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The Importance Of The Civil Rights Movement History Essay

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In a Democracy the majority does not need any protection, because it is the majority that has control. However, as seen throughout history, even majorities can be cruel, and the minority needs protection from them. The definition of civil rights is the rights belonging to an individual as a citizen, especially the fundamentals of the 13th and 14th amendments. The Civil Rights Movement was important to the history of the United States and the world. It established that discrimination was unjust and would no longer be tolerated in the country, while setting an example for oppressed people everywhere.

The Civil Rights Movements ended segregation publicly and legally. They redesigned the nation's social system. It changed where African Americans could attend college, work, and even where they could take a drink from. Many citizens united, regardless of race, to help a specific group achieve a common goal.

The quest for official racial equality began the moment Reconstruction ended in the late 1870s. Regardless of the Radical Republicans attempting to aid blacks by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Ku Klux Klan Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment and Fifteenth Amendment, racist whites in the South ensured that blacks remained "in their place." Literacy tests, poll taxes, and violence kept African-Americans away from voting booths, while conservative Supreme Court decisions ruined any chances for social equality. The Compromise of 1877 doomed southern blacks to a life of sharecropping and second-class citizenship.

African Americans turned to the courts to help protect their constitutional rights. But the courts challenged earlier civil rights legislation and handed down a series of decisions that permitted states to segregate people of color. In the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racially separate facilities, if equal, did not violate the Constitution. Segregation, the Court said, was not discrimination. Black leaders such as Booker T. Washington, president of the all black Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, continued to press for equal rights.

By the early 1950's racial segregation within the public schools was normal across America. Although all the schools in a given district were supposed to be equal, most black schools were far inferior to their white counterparts.

A black third-grader named Linda Brown had to walk one mile through a railroad switchyard to get to her black elementary school, even though a white elementary school was only seven blocks away. Oliver Brown, Linda's father, tried to enroll her in the white elementary school, but the principal of the school refused. Brown went to the head of Topeka, Kansas' branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and asked for help. Eager to assist Brown, the NAACP had long wanted to challenge segregation in public schools. With Brown's complaint, it had "the right plaintiff at the right time." Other black parents joined Brown, and, in 1951, the NAACP requested an injunction that would forbid the segregation of Topeka's public schools.

From June 25-26 1951 The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas heard Brown's case. The NAACP argued that segregated schools sent the message to black children that they were inferior to whites; therefore, the schools were inherently unequal. One of the expert witnesses, Dr. Hugh W. Speer, testified that:

"...if the colored children are denied the experience in school of associating with white children, who represent 90 percent of our national society in which these colored children must live, then the colored child's curriculum is being greatly curtailed. The Topeka curriculum or any school curriculum cannot be equal under segregation."

The Board of Education's reasoning was that, segregated schools simply prepared black children for the segregation they would face during adulthood. The board also argued that segregated schools were not necessarily harmful to black children; great African Americans such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and George Washington Carver had overcome more than just segregated schools to achieve what they achieved.

Brown and the NAACP brought the case to the supreme courts on October of 1951. Their case was combined with other cases that challenged school segregation involving South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. By 1952 the courts still did not reach a conclusion. On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren read the decision of the unanimous Court:

"We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does...We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Supreme Court struck down the "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy for public education, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and required the desegregation of schools across America.

The Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision did not abolish segregation in other public areas, such as restaurants and restrooms, nor did it require desegregation of public schools by a specific time. It did, however, declare the permissive or mandatory segregation that existed in 21 states unconstitutional. It was a giant step towards complete desegregation of public schools. Even partial desegregation of these schools, however, was still very far away, as would soon become apparent.

Although desegregated the public schools didn't abolish segregation, it did help other African-American's speak out. The Montgomery Bus Boycott started on December 1, 1955. That was the day when the blacks of Montgomery, Alabama, decided that they would boycott the city buses until they could sit anywhere they wanted, instead of being relegated to the back when a white boarded. An elderly nanny and a long time NAACP worker, Rosa Parks was riding the bus, when a white man boarded. She was told to move her seat by the bus driver; however she refused. The bus driver then drove to the next stop where he knew and officer would be. Rosa Park was then arrested. When the NAACP found out about this, they decided to boycott the bus route. Every single African-American of city boycotted the buses for eleven months.

We soon began to see several boycotts and race riots. Several people engaging in the Black Power movement started to gain more of a sense in black pride and identity as well. In gaining more of a sense of cultural individuality, blacks demanded that whites no longer refer to them as "Negroes" but as "Afro-Americans." Many in the Jewish-American community supported the Civil Rights Movement. Statistically Jews were one of the most actively involved non-black groups in the Movement. President John Kennedy had been the first president since Harry Truman to champion equal rights for black Americans. The assassination of John Kennedy in November 1963 left most civil rights leaders grief-stricken. They knew little about his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Although Johnson had helped engineer the Civil Rights Act of 1957 that had been a mild measure and no one knew if he would continue Kennedy's call for Civil Rights. Addressing the congress and the nation for the first time as president, Johnson called for a passage on the Civil Rights movement as a monument to Kennedy, "Let us continue" he stated.

When people hear the term "Civil Rights" they immediately think of African-American's however women also suffered to gain their own Civil Rights. The definition of women's interests in terms of individual rights is one that informs liberal feminism around the world and represents the mainstream of the U.S. women's rights movements.

The beginning of women's rights movements is marked by the 1848 Seneca Falls women's convention and its resolutions calling for women's rights to legal adult status, access to all professions, and women's suffrage (the right to vote). Throughout most of history women generally have had fewer legal rights and career opportunities than men. Women's significanr professions were considered to be wifehood and motherhood. However by the 20th century, women in most nations won the right to vote and increased their educational and job opportunities. Perhaps most important, they fought for and to a large degree accomplished a reevaluation of traditional views of their role in society. During the 1850s, the women's rights movement gathered steam, but lost momentum when the Civil War began. Almost immediately after the war ended, the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution raised familiar questions of suffrage and citizenship. (The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, extends the Constitution's protection to all citizens--and defines "citizens" as "male"; the 15th, ratified in 1870, guarantees black men the right to vote.)

Starting in the 1960's, the beginning of the women's rights movement resurged forward after being passive during the 1940's and 1950's. The last major hurdle that was overcome was the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920 giving women in the United States the right to vote. The Civil rights protests encouraged the women of the 1960's to renew the push for equal rights for women as well as minorities in educational and employment fields. Equality in politics, both in the United States and internationally, were also on the agenda for women's rights. The 1960's decade was a progressive time for the Women's Rights Movement in the United States as well as worldwide. This was mainly due to the large number of women pushing for social reform of equal treatment for women in all facets of life.


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