The civil rights era was an era that goes down in America’s history as the stepping stone for equality. It was characterized by events that were and are still celebrated as US’ most important stepping stones to full democracy. One of Martin Luther King’s most famous speeches, I Have a Dream, he gives some of the hopes that he desires to see. He describes his desire to see black people, referred to as “sons of former slaves”, living in harmony with the whites referred to as “the sons former slave owners” (James, 2004).
The Civil Rights Movement era saw the rise of some great leaders who sought to bring equality to all in America. The period after the Civil war saw a lot of segregation of the minority groups in America particularly the African Americans who had been in slavery for more than two hundred years. These leaders went through trying experiences such as threats to their lives, detention and even assassination so that the Civil rights movement would bear fruit as was seen in the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1963.
One of the greatest leaders of this revolution was Martin Luther King Jr. He served as the greatest non-violent protestor against segregation of the black people. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered for his most prolific speech that won over the hearts of many, I Have a Dream. He is viewed as source of hope to the African-American and other communities in US. He fought for a dream that most people believed was fulfilled through the election of the first black president in America’s history Barack Obama in 2009. This great event showed how much the activists fought for recognition.
Be it as much as he fought for equality, there were people who felt that his quest breached in their own personal interests. The fact that his death was through assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis where he was expected to lead protestors in a peaceful march is a fact that his mission was having an effect. That was one of the darkest days for the movement. His death was nothing short of a tragedy but it did not stop the movement; it only made it stronger because they knew they had an effect on the segregation issue (Reddick, 1959).
The education system was not left out of the taint that had been painted by segregation. In the case of Brown vs. Board of Education of 1954, members of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) went to court in a bid to show the devolving effects of segregation of students on the basis of skin. They cited that the decision by the court earlier in 1896 in the cases Plessy vs. Ferguson and Cumming vs. Richmond county Board of Education went against the constitution of America which protected all citizens including black people. This was a very big win for the people since it was the kind of event that gave them the hope that they old be treated as equals by the white folk.
But even as that went on, there were events that had the toll of brutality. On August 27 1955, a black 14-year old, Emmett Till, was lynched for having whistled at a white girl. This incident was seen as the beginning of a new movement. His lack of knowledge of the laws cost him his life. The alleged murderers were acquitted after being tried in a court of law. Many note that the modern civil rights movement was triggered by this event. This act of brutality was one that changed the course of the civil rights movement (Crowe, 2003).
The grass root demonstrations saw them bear fruits in 1957 when Congress introduced Civil Rights Act in which the voting rights formerly revoked against the minority groups was set to be uplifted so that they too could vote for their choice in representation. Groups like Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee became very popular in US. When they joined the four students who started a sit-in campaign against southern lunch counters, they gave the youth a platform to also be involved in the fight for equality. The non-violent sit- in technique was adopted in other public demonstrations and became quite popular and provided hope to those who believed that their cause would succeed (Sargent, 2004).
The American society had been dogged by cultural differences from the earliest days of slavery. After the dismantling of slavery, the society took up a new way of racial segregation; in education systems, in transport systems. The whites developed systems that saw the whites have special systems whereas the minority groups have systems that were of lower standards.
The fact that the black community had been subjected to racial segregation saw them have little access to education and other amenities. The black community was at the forefront in leading the movement. The students who were discriminated against are remembered for their role in the fight for equality in the movement. The society saw the use of different transport facilities. If they shared them, the blacks were supposed to ensure the whites were comfortable. It is the reason that when Rosa Pars refused to stand to give room for a whit passenger, the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 to 1956 gained a lot of attention from other people. The fact that the black woman was seen as inferior led to the protest that lasted 381 days. This racial segregation staged the platform for more radical forms of civil rights activism (Bloom, 1987).
In the view of Dudziak, presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy had to re-think about the civil rights reforms in America during the Cold war. This was mainly because of the international perceptions that the ambassadors had to put in relating with other countries. After the end of World War Two, there was a power split where two super powers emerged; the Soviet Union and the US. With this as the result, the presidents at this time took opposing sides; Truman supported capitalism whereas Soviet Union communism. With this came the cold war which saw diplomatic relations fizzle because the two would not see eye to eye. The war with words led to the Soviet Union focusing on the racial segregation in US (Dudziak, 2000).
The fact that the Soviet Union focused on the issue made the country’s government look hypocritical in relations with other countries. In her view she stated that most people found that the racial inequality issue had adverse effects on the Cold War. She even cited the then Secretary of State, Dean Acheson who understood that the discrimination of the minority groups in US had serious repercussions on the international relations. He pointed out that this issue was in the international media houses and it left a lot to be desired. He concluded that these constraints on international relations would only end when the segregation was abolished (Dudziak, 2000).
In her argument, Dudziak points out that America was the most influential in drafting the civil rights. In a bid to better the perception in other countries, America had to do something about the situation in which it was. It is the reason that presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy viewed the importance during their terms in office (Dudziak, 2000).
The racial segregation levels in America were at a staggering level that the international community was able to get wind of it. In a bid to quell the disintegrating international relations, President Truman formed a committee which was mandate to tackle the situation of the civil rights movement. This act showed that the administration and the white community saw the need to end this struggle was eminent. Dudziak states the effect the struggle had on the credibility of the nation. She even notes that President Kennedy was worried about the headlines that aired in international newspapers and media houses.
The social stratification in America is a view that Dudziak holds as perfect; one that society knew was there. The civil rights movement in America was the most followed among all the movements as it was the most pronounce. The fact that the image was tainted internationally proves that the struggle quintessentially described the movement as an American movement.
Bloom, Jack M. Class, Race, and the Civil Rights Movement. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Print.
Crowe, Chris. Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case. New York: Phyllis Fogelman Books, 2003. Print.
Dudziak, Mary L. Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2000. Print.
Echols, James. I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Future of Multicultural America. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004. Print.
Reddick, Lawrence D. Crusader without Violence: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Harper, 1959. Print.
Sargent, Frederic O. The Civil Rights Revolution: Events and Leaders: 1955 - 1968. Jefferson, N.C. [u.a.: McFarland, 2004. Print.