Prior to the 60s
The Civil Rights movement had progressed a lot before the 60s, with key events including:
- The Brown vs Board of Education case, where the legal ruling outlawed segregation in areas like education and transport.
- Sit-ins and freedom rides made it impossible for new laws to be ignored by state governments.
- The non-violent direct action style of protest had developed, and gave the protestors moral authority when their opponents were ready to use violence against them.
- Notable individuals like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X had emerged.
- The Civil Rights movement became a major national issue.
- The new President was v supportive for the movement.
Despite all of this racism was still widely common across the USA, and black people still faced more poverty and deprivation than white people. There was still quite a mountain to climb.
The civil rights march
- Took place in Birmingham, Alabama
- Organised by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963.
- Six years after the Montgomery decision the city had still not been desegregated.
- The police force in Birmingham was nutoriously racist, and had links to the KKK.
- The march was organised to bring media attention to Birmingham and expose their policies.
- Police used dogs and fire hoses on the peaceful protestors, and arrested over 1000 of them (including MLK).
- In May the President put pressure on the Governour to force the police to release the protestors, and pressured him to encourage the businesses of Birmingham to hire more black Americans and allow them to be promoted.
- Segregation was outlawed in Birmingham, but remained a divided place.
- In September 1963 the KKK'S killed four black children with a bomb on a Birmingham church.
The civil rights bill and voting rights
- The campaign was dominated by the proposed civil rights bill and voting rights.
- Civil rights leaders wanted the President to make a civil rights bill that would enshrine black civil rights in law, and stop the racism that was commonly seen in places like Birmingham.
- The law wouldn't stop racist attitudes, but it would safeguard the rights of black people.
- The President and his brother Robert Kennedy wanted to concentrate more on voting rights. They said that if more black people had the power to vote then they'd have more of an influence on the decisions that politicians made locally. If more black people could vote they'd eventually vote out the white racists.
- Civil rights protestors organised courses for black people in voting procedures and how to register to vote.
The march on Washington
- Happened in August 1963 and was where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I have a dream" speech.
- One of the most high-profile events.
- Over 20,000 black people and 50,000 white people came together in the federal Capital in Washington.
- The aim of the event was to put pressure on President Kennedy to introduce the Civil Rights Bill.
- There was no violence or trouble at the march, not even any litter.
The civil rights act
- Civil rights had quickly became a key national issue
- President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, and the new President Johnson was just as committed to Civil Rights as Kennedy was. He used his skills as a politician to push for the civil rights laws.
- The Civil Rights Act was signed on the 2nd July 1964, and the act made it illegal for local governments to discriminate in areas like housing and unemployment.
The freedom summer
- The summer of 1964.
- The momentum from the Civil Rights Act fuelled MLK and the SCLC to encourage more black Americans to register to vote.
- They were helped by white Americans, who came from cities in the North in great numbers to help.
- Within 20 months of the Act being signed, over 400,000 black Americans had registered to vote.
- MLK targeted areas were discrimination was worst, and in 1965 he organised a march through Selma in Alabama.
- Over half of the towns population were black adults who were old enough to vote, yet only just over 2% of them were registered.
- The town was also known for its brutally racist sheriff, Jim Clark.
- The march was banned by the authorities, but on the 7th of March 600 people marched without MLK. They suffered from some of the most brutal attacks, and the media referred to the event as "Bloody Sunday". The images of the event horrified America.
- King tried to keep pressure on by rearranged the march, and had to compromise with a token march, that ended up turning back after a short distance.
The voting rights bill
- President Johnson was able to push for a Voting Rights Bill in 1965, and it had become a law three years later.
- The act meant that government officials could inspect voting procedures to make sure that everything was being done properly.
- It also ended the literacy tests that people had to do before they were allowed to vote, so that more people could vote.
- After 1965 five big cities had black mayors,
- In Selma more blacks had registered to vote, and in the next election the notoriously racist sheriff Jim Clark lost his job.
Nation of Islam
- Was headed by Elijah Muhammad.
- Members included Malcom X, and the boxer Muhammad Ali
- Malcom X felt that MLSs methods and the civil rights movement held back black people. He wanted black Americans to rise up and create their own black states, by force if necessary.
- Malcom X was assassinated in 1965.
