The Success of the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans Essay Example



The battle for equality between African Americans and white Americans has been an ongoing struggle for hundreds of years, the modern civil rights movement both succeeded and failed at achieving equality. The modern civil rights movement occurred between the 1950s and 1960s, 100 years after the passage of the 13th amendment which made slavery illegal. The modern civil rights movement was successful based on changes made to laws and the development of African American culture through new organizations and influencers, but was unsuccessful in creating full equality between whites and blacks. 

Several influential figures appeared in the modern civil rights movement that helped to better develop the African American culture. Rosa Parks is most known for her refusal of giving up her seat on a public bus, but did much more in respects to civil rights. Parks was the secretary for her local NAACP and organized the NAACP youth council in Montgomery, Alabama. However, Rosa and her husband were fired from their jobs and faced large amounts of hate, fixing them from their Montgomery home to Detroit, Michigan, where Rosa worked with US Congressman John Conyers for 25 years and founded the Institute for Self-Development which trained African American youth to take leadership roles in their community (“Rosa”). Martin Luther King Jr. was another critical figure during the era and perhaps the most well known. King lived in the south his whole life, but didn’t become an active member in the fight for equality until 1954 when he joined the NAACP. After news spread of Park’s arrest, King and several other NAACP members called a meeting in which they urged African Americans to boycott the bus system. 

After a 380 day boycott, the supreme court called for the desegregation of public buses in Montgomery, this made Martin an overnight national hero. Martin continued working with several organizations, such as the MIA, NAACP, SCLC and assisting in planning boycotts with the SNCC. In response to the lack of voting rights in Selma, Alabama, King organized a march from Selma to Montgomery. Many were beaten or arrested during this march, but 300 other made it to Montgomery where they were joined by 25,000 as they presented a petition to Governor Wallace. However, similarly to Rosa, Martin faced incredible amounts of hate. On several occasions, King and other civil rights leaders were harassed, threatened, arrested and jailed, along with the constant threat of their houses being bombed (“Martin”). Rosa, Martin, and other crucial civil rights movement figures were able to assist in making black Americans and white Americans equal, but they were still unsuccessful as demonstrated by the large amounts of hate they received for their actions.  

Many laws were put into place over the course of the modern civil rights movement, to help equalize the status of blacks and whites. In 1954 Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP’s Chief legal council argued that segregation was denying blacks their equal rights, and that the premise of separate but equal, should not apply to schools. This brought along the Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, which was decided in favor of desegregation schools. However, this decision brought some negative effects. Hate groups such as the KKK intensified their efforts after this decision was made, along with many Congressmen and government officials. 

In May 1955, the supreme court even went as far as to go back on their original ruling and said there was no timetable for when schools had to desegregate, they only had to do it with deliberate speed (Weisbrot). Overall, even though a law was created to desegregate schools, most southern schools didn’t comply soon enough and hate groups expressed their anger toward the decision. In 1956, the supreme court made the decision to desegregate public buses in Montgomery, Alabama, after a boycott that lasted over a year. Rosa Parks was arrested in December of 1955, when she refused to give up her seat to a white male on a public bus. Due to Rosa’s strong influence in Montgomery, civil right activists took this opportunity to push for the desegregation of public buses. 

The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), led by the young Martin Luther King Jr., started the Montgomery bus boycott, in which every African American in the city boycotted the public bus system, which severely drove down the company’s profits and forced the supreme court to intervene (“Rosa”). Rosa, Martin and several other influential figures faced threats and abuse, but they didn’t stop working for equality. After a nonviolent protest in Birmingham was disrupted when police unleashed dogs on the protestors and sprayed them with water in front of many tv cameras, President Kennedy was forced to encourage Congress to enact a civil rights law (Weisbrot). In 1964, the civil rights act, authored by Everett Dirksen, a Republican Senator in Illinois, was passed. The act specifically addressed the desegregation of public business and buildings, but did no help in stopping the voter discrimination taking place in the south, which had to be dealt with through the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (“Civil”). Although these laws make African Americans and white Americans more equal, they created many conflicts and did not create full equality. 

Many years ago, President Kennedy said: “law alone cannot make men see right, we are confronted primarily with a moral issue.” Although several improvements were made, and laws were added, to create a more equal society, African Americans and white Americans still weren’t equal at the end of the modern civil rights era, and the fight for equality still continues today. Police brutality has become a common issue in our society, as young African American males are unfairly treated due to their race. On several occasions, black youth who posed no threat were arrested or killed because police judged them by their race rather than studying the situation (Hamm). There is also a lack of equality from an economic standpoint, as black Americans are often paid less, leading to a large wealth gap between white and black Americans (Wolf). In conclusion, the modern civil rights movement may not have been entirely successful in achieving full equality between blacks and whites, but it made drastic changes and set the stage for future civil rights movements.