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This essay traces how the Civil Rights Movement, in 1950s and 1960s, through various measures like boycott and protests, succeeded in desegregation of Public Facilities in the United States of America.
“The Jim Crow Laws” had been the way of life in America, especially South America, till the landmark judgment of “Brown versus Board of Education” in 1954 by the Supreme Court of the United States which declared the state sponsored school segregation as unconstitutional.
This judgment, we can now with the benefit of hindsight, say was the beginning of the end of segregation based on the color of the skin of the individuals.
The objective of the civil rights movement can be summed up as the end of hitherto existing segregation of American Public Facilities including but not limited to, buses, airports, trains, waiting rooms, restaurants etc.
The Rosa Parks episode of Montgomery, Alabama leading to boycott of Public Transit System in December 1956 culminating with the Supreme Court of United States of America decision that the segregation of buses in Montgomery and Alabama is unconstitutional, was the first major victory under the leadership of Dr Martin Luther King.
Dr Martin Luther King, unlike some other leaders like Malcolm who were also working for the desegregation, was very clear that the protests under his leadership would follow Gandhian Non Violence approach and even in triumph Dr Martin Luther King propagated humility and shunned arrogance.
The success of “Little Rock Nine” in 1958, Nashville sit-ins in 1960, the Freedom Riders in 1961, James Meredith in 1962 and desegregation of schools in Alabama in 1963 culminated in the “Civil Rights Act of 1964”.
The decisive role played by Federal leadership throughout the Civil Rights Movement needs a special mention. The Presidents, from time to time, not only were strict in ensuring the implementation of the rulings of the Supreme Court of United States but also advanced the concept of desegregation.
The voting rights act of 1965 was the last nail in the coffin of “The Jim Crow Laws”.
Although the Civil Rights Movement achieved the objective of desegregation of Public Facilities in the United States of America, it is debatable how much was accomplished as far as the core issues that Dr Martin Luther King set out to resolve namely “War and Peace”, “Wealth and Poverty” and “Equality and Dignity”.
Pauli Murray in 1970 points out existence of discrimination based on sex when she says “Although on the average, Negro women have slightly more schooling than Negro men at the elementary and high school levels, their depressed wages stem from the fact they are concentrated in low-paying jobs as service workers and private household workers. Of the 2.9 million Negro women 18 years and over employed in March 1966, 58.5 percent held jobs as service workers including private household work.”
In 1969, Rudolfo Juarez took up the cause of migrant workers and how according to him, the migrant workers were discriminated against. “Therefore, discriminary legislation practices should continue no more. The migrant worker should be covered by the National Labor Relations Act with additional favorable rights as well as workman’s compensation laws, unemployment compensation, insurance laws, social security codes must be enforced to improve the conditions of housing provided to him. Programs such as housing loans, small business loans which the migrant has never heard about until others who have recently come into this Nation.”
A Single American Nation is one where no American is discriminated on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, national origin and other prohibited basis of discrimination. Civil Rights Movement succeeded in overcoming a major obstacle in this path by desegregating Public facilities on the basis of color of the skin of an American. The success of Civil Rights Movement raised hopes for ending discrimination, economic or otherwise, against Native Indians, Chicanos, Women and Migrant Workers etc.
Murray, Pauli. (1970). “The Bottom of the Economic Totem Pole”: African American Women in the Workplace. Retrieved from http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6472
Juarez, Rudalfo.(1969). “The Cycle of Poverty”: Mexican-American Migrant Farmworkers Testify before Congress. Retrieved from http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/7024
NBC Universal.(2004). Let freedom ring: Moments from the civil rights movement, 1954-1965 [News program].Retrieved from http://digital.films.com/OnDemandEmbed.aspx?Token=40565&aid=18596&Plt=FOD&loid=0&w=640&h=480&ref=