use of television violence towards African Americans could be shown to a wider audience across the USA, and could hange attitudes.
Therefore although King was more significant than his predecessors Washington, Garvey and Du Bois as an activist, this was partly due to what King had to work with such as television. Further to this, the likes of civil rights activists such as Cesar Chavez who was in the fight for reducing discrimination within Mexican Americans followed King’s policies of non-violence, this showed King was not only having an effect on black Americans. Chavez led the first farm workers union in America which was successful to some extent, and led to the reduction of racial prejudice.
Although this wasn’t much compared to what the likes King had achieved with his use of speeches. In contrast to King’s policy of non-violence was the up and coming idea of ‘Black Power’ during the 1960’s. Originating from Garvey, violent civil rights activist Malcolm X worked to make the ideology more popular. The idea supported segregation, and blacks being supreme compared to white Americans, and again highlighted the ideas of African Americans starting their own nation. X’s beliefs of gaining equality by ‘any means necessary’ contrasted with King’s beliefs of non-violence which made King and X much like enemies during the 1960’s.
However, X’s ideas had little or none effect on passing legislation and reducing discrimination. Although alike to Garvey X gave black Americans confidence, noticeably within the northern ‘ghettos’ in highlighting important issues of violence within these areas. Therefore X’s views of violence were greatly frowned upon, which always put him in the shadow of King who was always more significant in reducing racial discrimination in the USA. In the early stages of the civil rights movement the government played little role in reducing racial discrimination.
However presidents began to get involved in the movement as it persisted. Eisenhower had the first real involvement in the movement when he sent federal troops for assistance in Little Rock, and the government enforced the Supreme Court ruling of the Brown case in the town. Kennedy had planned to enforce a Civil Rights Bill, although this was later enforced via Johnson along with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which gave black Americans the right to vote, and again reduced discrimination; this was a step in the right direction of equality.
Further to this Nixon aimed to enforce desegregation in schools as well as helping the like of voting rights, employment discrimination and aid to the poor. Although Nixon was not as significant as Carter who later made attempts to get black Americans involved politically, appointing them in the judiciary. This enabled more blacks to have a say as well as improving their status in society. Therefore presidents played a key role as if they were for civil rights, then this could mean attitudes could be changed on a broader scale.
This was important to the movement, and was more useful in reducing discrimination overall due to legislation passed which was showing that action was being taken against racial discrimination, unlike the role of previous activists such as Du Bois, Garvey, X and Washington who failed to have much impact on legislation. The most influential president was Johnson; he was able to pass legislation which made blacks equality to whites greater, such as the Voting Rights Act. Although the likes of King didn’t have the power to do this, civil rights activists made government aware of the racial situation in the USA.
Therefore they were more significant than presidents. In the 1970’s and 1980’s further action brought forward the civil rights movement. The introduction of the Quota System meant that employers and universities had to take on a certain percentage of African Americans, and the situation for black Americans began to rapidly improve. Although this had much more significance than many activists in this later period, it was still influenced because of activists in the early stages of the civil rights movement, which make the likes of King more significant.
In conclusion, in the period of 1877-1981 individuals were the most significant in reducing racial discrimination. Early activists such as Washington and Du Bois had little opportunity to reduce discrimination due to the widespread discrimination and the likes of the KKK, however, events such as WWII enabled activists to emerge, as attitudes towards African Americans had began to change. Using the ideologies of previous activists the most important individual King was able to use events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the likes of television to share his speeches and views, helping to pass legislation, change attitudes and give black
Americans the confidence to further the civil rights movement. King helped to convey the on-going discrimination problem in the USA towards the government, which enabled presidents to take action with the likes of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which brought about further equality for blacks. Although towards the latter stages of the movement the government had more effect on reducing racial discrimination by passing legislation.
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