Why had America experienced a civil rights revolution by 1968

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  • Created on: 05-05-15 14:12
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  • Why had America experienced a civil rights revolution by 1968?
    • Presidential action
      • Little Rock and Freedom Rides showed that Presidents were willing to intervene (Eisenhower and Kennedy) However they needed to be pushed.
        • Eisenhower believed it wasn't his role to intervene and that change would occur over time. He believed direct action was provoking white racists.
          • Only intervened in Little Rock because public safety was at risk.
        • Kennedy claimed he was sympathetic towards Black Americans during his election campaign.
          • Initially did little as opposition in congress was limiting him.
          • Initial actions were largely symbolic e.g. Appointing 5 black judges to the federal courts.
            • Initially did little as opposition in congress was limiting him.
          • The Birmingham Campaign forced Kennedy to act and fulfill his promise of a civil rights act. Following the March on Washington in August 63' he threw his weight behind a civil rights bill
      • Johnson.
        • Johnson was much more proactive and used his position as Senator to ensure that the civil rights acts of 57' and 60' became law.
        • He followed the campaigners as well however. The voter registration campaigns such as the Mississippi Freedom summer and the Selma played a large role in the 1965 voting rights. act.
          • Johnson was much more proactive and used his position as Senator to ensure that the civil rights acts of 57' and 60' became law.
    • Congress
      • Those in congress became more liberal and supported legislation for the first time; this was due to the Birmingham campaign which completely changed public opinion in favor of Black Americans.
      • Southern states had a big influence on congress and as a result it obstructed legislation from 45'-60'
        • The Birmingham campaign 1963 changed this.
          • Civil rights campaigns by this point had won so much support congress could no longer oppose the civil rights bill.
      • During the 1964 congressional election, conservative democrats were replaced with more liberal democrats resulting in more sympathy to Black Americans.
      • Johnson also used Kennedy's death to persuade congress that it would be a fitting legacy for him. Thus congress supported the 1964 civil rights act and the 1965 voting rights act.
    • Supreme court.
      • They provided the justification for the campaigns. Their rulings meant that protesters could campaign to turn de jure change into de facto change.
      • Eisenhower's decision to appoint Earl warren as chief justice in 1953 was extremely important as he was more sympathetic towards civil rights.
      • Supreme court decisions in cases such as Brown, Brown II and Browder v Gayle picked apart the legal basis of segregation.
        • Campaigners were then able to use these rulings to force change. Examples of this would be the sit-ins across many southern states.
    • Martin Luther King
      • His organisation, tactics and inspiration was crucial for the success of the campaigns that compelled the government to act
      • His campaigns and speeches were responsible for growing public support behind the legislation of the mid-1960s
      • Conservatives criticised him for taking his campaigns to the streets as they argued that in a democracy campaigners should work through the courts and through Congress
        • Radicals, on the other hand, thought that he was too cautious and that he was too close to white politicians.
          • This  in part still benefited the civil rights movement as it just resulted in more people joining other types of movements such as the black power movement.
          • Selma - Doing what Johnson told him.
        • Also criticized for misunderstanding the situation in the North.
    • Peaceful protest
      • The tactics led to presidential action
      • The scale of the protests during the 50's and 60's is staggering.
        • During the Montgomery bus boycott 85% of the black population took part.
        • 70,000 people took part in the sit-ins and these were completely unorganized
        • 250,000 took part in the March on Washington
      • This was highly effective not just due to the scale but also because it attracted media attention.
        • Police brutality such as that in the Birmingham campaign led to a change in public opinion and by extension led to congress being more sympathetic.
      • The campaigns in Albany and Chicago show that peaceful protest wasn't always successful.
    • White reactions
      • This was necessary for activism to be successful; it led to Presidential action and a more liberal Congress
      • White reactions in Little Rock led to governmental involvement (Eisenhower) and thus change.
      • White reactions during the Freedom Rides led to Robert Kennedy integrating interstate transport.
      • The lack of white reactions in Albany led to no real change.
      • In Birmingham white racists and Police brutally attacked Black protesters. This led to mass outrage in the media and the eventual involvement of Kennedy
  • NOTE:It was the civil rights campaigners and NOT the Presidents that kept civil rights on the political agenda!


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