Civil Rights Movement

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Martin Luther King Jr from the Lincoln Memorial on the Mall in Washington DC.

The civil rights movement was a movement towards racial equality and an end to segregation of African Americans that occurred in the United States from about 1953 to 1968, as courts and Congress made segregation illegal and imposed strict laws attempting to ensure that blacks could be able to vote.

Contents

GOP Role in Civil Rights

The GOP always voted in higher percentages for civil rights bills from the 1860s when Republican Abraham Lincoln overturned slavery to the 1960s when the Civil Rights Act was passed.[1]

  • 1865: 13th Amendment banning slavery passed by Republican president Abraham Lincoln with unanimous Republican support and most Democrats opposed.
  • 1866: 14th Amendment giving due process and equal protection to all races passes with 100% of Democrats voting no in House and Senate.
  • 1870: 15th Amendment giving all the right to vote regardless of race passes house with 98% Republican support and 97% Democrat opposition.
  • 1875: Civil Rights Act of 1875 passed by Republican president U.S. Grant with 92% Republican support and 100% Democrat opposition.
  • 1919: Republican House passes the amendment giving women the right to vote, 85% of Republicans vote yes to 54% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans in Senate vote yes but nearly half of Democrats vote no.
  • 1924: Republican president Calvin Coolidge signs the law passed by Republican Congress giving Native Americans the right to vote.
  • 1957: Republican president Dwight Eisenhower signs the Republican Party sponsored 1957 Civil Rights Act.
  • 1964: Civil Rights Act ending segregation and voter restrictions is passed with 80% of Republicans in the House and 82% in the Senate voting yes, but only 63% of Democrats voting yes in the House and 69% in the Senate.[2] After passing the Civil Rights Act, Democratic president Lyndon B. Johnson brags "I'll have those n****** voting Democratic for the next 200 years."[3]
  • 1965: Voting Rights Act passed to remove racial voter discriminations against blacks and hispanics with 82% of Republicans voting yes to 78% of Democrats in the House, and 94% of Republicans in the Senate to 73% of Democrats in the Senate.[4]
  • 1973: Only 2 of the 112 racist Democrats who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 actually switched to the Republican Party, John Jarman and Strom Thurmond. All the racist Democrats who had opposed the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s were the same ones who in the 1970s supported Roe v. Wade. They went straight from supporting segregation to supporting abortion.

Reconstruction and Jim Crow

During Reconstruction, Radical Republicans tried to guarantee equal rights for emancipated slaves after the American Civil War. They succeeded in passing the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, which in theory required equal protection of the laws and an equal right to vote. President Ulysses Grant successfully suppressed the Ku Klux Klan when it used violence to turn back black gains. The Republican coalition in the South fell apart in the 1870s, and conservative white Redeemers took control. The Redeemers were paternalistic toward blacks but they confronted a Populist element in the 1890s that demanded strict segregation, called Jim Crow.

The Supreme Court allowed segregation in 1896, and black leaders such as Booker T. Washington worked to build an alliance of black businessmen and farmers with benevolent whites, using education as the tool to eventually achieve equality. Militant blacks led by W.E.B. DuBois and the NAACP demanded immediate redress. For a brief while around 1920 militant black separatists gained strength. While blacks slowly improved their economic status in the South in the 20th century, despite lynchings, they remained second class citizens with very little political power. Blacks began moving in large numbers to the North to meet the labor shortages during World War I and World War II. By the 1950s they had a political base in Harlem (New York City) and Chicago, but still very little power. Jim Crow remained as strong as ever in the South, where white Democrats had near-total control.

Modern Movement

The Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren, a liberal Republican, issued Brown vs. Board of education in 1954, declaring legal segregation to be unconstitutional. It marked the culmination of a judicial movement that had been underway for a decade. It had the short-term effect of ending segregated schools in border states, and the long-term effect of ending legalized segregation in schools.

Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy to a lesser degree, and Lyndon Johnson to a major degree became proactive in the Civil Rights movement. Johnson in particular built a coalition that included white churches, Jews, and labor unions, as well as many Republicans such as Everett Dirksen, to build a majority of the northern leadership in favor of action. The white South filibustered but failed stop passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended Jim Crow, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which guaranteed federal oversight of voting rights.

