Compare and Constrast Essay on Civil Rights

This essay has a total of 2337 words and 10 pages.


Civil Rights




The 1960’s were one of the most significant decades in the twentieth century. The sixties
were filled with new music, clothes, and an overall change in the way people acted, but
most importantly it was a decade filled with civil rights movements. On February 1, 1960,
four black freshmen from North Carolina Agriculture and Technical College in Greensboro
went to a Woolworth’s lunch counter and sat down politely and asked for service. The
waitress refused to serve them and the students remained sitting there until the store
closed for the night. The very next day they returned, this time with some more black
students and even a few white ones. They were all well dressed, doing their homework,
while crowds began to form outside the store. A columnist for the segregation minded
Richmond News Leader wrote, “Here were the colored students in coats, white shirts, and
ties and one of them was reading Goethe and one was taking notes from a biology text. And
here, on the sidewalk outside was a gang of white boys come to heckle, a ragtail rabble,
slack-jawed, black-jacketed, grinning fit to kill, and some of them, God save the mark,
were waving the proud and honored flag of the Southern States in the last war fought by
gentlemen. Eheu! It gives one pause”(Chalmers 21). As one can see, African-Americans
didn’t have it easy trying to gain their civil rights. Several Acts were passed in the
60’s, such as Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. This was also,
unfortunately, the time that the assassinations of important leaders took place. The
deaths of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr., all happened in the
60’s.

Slavery in the United States existed from the early senventeenth century until 1865. It
was put to an end by the combination of the Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and then the
thirteenth amendment to the Constitution. Although blacks may have been freed from
slavery, it didn’t mean that they were treated the same as everyone else. In 1896, Plessy
vs. Ferguson, the Supreme Court defined separate but equal standards. Rarely was anything
equal though. Segregation went on until the landmark case, Brown vs. Board of Education,
declared that separate schools based on race was unconstitutional (Microsoft). This case
“…became the cornerstone of sweeping changes (Chalmers 17)” because the decade following
the Brown decision “…witnessed a complex interplay of forces between black citizens
striving to exercise their constitutional rights, the increasing resistance of southern
whites, and the equivocal response of the federal government (Robinson 2).”

From 1955 to 1965, boycotts, sit-ins, demonstrations, marches, and community organizing
raised black people’s spirits and expectations, and greatly hurt legal segregation. The
weeks that followed the Greensboro sit-in more sit-ins occurred throughout the country.
Thousands had taken place by the end of 1960 and many people had often gone to jail for it
(Chalmers 21). The Kennedy Era, 1960 – 1963, saw many important events. In 1961,
Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes were the first African-Americans admitted into Wayne
State University (Adams 6). The March on Washington, August 28, 1963, was a huge
gathering of two hundred thousand people who gathered at the nations capital to show their
support for civil rights for blacks and hear Martin Luther King, Jr., speak. It was here
that King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. It was the March on Washington that
led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964(Microsoft). The Kennedy Era came to an abrupt halt
with the result of his assassination on November 22, 1963 (Chalmers 25).

With the death of Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson took over the presidency and then was reelected
in the next election of 1964(Chalmers 25). Johnson won the ’64 election by a landslide.
His plan was to extend black suffrage and pass the Civil Rights Act in memory of Kennedy
(Chalmers 43). It was during the Johnson Era that blacks gained most of their civil
rights. Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial segregation in
public places, proscribed discrimination in employment, and established enforcement
machinery for school integration. The only thing that this legislation failed to address
was voting rights (Robinson 4). The twenty-fourth amendment was put into law January 23,
1964 and struck down the poll tax. In recent years, a poll tax was to be paid in order
for citizens to vote in the South. This kept most African-Americans from voting because
they didn’t have enough money to pay the tax. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed
which gave every citizen the right to vote regardless of intelligence, race, or any other
reason. Also, in 1965, the Economic Opportunity Act was passed. This act aimed at
calming riots and providing job training and employment for the poor and colored people
(Bogal-Allbritten 12-13). By 1966, the mood and phase had changed. Street marchers were
no longer effective and the civil rights movement was breaking up (Chalmers 44).

One of the most horrid days in the 60’s would have to go down in the books as March 7,
1965. It was a Sunday and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference planned a march
from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital, Montgomery (Microsoft). Also, there to help
organize the voting rights march, was Martin Luther King, Jr. (Robinson 5). This was a
distance of about fifty miles. Over five hundred marchers were stopped just outside of
Selma by state troopers and were told to go home. The marchers refused and as a result
the police then attacked. They beat and tear-gassed the protestors. Seventy people went
to the hospital that day. Luckily there were television cameras on the scene to record
the bloody incident and show the United States viewers what was really going on. The
scenes shocked everyone and Lyndon Johnson was prompted to deplore the violence. This day
would be called Bloody Sunday. SCLC petitioned a federal district judge for an order that
would allow them to march again without any interference from the police. Two weeks
after Bloody Sunday, the march was redone with over three thousand people protesting.
This march created the support needed to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law
(Microsoft). Although the march to Montgomery was successful, the trip back was not for
one white housewife who was driving marchers back. On the way back to Selma, some Ku Klux
Klansmen overtook her and she was shot. State juries found the Klansmen innocent on the
murder charge, but were eventually convicted in federal court for violating her civil
rights (Chalmers 29).

Martin Luther King, Jr., was an important figure that worked hard throughout the 60’s in
order to gain black Americans’ civil rights. In 1959, King went to India where he studied
Ghandi’s techniques of nonviolence. Sit-in movements began in Greensboro and soon
followed many others throughout the country. King was arrested in October of 1960 at a
major Atlanta department store. The charges on all the other protestors were dropped.
King was kept in jail on a charge of violating probation for a previous traffic arrest
case. He was kept in jail for four months of hard labor. The next year, December 15,
1961, King was arrested while fighting to desegregate public facilities in Albany,
Georgia. He was charged with obstructing the sidewalk and parading without a permit.
King’s home was bombed on May 11, 1963, and then there was an explosion at his
headquarters in the Gaston Motel. In response to the bombings, blacks began to riot in
Birmingham. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the largest and most dramatic civil rights
demonstration, the March on Washington, was the high point of the event. In 1964, King
was named “Man of the Year” in Time magazine. King was then awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
later on that year, December 10. King then set up a voter registration drive in Selma in
February 1965. King’s civil rights movements came to an abrupt halt when he was
assassinated April 4, 1968, in the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis. The
president then declared April 7 a national day of mourning for King (Biography 1-7).

The 1960’s also had many other people that were important to the development of the civil
rights movement. Malcolm X was a man who had a lot of influence over blacks. Although he
spent most of his time outside of the United States traveling to such places as Africa and
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