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Though previous attempts at racial equality created little social change, the Civil Rights Movement was a largely successful social movement.
The Civil Rights Movement of the mid-1900’s has been one of the larger social movements in recent, American history. Before the Civil Rights movement officially began, there were push factors, which were conditions that enticed people to start advocating for change. One of the first push factors for the Civil Rights Movement was the introduction of suburbs and redlining. As suburbs began popping up around the country, middle class families began moving out of the major cities, leaving behind those who could not afford the suburbs, which tended to be minorities, particularly racial minorities. Once this began happening, redlining also began, which further trapped minority families in the inner cities. During this time, there was also more attention being called to the very apparent racial inequality in the workplace and public spaces. Wages began rising for minorities, but the wages of whites rose as well, and actually furthered the wage gap in some instances. During this time there was also a rise in voter turnout among minorities, particularly African Americans. During this time the military was desegregated and the NAACP pushed for equal treatment among the races. As the Civil Rights Movement moved into the 1960’s we began seeing public figures arise, and more publicity regarding inequality not only in society, but also in politics, which fed into economics as well.
Some of the important figures of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s were Martin Luther King Jr,. Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez, Stokely Carmichael, and the Black Panther Party as a whole. These figures each had their own way of influencing, and had independent views, but all generally advocated for a single goal: equality. They all also had their own ways of achieving their goals; Rosa Parks was one of the first to act on her beliefs. She refused to move from her bus seat for a white person, which was the societal expectation at the time. This protest was a form of peaceful protest. MLK Jr. went on to address her brave actions in his most famous speech, “I Have A Dream”. He also outlines why peaceful protest works in his “Letter from Birmingham City Jail”; King states, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue,” and even continues on to claim that no change is made without peaceful protest, “… we have not made a single gain in civil rights without legal and nonviolent pressure.” Stokeley Carmichael also acted in peaceful protest when he was taken to court during an internal security investigation done by a Senate subcommittee. He repeatedly pled the fifth, in order to protect himself from self-incrimination, but by doing so he was peaceful protesting. Another, non-African American civil rights leader that utilized peaceful protest was Cesar Chavez. Chavez led thousands of migrant farm workers in peaceful protests. This began in California but grew to other areas where migrant workers were not being granted basic rights. Chavez writes in his “Letter from Delano” that members of his movement had been trained, “To resist not with retaliation in kind but to overcome with love and compassion, with ingenuity and creativity, with hard work and longer hours, with stamina and patient tenacity, with truth and public appeal, with friends and allies, with nobility and discipline, with politics and law, and with prayer and fasting.”
The Civil Rights Movement seemed to be far more successful than previous attempts at obtaining rights for African Americans. This is likely due to higher numbers of people demonstrating their support, well-educated spokespersons, and more modern laws as a preexisting condition of society. Previous attempts were done in poorer, more conservative social conditions, which automatically makes any social change harder to do, especially regarding racial equality. The Civil Rights Movement was not only more successful than previous attempts, but also had long-term effects socially, politically, economically, and legally. We still see, to this day, changes happening in society, politics, economics, and law that are helping us get closer to equality among all. Though we still see issues that were presented in the Civil Rights Movement, like the wage gap and police brutality, we also are seeing improvements in these areas. A lot of this also has to do with the fact that the media plays a massive role in the spread of ideas as well as the creation of new movements, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. Without the success of the Civil Rights Movement in the fifties and sixties, we would likely not be seeing progressive movements like the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Civil Rights Movement was a largely successful social movement, and the effects of this movement continue to affect how society changes. New, more modern social movements are flourishing, and are able to do so because of great leaders like MLK Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party, Cesar Chavez, and Stokely Carmichael’s everlasting words and actions.
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