In 1957, Governor Orville Faubus of Arkansas mobilized the state National Guard to prevent a court ordered desegregation of Little Rock public schools. When the federal court issued an injunction Eisenhower intervened decisively, taking control of the National Guard and send in Army combat troops. He enforced the desegregation of schools. In the late 1960s several southern states expressed forceful opposition to what was considered Federal tyranny; some redesigned their state flags to include the old Confederate banner. In 1962, the prospect of a black student being admitted to the University of Mississippi resulted in campus riots suppressed by Federal troops and a national guard now brought under Federal control.

Sit-ins at lunch counters

The Civil Rights Movement received an infusion of energy when students in Greensboro, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Atlanta, Georgia, began to "sit-in" at the lunch counters of a few of their local stores, to protest those establishments' refusal to desegregate. These protesters were encouraged to dress professionally, to sit quietly, and to occupy every other stool so that potential white sympathizers could join in. Many of these sit-ins provoked local authority figures to use brute force in physically escorting the demonstrators from the lunch facilities.

The "sit-in" technique was not new - the Congress of Racial Equality had used it to protest segregation in the Midwest in the 1940s - but it brought national attention to the movement in 1960. The success of the Greensboro sit-in led to a rash of student campaigns throughout the South. Probably the best organized, most highly disciplined, the most immediately effective of these was in Nashville, Tennessee. By the end of 1960, the sit-ins had spread to every Southern and border state and even to Nevada, Illinois, and Ohio. Demonstrators focused not only on lunch counters but also on parks, beaches, libraries, theaters, museums, and other public places. Upon being arrested, student demonstrators made "jail-no-bail" pledges, to call attention to their cause and to reverse the cost of protest, thereby saddling their jailers with the financial burden of prison space and food.

Black leaders

Black leaders claimed that their own efforts were more important in causing change, emphasizing activities like bus boycotts, lunch-counter sit-ins. A black Baptist minister from Atlanta Martin Luther King led the new movement. Painstaking work by labor unions, civil rights groups, and mainstream churches, aided by popular outrage at the violent techniques used by police in some southern cities fueled a national consensus that segregated and second class status had to end. Some of the organizations that spearheaded the movement were the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, or 'Snick'), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the older National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). All were committed to non-violence and Gandhian Civil Disobedience in the early years, a tactic that was politically essential in order to win public support and to avoid alienating northern voters.

Black Power

Meanwhile a growing black radical movement, led by Muslims like Malcolm X, and inner city gangs, pulled the black community toward separatism. By 1966 the tensions inside the black community were ripping apart the civil rights coalition, as the radicals called for the ousting of all whites in leadership positions. King lost much of his influence, and was unable to stop the wave of rioting that broke out in every major American city with a black population. The riots soured white America on the civil rights movement because it brought violence and turmoil, and led to calls for Law and order.

Other groups

Other groups started to mobilize on behalf of their rights, especially feminists and Latinos, and later the homosexuals made a bid.

Civil Rights Leaders

Non-black supporters

See also

Further reading

  • Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 (1988)
  • Graham, Hugh Davis. Civil Rights in the United States (1994)
  • Graham, Hugh Davis. The Civil Rights Era: Origins and Development of National Policy, 1960-1972 (1990)
  • Horton, James Oliver and Horton, Lois E. Hard Road to Freedom: The Story of African America. (2001). 405 pp. by leading black historians
  • Patterson, James T. Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and its Troubled Legacy. (2001). 285 pp.
  • Riches, William T. Martin. The Civil Rights Movement: Struggle and Resistance. (1997). 196 pp.
  • Thernstrom, Stephan and Thernstrom, Abigail. America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible. (1997). 704 pp. by leading conservative scholars
  • Verney, Kevern. Black Civil Rights in America. (2000). 135 pp.

Primary sources

  • Birnbaum, Jonathan and Taylor, Clarence, eds. Civil Rights since 1787: A Reader on the Black Struggle. (2000). 935 pp.
  • D'Angelo, Raymond, ed. The American Civil Rights Movement: Readings and Interpretations. (2001). 592 pp.

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