African-American Civil Rights Movement


The Civil Rights Movement began decades before 19th century that resulted in the Emancipation Proclamation. Initially, abolition of slavery was not on Abraham Lincoln’s agenda list. However, his ever increasing reliance on black soldiers to punish the rebellious states rendered him to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Previously the constitution protected slavery and allowed the importation of slaves until 1808. African American slaves were seen exclusion to the Declaration of Independence that renders equal right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Only a handful of African Americans managed to stay out of slave system but only to be discriminated and segregated forcefully. The black slaves took it upon themselves to revolt against their inhuman treatment. Some rebelled violently while others resort to non-violent protests, legal complaints, charges, petitions addressed to the government officials and so on. This gradual progress to improve upon their status in society was what massive civil rights movements made of.

At first even white males with no property were not given the right to vote. Eventually, they were granted the right on the expense of black free slaves as they suffered the consequence. In the Southern State slave owners took serious notice of slave revolt incident of Nat Turner by putting a ban on anti-slavery campaigns and protests. The white Southerners went to the extent of disallowing slaves’ right to basic education. The ever increasing repression did not keep slaves from finding ways to escape slavery either by mutual agreement or running away. The Northern American states had a larger population of free African Americans who by that time were able to hold national conventions and meeting to address their problems and find a way toward racial advancement. Even some white good Samaritans joined the antislavery activism and founded American Anti-Slavery Society.

The abolition of slavery movement became even stronger when the former slave and revolutionary figure like Frederick Douglass joined it. He spread awareness regarding the horrors of slavery in his autobiography. Despite their unabated struggle to become equal citizens, the black antislavery activism suffered a major setback when the U.S. Supreme Court deemed African Americans ill-suited to be offered American citizenship. Instead of shaking their resolve, the hypocrite politicians and justice court only ended up steeling their will to strive for freedom. This temporary hindrance and chaos among political leaders to decide where their allegiance truly lies paved way for Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign as a Republican candidate who supported antislavery movement.

In 1863, African Americans efforts paid off when the Emancipation Proclamation was announced which made sure that the Confederacy did not have a hold over their black slaves during the American Civil War. As soon as the war ended, Republican leaders attained ratification of constitutional amendments. The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment ensured the abolishment of slavery and protected the legal equality of former slaves and the Fifteenth Amendment safeguarded the voting rights of former male slaves. Even though these amendments were meant to guarantee the equal rights for African Americans, it took them over a century of struggle to have the former Confederate states to federally enforce those.

The federal military was pulled out of South at the end of Reconstruction. Despite the official ban on slavery, the white government officials reinforced the Jim Crow’s set of ideals in the South. The South perpetuated racial prejudice and segregation. In 1896, the Supreme Court made Plessy v. Ferguson decision endorsing separate but equal facilities for colored civilians. The decision was overtly in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment as the facilities offered to blacks were inferior as compared to whites.

Early twentieth-century is marked as the time when Pan-African movement emerged to overcome racial discrimination and segregation worldwide. Booker T. Washington, a black educator and scholar stressed on economic development without challenging Jim Crow’s ideals openly. Leading advocate for civil rights, W.E.B. Du Bois joined forces with white proponents of racial equality and founded the milestone organization to champion the rights of his race called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The purpose of this organization was to handle matters legally and spread public awareness against the racial injustices. They also filed official complaints and lawsuits demanding equal basic facilities such as public accommodations, education and employment. In a matter of small time NAACP become a national organization dedicated to fighting for civil rights.

Yet some local black Americans believed in individual efforts like when in 1951, a teenager, Barbara Johns, walked out of a Virginia high school. The brave act culminated in Brown decision which sparked the desegregation wave over the public schools. In 1955, another major incident in the civil rights movement occurred when NAACP activist Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus which was expected to be a norm. This act of rebellion ignited the bus boycott which in turn sped up the civil right reform process.

The same time a new influential figure emerged to lead the civil rights movements. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated the nonviolent protest being the leader of Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). Despite the fact that his life was threatened time and again when his house blew up, he refused to opt for violence to achieve his goal of racial equality. He is that proponent of civil rights movement who made the historical speech titled ‘I have a Dream’ relaying his deep feelings and inspiring thousands of Americans to take stand against racial inequality. Then there was a famous Greensboro sit-in incident of four black college students who occupied seats reserved for whites in a drugstore. It became a phenomenon on a national scale when thousands of students joined this campaign.

In 1961 the Freedom-Rides begin, the 1965 the Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama and other such non violent efforts led to noted legislative achievements of the civil rights movement. Eventually, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed imposing ban of any type of discrimination based on religion, color, race, national origin or sex. The racial segregation in schools and workplaces was lifted. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed restoring and protecting African Americans’ right to vote. The same year the Immigration and Nationality Services Act was imposed reopening the immigrants’ entry in the state. However, half a century later it may not come as a surprise that they are still struggling to be seen as equal citizens United States.

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