USA: Opposition to the Civil Rights Movement

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  • The KKK and Violence
    • The Ku Klux Klan
      • set up in 1865 after black salves won their freedom
        • KKK wanted to stop black Americans from gaining equality
      • operated mostly in Southern states
      • terrorised black American families by intimidation and violence
        • included murder, often by lynching
          • illegal execution usually carried out by a mob
      • only WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) could join
      • they wore hoods as membership was secret
        • many Southern states law enforcement officers were involved/ sympathetic
      • also attacked Jews, Catholics and liberals
    • The Murder of Emmett Till, 1955
      • a 14 year old black boy who went to Mississippi in 1955 to visit family
      • Carolyn Bryant said he made sexual advances to her at her store
        • his cousins said he only wolf-whistled her
      • Bryant's husband and his half-brother abducted Emmett the next night
        • they beat him severely, shot him and threw him in the river
          • his body was found three days later with a weight around his neck
      • Till's mother had an open viewing of the body in Chicago
        • this led to extensive media coverage, fuelling widespread shock and outrage
      • the defendants were acquitted but later sold their story to a magazine, admitting to the murder
  • Political Opposition
    • State Opposition
      • the views of Southern governors and local state mayors ensured there was strong opposition to the civil rights movement
      • they believed that only having white judges and juries was the best way to uphold justice
      • they thought that segregation was their right and would always find ways to oppose racial mixing
    • Federal Opposition
      • attempts to introduce an effective Civil Rights Act were opposed by Southern members of Congress
      • Dixiecrats (Democratic Party) had very strong views about keeping segregation
        • by 1954, they had rejoined the Democrats because they believed they could have more influence there
        • they wanted to protect states' rights to retain laws that guaranteed white supremacy
      • Presidents needed the Dixiecrats support so had to take their views on board
        • they were fearful that the Dixiecrats would disrupt government, and this hindered the cause for civil rights laws
    • Types of Resistance
      • e.g. shutting down all state schools to prevent integration
      • others used more devious ways
        • e.g. making school admission test biased against black students
          • some refused to end literacy tests and continued to disrupt opportunities for black voters
            • in this way, officials could claim to follow the letter of the law but not stick to the spirit
    • White Citizens Councils (WCC)
      • often began as oppositions to school integration in their local area
        • opposed any integration and used economic means to stop it as well as protesting and violence
          • in some towns WCC members sacked black employees who were involved in civil rights activities
          • members feared that integration would lead to more calls for political and economic equality for black Americans

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