The SNCC and Carmichael
- The SNCC (student non-violent coordinating committee) became more radical when Stokely Carmichael was made chairman in 1966.
- He talked in terms of "black power"
- He was critical of Martin Luther King
- One of his typical comments: "This nation (the USA) is racist from top to bottom, and does not function by morality, love and non-violence, but by power"
- Were a political party with their own private army.
- They had around 2,000 members.
- They believed that black Americans should arm themselves and force the whites to give them equal rights.
- They frequently clashed with police officers, and killed 9 in their time,
- Between 1965-67 there was a wave of race riots, that took place in the north and West of America, in areas that were "officially free of racism".
- There were v poor relations between black people and the police, and many black people felt that they didn't get the same protection from crime as white people.
- Many of the rioters were influenced by radical black nationalists, and some joined in with the riots as an expression of their frustration for the way that they were treated in the USA.
- The President said that racism was the cause of the riots.
The impact of black power
- Black power groups brought national attention to the "disillusionment" of many African Americans.
- There is evidence to suggest that black power groups changed the attitudes of white Americans who might been sympathetic and supportive towards the civil rights movement.
- The black power movement was criticised by civil rights leaders who believed that it gave the law enforcement authorities an opportunity and excuse to crack down on all African American activists.
- The FBI set up COINTELPRO, which was a programme that monitiored thousands of activists and put many Black Panther members in prison.
- Some historians think that:
- The Black Power movement was misrepresented and was more complex than it was portrayed at the time,
- The media coverage at the time was misinformed and based on ignorance and fear rather than of understanding of the movement.
- The Black Power and Civil Rights movements shared a lot of common grounds. Carmichael and MLK were rather friendly and agreed on the need to fight poverty, and were both opposed to the Vietnam war.
The significance of Martin Luther King
- Had one of the biggest reputations and impact on the Civil Rights Movement.
- His achievements include:
- The Montgomery bus boycott
- The marches in Birmingham and Washington (1963)
- The passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964
- The voting rights campaign
- See his importance because there are hundreds of roads and schools named after him, and Martin Luther King day is a public holiday in the USA.
The significance of Malcom X
- He never lead a mass movement like MLK did.
- Despite this he inspired many young Americans who were dissilusioned with their treatment by American society.
- But he felt that the Civil Rights Movement was not achieving anything
- He played a key role in developing the concept of being proud to be black.
- He also helped the issue of civil rights get more prominence in the northern cities.
- He played a powerful role in creating a self believe for many African Americans
The fact that many of the organisations that both Martin Luther King and Malcom X brought together separated again after their deaths reflects on the importance of the men.
Who did more for civil rights - Kennedy
- It wasn't one of his main priorities when he took office in 1961, however, the development of the civil rights movement forced him to deal with the issue.
- He helped MLK and other protestors to get out of jail.
- He maid high level black appointments - the first African American seniour govournment official and others came about during his presidency.
- He stood up to the govenours in the southern states and tried to force them to defend the freedom riders.
- He/his brother sent 23,000 govournment troops to make sure that James Meredith could attend the University of Mississippi without being attacked by racists.
Who did more for civil rights - Johnson
- Had a reputation for being a difficult and aggressive man, who tended to get what he wanted.
- As soon as he came into power he used $800million of measures to try and reduce poverty, which helped many African Americans who were some of the poorer members of society.
- He brought in the Civil Rights Act in 1964. This was down to his ability to manage the congress and his ability to put pressure on the members of the Senate.
- Put pressure on the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and helped to enable more black people to vote (got rid of literacy tests)
Who did more for civil rights - Nixon
- The desegregation of schools and colleges became an actual reality. On the other hand, housing was still largely segregated.
- He extended key sections of the Voting Rights Act. He made it so the ban of literacy tests lasted longer, and he banned them all over the USA, not just in southern states.
- He brought in quotes of the number of African American students who should be taken to university(affirmative action)
- He wanted minorities to become managers and owners, not just workers. He set up the Office of Minority Business Enterprise, which gave contacts to businesses owned by African Americans and Hispanics.
- His achievements are often overlooked because they're overshadowed by other things he did.(made racist comments in the Oval office, his presidency ended in failure, he got on badly with many civil rights campaigners.)