The Civil Rights Movement Essay

The war meant that all American citizens had a part to play in the war effort. The war meant that America’s government took charge of industry, causing end of the depression. For America the war was a time of prosperity.

Just like when women got the vote thanks to their input in the first world war, it was now the black Americans chance to become recognised as American citizens due to the fact America needed the m to work and fight for their country.

The USA had joined a war that was fighting against the racism of Nazi Germany, which made it difficult for them to justify discrimination against black and ethnic groups.

“…we will not be intimidated by the threats of dictators…we look forward to…freedom of speech and expression…freedom of worship…freedom form fear…everywhere in the world.”

The war brought the opportunities for black Americans that led to the end of segregation although there was still segregation in the armed forces till 1948. More than 1.5 million G.Is were stationed round Britain where there was no racial segregation. Having fought with and been in a country where there was no segregation of blacks, white Americans opinions began to change.

After the black Americans had fought and worked so hard for America, people began to question the ethics of them being treated unfairly again at the end of the war. Serving their country coupled with war against the Nazis raised the expectations of many black Americans “It will be different after the war” was a comment from black soldiers during the war. There began a “double V” campaign that stood for victor both at home and abroad. Membership of the main campaigning black organisation (NAACP) went from 50,000 to 450,000 during the war and pressure on the president made it illegal for contracted war companies to practice discrimination.

The Second World War brought the injustice of segregation to America’s attention and raised the expectations of blacks and whites throughout America, making them more keen and prepared to campaign against segregation. The fact that so many people felt this way there was more pressure for action to be taken

During the post-war economic boom, many individuals remained an underclass, especially the black Americans. In 1950 the average black wage was $3,800 where as for whites it was nearly twice that at $7,057. This shows that although progress was made during the war it was by no means the end of all segregation and racism.

The NAACP challenged the policy of segregating schools and segregation and consequently segregation in schools was made illegal however this didn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

Resistance to the courts ruling meant that various organisations were set up such as the Klu Klux Klan. Finally the injustice of racial prejudice was once again brought to America’s attention as a black boy was murdered for being cheeky to a young white woman.

Bus boycotts were organised which put a strain on bus companies. Originally this was only going to be for one day but it was so successful that it became an effective form of peaceful protest led by Martin Luther King. The strain that this caused on bus companies was such that they faced either meeting the protesters demands and ending segregation or closure of the company. The companies chose to end segregation on the buses after a long protest and this was one of the first steps in the gaining of civil rights for blacks.

Even after a law was passed so that black pupils were allowed to attend any school many white schools still didn’t allow black pupils. When black pupils were finally admitted into a previously all white school the US government sent 1000 paratroopers to protect them. This showed the American people that the rights given to the black Americans were not just gestures but laws to be kept and the government would enforce these laws if necessary.

I think this showed black Americans that it was worth persevering and protesting for Civil rights as when they gained these laws they would be kept and not pushed aside as they had been in the past.

The bus boycott resulted in the segregation coming to the government’s attention and it being ruled illegal. In this way what started off, as an individual protest became a movement that helped gain rights for the blacks.

Question 2- Black Power compared to Civil Rights Movement

The Black Power Movement aimed to give blacks equal rights in the same way as the Civil Rights Movement, however The Black Power Movement wanted the blacks to stay separate but separate and equal. The Black Power Movement aimed to create a black society that had a distinct culture and was proud of its heritage where as The Civil Rights Movement wanted an integrated society.

The Black Power Movement aimed to create an America where Black and White lived with an equal quality of life and had the same rights but were separate by means of lifestyle and culture.

The Civil Rights Movement, however aimed to crate an integrated society in which black and white people lived peacefully as one American population.

One of the main leaders of the Black Power Movement was Malcolm X whereas the main Leader of the Civil Rights Movement was Martin Luther King. Although both movements had a common goal (the gaining of rights for Negro Americans as well as respect and dignity,) they had very different means of achieving this goal.

The Black Power Movement believed in using violence if met with violence. It believed in fighting fire with fire and as long as white racist groups used violence, so would they.

The Civil Rights Movement was lead by Martin Luther King , some people disagreed with his policies and didn’t see why they should disregard all their history and culture to fit in with white ideals.

Martin Luther King believed that the only way to achieve respect and rights for the blacks would be to protest peacefully rather using violence and proving the whites point that they didn’t deserve rights.

The Black Power Movement , believed in using wehatever means necessary to make a difference, Malcolm X said:-

“We are non-violent with people who are non violent with us”

As opposed to Martin Luther King who said to the black people…

” …if you will protest courageously and yet with dignity and love, when the history books are written in future generations the historians will say “There lived a great people, a black people, who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilisation.”

The attitudes of the leaders and their backgrounds had a bearing on the direction each movement took. Malcolm was a smart focused student and was top o his class in junior high.

He told his favourite teacher that he was going to be a lawyer and she told him that that was “no realistic goal for a nigger”

Martin Luther began his publications at the early age of 17. The Atlanta Constitution published kings letter about the rights of black Americans. Unlike Malcolm X’s unsettled background of petty crime, drugs and prostitution, Martin Luther went to university and was ordained and appointed assistant pastor. Malcolm X was given a seven year prison sentence for burglary charges which he used to further his education. He studied the teachings of the Nation of Islam and when he was paroled he became a minister. The Nation of Islam teaches that the blacks should be separate from whites and I expect this is what Malcolm X based some of his beliefs on, however nation of Islam is a racist organisation that believes the blacks are the holy people of god and refers to Caucasians as “white devils” and when Malcolm X discovered this along with corruption of the leadership he reverted to traditional Islam.

“I declare emphatically that I am no longer in Elijah Muhammad’s ‘strait jacket’, and I don’t intend to replace his with one woven by someone else. I am a Muslim in the most orthodox sense; my religion is Islam as it is believed in and practiced by the Muslims in the Holy City of Mecca.” Malcolm X

Martin Luther Kings Christian background was the basis for his beliefs peaceful non violent protest and a society where black and white are integrated in one society. Both leaders were very religious and they both based their aims and means of achieving them on this religion.

The Civil Rights Movement was supported widely in Northern America. It was seen as the more respectable movement to support, especially by older generations. It was supported by both blacks and whites and thousands of whites as well as blacks gathered to hear Martin Luther King’s speeches.

On the other hand the Black Power Movement was supported by the younger generation who wanted more action to be taken faster. Malcolm X, like Martin Luther King was a passionate speaker who inspired many by talking of empowering the Blacks.

The Black Power movement was not as openly supported as The Civil Rights Movement and didn’t have as many supporters either. Most whites found the Black Power Movement intimidating and frightening.

Both movements helped gain the civil rights laws along with other factors such as publicity from the media etc.


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