Last Updated 10 Jan 2022

The Civil Rights Movement: An Introduction

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Historians argue how far the forces opposed to the civil rights were responsible for the failures of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The CRM was a social movement attacking racial and social discrimination against Black Americans in the southern and northern states. By 1960 the southern states was desegregated. The problems faced in the south were different to those of the north. The southern states suffered from legal inequality “separate but equal” whereas the North suffered from social inequality, unemployment and sanitation/ ghettoisation making it hard to find a blame for the situation, as the discrimination was not obvious.

This caused an outburst of radical civil rights groups to emerge such as Black power and the Black panthers. Some argue that it was the forces that opposed the movement such as the local police/ white backlash that caused the failures as it was noticeable like the police being unfair. Others argue that it was the civil rights groups themselves that led to the failures of the movement in the 1960s. Some argue that it was the government that led the movement to fail.

By 1960 the movement had achieved so much in the south; desegregation in all public places and the Voting Rights Act had been passed, 1962. The movement could not go further as so much had been achieved with the help of the government. For the movement to request for more would have been pushing the boundaries. The problems in the north were intangleable and deeply rooted; only the government could have solved it by pumping money into the economy. The government resisted regardless that “1 in 10 Americans had an income under $5000 a year for blacks this was 1 in 3” .

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This led to the failures of the movement as the government didn’t fund the movement allowing it to not progress. On the other hand, it could be said the failures of the movement was down to the state government not the federal government due to the white resistance that they allowed. “Four well dressed students sat in “white only” area in Woolworths refusing to leave unit served, 2nd day 23 students, 4th day 400 students”.

Although they were not acting in a violent manor and were protesting peacefully the “police frequently arrested the protesters for breaking the law but ignored the white people who attacked them”. This supports the idea of the local police allowing the movement to fail because they treated the campaigners unfairly, arresting them while protesting peacefully. The Vietnam War is another factor that led to the failures of the CRM. Johnson planned a ‘great society scheme’ to speed up desegregation schools education act 1965. “However the escalation of the Vietnam War made this impossible”. USA became increasingly involved in Vietnam taking Johnson’s concentration of the CRM.

This led to the failure of the campaign because the movement was only successful when king was working with Johnson. However Johnson now had more important issues to deal with; king made matters worse when he spoke out against the war. At the start he was reluctant to do so, but felt compelled as it went against what he believed in. In 1967 King found it ironic that “when it came to the recruitment paper and firing line black soldiers were suddenly equal “. This contributed to the failures of the movement as it lost the support of the federal government.

In addition the war took time and money that was meant to help improve the northern states; “0. 5 million was spent on killing a Vietnamese solider but only $35 was to help each poor person” . This meant that there was no money for the FG to fund the CRM as it was being spent on the war; resulting in the CRG to protest against the war as they didn’t see the need of supporting it when the government wasn’t supporting them. This led Johnson to oppose the movement because they were protesting against decisions that he had made. In 1961 the freedom ride took place.

It involved, CRA taking the bus from New Orleans from Washington DC to test the integrated state law they were “attacked by white mobs who included members of the KKK, the young riders were stoned and beaten with clubs, bicycle chains and baseball bats” . This highlights the evidence of opposed forces causing CRM to fail as the white public brutality attacked them. In 1963 the Birmingham campaign took place bull Connor police chief “set dogs and fire hoses on the demonstrators, 1300 children were arrested in two days. The lack of strong leadership was also led to the failures of the movement.

MLK was not successful with his campaigns in the north as he was with the south. He was from the south and educated therefore the people of the north could not see him as a leader to represent their voice and opinions as he hadn’t experienced what they had. “people would say white rioting ‘MLK would be ashamed of you’ and they would reply MLK who? ” this led to the failure of the movement as MLK was not looked up to as a leader his existence in the north was not important allowing the movement to fail as there was no clear leadership due to lack of support.

MLK had lack of authority such as Los angles because of his tactics. MLK believed in ‘non-violence’ due to his Christian background whereas the majority of the north wanted to use violence. This led the movement to fail as there was disagreement with the way things should be done. Kings expectations of solving the problems in the north were ambitious this was highlighted in the outcome of Chicago freedom movement rally in 1966; “only 30 000 people attended rather than the 10,000 king had expected” .

This showed the broken unity of the CRM movement as for it to have been a success the cites needed to get together like they did in the south. Malcolm X, another leader that strongly influences the movement was completely against kings ideologies. He was from the north, uneducated and had been to prison unlike king and therefore represented most of the black men in the north. He was against integration and argued that it would create a new form of slavery. “He described that the march of Washington was nothing but a circus with clowns and all organised by a bunch of uncle toms.”

This led the movement to fail as there was no unity and support between the leaders. X believed that MLK strategies of ‘non-violence’ re-emphasised the stereotype of the weak and the defeat less black person. This led to the movement failing as there was a clash of belief and ideas in the way the CRM should go about solving the problems in the north. Others argue that it was the emergence of the radical groups such as Black power and the Black panthers that hindered the movement through their actions. The black power was a radical group and became known in 1966 they believed in self defence.

For some black power meant no integration and for others it mean and advancement in society for black people. The black panthers was founded 1966, it was an all black group and its aim was a revolutionary transformation of America. They used X as their role model. They wanted to improve the conditions of the northern ghetto and black liberation. They came up with a camping called ‘patrol the pigs’ “to keep the police under surveillance and protect the African Americans from the abuse of the police power”. While officers would be arresting There were other factors that generally led to the CRM to fail.

The groups were becoming radical and the violent -ness scared the American public. This caused the movement to fail as they didn’t want to support their violent movement and for the movement to have been a success the groups needed the support of the white Americans to a large extent. The explosion of “violence out in 1965-1968 of long hot summers of rioting” due to a black man being arrested for drunk driving and then brutality attacked by the police resulted in this rampaged through the streets.

By 1965 there was $40 worth damage by 1967 the total damage was $714.8million this led the movement failing greatly as it made the government oppose them largely as they can caused harm and damaged to the environment that the government now had to pay for. virtuous Overall the forces opposed to the civil rights movement were only responsible for the failures for the movement to a small extent in the 1960s. Some historians argue that if there wasn’t a white resistant there would have been no movement therefore the reluctance of the police and the federal government was needed to a certain extent to be able to highlight the problems suffered by the north.

The failure of the civil rights movement was caused by the Civil rights movement groups themselves. They lacked strong leadership as MLK was not eh right leader to lead the northern states to freedom and Malcolm X was assonated. Furthermore they had a lot of disagreements within themselves and lost American support from due to their violent reactions, summer riots and the removal of the whites from the groups causing them to lose funding that they needed. Therefore the failure of the movement was caused by the violent radical movement that the groups had created themselves.

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