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After WWII, the U.S. portrayed a persona as an individual on a teeter-totter. The world was divided and conflicted on the issues surrounding equality. African-Americans were closed off from the rest of the world. Their actions led to a need for a civil rights movement. African-Americans sought to ensure racial equality and attempted to resolve America’s racial inequalities in the process.
Key events and ideas led to the need for a civil rights movement. The Civil War began as tensions between the northern and southern states increased due to westward expansion, states’ rights, and slavery. The national government was conflicted about prohibiting slavery in territories that were not states yet. It was critical to maintain a balance between free and slave states. Plessy v. Ferguson revolved around Homer Plessy, an African-American, who refused to move out of the railcar reserved for whites. The case prevented constitutional challenges to racial segregation by ensuring its continuation of the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine as depicted by the Supreme Court Decision: Plessy v. Ferguson. The Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson essentially allowed states administrative resistance when managing inquiries of race. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was formed by white and black activists in response to the ongoing violence involving African-Americans. Their long-term goals involved ending segregation, equal education and enfranchisement, and the enforcement of the 14th and 15th Amendments. The NAACP fought for those who had no voice and informed the public on the effects of racial discrimination. The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural awakening that transpired as African-Americans began to migrate from the South to the North. African-American singers, dancers, writers, and actors rose to fame during this time period. On the negative side, racism was not eliminated. African-American writers had to rely on white-owned businesses to publish their works and entertainers in the Cotton Club played exclusively to white audiences. During WW II, African-American’s registered for service or volunteered. They defended and served their country despite being denied basic rights. African-Americans were fighting for democracy abroad and at home. Those who enlisted were organized into separate units. It revealed that segregation was present in a time of war. As shown above, a civil rights movement was underway.
Education was expressed in the civil rights movement. Brown v. Board of Education declared that racial segregation in public schools violated the 14th Amendment. Even though it was not successful in desegregating schools entirely as exemplified in the Supreme Court Decision: Brown v. Board of Education: Decision May 17, 1954, it put the Constitution on the side of racial equality and aroused the civil rights movement. The decision gave hope to millions of African-Americans who simply wanted to be treated equally. In Arkansas, a group of nine African-American students (known as Little Rock Nine) enrolled in an all-white Central High School. They were testing the verdict in Brown v. Board of Education which determined that segregation in schools was unconstitutional. The National Guard was called to block the students from entering the school. President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervened by sending in federal troops to escort the children. James Meredith applied to the University of Mississippi (an all-white university). He was initially accepted but his application was denied because of his race. Meredith turned his attention to the courts to settle the dispute. He was allowed to attend the university and was protected by U.S. federal marshals and military troops. Overall, change was evident.
Desegregation in public transportation was a challenge. Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus and refused to sit in the back where African-Americans were designated to sit. She showed active resistance and paved the way for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Parks worked hard to end segregation and give African-Americans equal rights. Sadly, she was sent to jail and lost her job. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, African-Americans refused to ride buses to protest segregated seating. It served as an inspiration to other civil rights activists. The boycott established that an approach to nonviolent mass protests can be successful to challenge racial segregation. Freedom Riders were civil rights activists that traveled throughout the South in public transit. They hoped to end segregation in buses and other forms of transportation. Freedom Riders met strong opposition and in 1961 a group of Freedom Riders was attacked by a mob and their bus was engulfed in flames. Ultimately, African-Americans strived to achieve equality.
African-Americans took a stand against voting/legislation. Freedom Summer was an event in Mississippi where civil rights activists sought to gather white students from the North to travel to Mississippi. The organization believed that white students would increase their efforts. They wanted to help register African-American voters in national elections. Freedom Summer showcased the struggle against segregation and other forms of disenfranchisement. The Selma to Montgomery March was led by Martin Luther King who guided demonstrators on a 54-mile march. While encountering violent resistance, they fought to secure voting rights for African-Americans and other minorities. The march led to the establishment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and helped raise awareness of the difficulty faced by African-American voters. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. As demonstrated in Category ‘B’ Document 3, despite problems that continued to be brought up under the 15th Amendment, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 helped millions of African-Americans finally register to vote without the setback of Jim Crow Laws. The Act removed barriers and transformed political power in the South. Given these points, the civil rights movement held a promising future.
As a result of the civil rights movement, there were resolutions, disputes, and unfulfilled promises. In Roe v. Wade, Norma McCorvey (better known as Jane Roe) wanted to terminate her pregnancy. In spite of this, her efforts failed because Henry Wade, a district attorney of Dallas County, passed a law that prohibited abortion unless it was to save a woman’s life. Roe’s case went to the Supreme Court where the decision was made to legalize abortion. It made abortion services safer and more accesible to women. Their reproductive choice was placed along other fundamental rights. All things considered, progress was being made.
The persistent effort for change resulted in the formation of the civil rights movement. African-Americans revolutionized the concept of racial equality. They took a stand on America’s racial inequalities. Without their dedication, the United States and other nations would still retain its restrictive policies. In a world that is growing at an exponential rate, individuals need to be a model for future generations.
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