Civil Rights Movement

by Madelynn Bliss


The civil rights movement has moved America towards equality with its influence on the perception of equality; however, it has not fixed the issue of inequality. During the time of the movement the white population was made forcibly aware of the issues which were affecting the black population. Issues that plagued the population in the darkness of "equal but separate" segregation were brought into light. And the problems were confronted and the immediate issues were relieved. This meant success at that time, the Civil Rights Movement succeeded in its efforts. This success turned total equality into real aspirations for modern Americans because it gave a successful example of achieving improved conditions. The will to fight for equality is one aspect of major contribution from the civil rights movement to making America equal. However, with its victory it also created a sense of a nearly achieved equality, which created a situation where Americans are less likely to stand up for what they still see as unequal and inadequate.

The civil rights movement contributed to the belief that people should be treated equally in situations that are equal. It has not, however, been able to conquer biases emerging in situations where people deserve to be treated equally. Violations towards this belief inspire rebellion against the failure of social institutions to treat all people equally in equal circumstances. In this way the civil rights movement has inspired people to stand up for equality, even if it is only inspiring enough to apply when oppression and inequality begins to be overwhelming, and not simply when it is present.

Opening Their Eyes

During the Civil Rights Movement there were people who emerged as leaders and communities who were more involved than others, but it was a nation wide movement that required the black community to work together as a whole against the situation that discriminated against them. Although the white community generally perpetuated racism there were some that joined the movement wholeheartedly and greatly aided the legitimacy of the movement in the eyes of the white community. The general tactics that were adopted to end racism included non-violent demonstrations, refusal to follow discriminatory laws, and political speeches and responses.

The nonviolence movement was led by the young reverend Martin Luther King Jr. who emerged as an influential figure when he joined a group of religious leaders fighting for equality (SCLC). The premise of the non-violent movement was to demonstrate discontent and highlight the problems without causing reasons for the white community to fault their efforts, as well as to act according to religious principles. The non-violent effort found great success in the early years of the movement, and Martin Luther King Jr. successfully recruited powerful white allies to the movement. Many communities remained strong through the principles the nonviolence movement had and the strength of the bonds that people held through religion. Non-violent sit ins were held, non-violent protests were organized, and non-violent meetings took place. Through these non-violent actions taken by the black community and the actions that were taken in return by the white community it became apparent that the fight was a moral issue rather than a power-play by the black community. When they asked for equality peacefully and were met with overwhelming violence it was clear that they did not intend to do any harm to society. It was clear they were not trying to establish themselves as superior or take away anyone's rights, simply trying to call attention the amount of rights that they lacked. Even though they knew what would happen, they endured it and continued asking for equality without the use of violence.

Another tactic used in the Civil Rights Movement was the disobeying of unjust laws. By disobeying unjust laws the black community knew that they were setting themselves up for arrest and formal consequences. By going against the laws they successfully called attention to the content and expectations of laws which created unequal expectations in society. When Rosa Parks refused to follow the law that applied only to black people she called attention to the level of inequality that existed in that law. The discriminatory nature of the law was called into public view, and it was unavoidably considered by both white and black communities.

Political speeches made later on in the Civil Rights Movement by influential leaders of the movement helped to solidify the goals of the black community. This was important for the views of the movement in the white community, and the views of the movement for government and general society. This step was an important tactic in the Civil Rights Movement because it unified the goals of the majority of the black community and brought it to the white community for a response. In the beginning of the movement speeches and responses helped to establish what the black community was fighting for and how hard they were willing to fight. This method of unified communication was essential to the political progress that the Civil Rights Movement made in the end. The unified violation of expectations and political calls for change created pressure with the powerful speeches and political give and take that eventually resulted in success.

"Breath" by Breaking Benjamin, Representing The Experience

A contemporary song that relates to the emotions, issues, and experiences of the participants in the Civil Rights Movement is a song titled "Breath" by Breaking Benjamin. This song encompasses a variety of emotion, from not being able to understand a kind of person, desperation for an end of suffering, to hopelessness and resentment towards something which has completely destroyed a person. There is pain in the lyrics, but there is also strong intent. The lyrics suggest that the person/ concept that they are singing about is opressive, harmful, and unrelatable. It references how things get worse before getting better with the lyrics "pour the salt into the open wound," which relates to the instances in the Civil Rights when black people would stand up for rights they deserved and the white population would oppress them by making things more intense for them. At one point the song lyrics read "I'm waiting, I'm praying, Realize, Start hating" which exemplifies the emotions and issues that were present in the Civil Rights Movement, when black people wanted white people to realize their opression was wrong and to put an end to it. It seems to urge people to fight in order to bring awareness, hate the concept, and "be the death of" segregation, discrimination, and racism. Throughout the song the message is clear that the singer (representing the point of view of black people) are struggling against racism which must be fought against, continually bringing up the impatience for the struggle to be over. The song is permeated with a theme of pain, desperation, and a fighting spirit.
Breaking Benjamin - Breath - Lyrics Video

Important Incidences (5,4,3,2,1, Equality)

Loving v. Virginia

The Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting interracial marriage is found to be unconstitutional, and it is made a federal policy that it can not be illegal in any state. This ruling furthers equality because it reinforces the value of constitutional rights over state policies regarding the issue.

Brown vs. Board of Education

The desegregation of schools entertained the notion that seperate institutions were not necessarily equal. This called "Seperate but equal" into speculation, as well as creating (fundamental) equality in the schooling system.

24th Amendment

The abolishment of the poll tax was the declaration that it was unfair to create extraordinary measures in order for black people to vote. It was also a gateway into further advancements of the black vote.

Freedom Summer

Freedom Summer had the goal of registering black voters in the South, which had presidential support. The South responded by calling for hate crimes and actions against those trying to further the rights of black people. The events that happened in addition to the registration demonstrated the opinion of the South towards desegregation.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 signed by President Johnson intensified desegregation efforts. The government could enforce it's efforts in support of desegregation, and racial discrimination was no longer permitted.