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Was the Civil Rights Movement Successful?

The Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950’s aiming to win equality of treatment for black and whites. It was quite successful in that desegregation was forbidden and that blacks were allowed to vote. However, the success was limited, as many racist attitudes and poverty still existed. In the 1950’s and early 1960’s discrimination, prejudice and segregation existed around America. Blacks were discriminated against for the colour of their skin. Because of this, White people were prejudice against Blacks, and segregation was formed. Nearly everything was segregated, benches, drinking fountains, but a major segregation law was the segregation of schools. Peaceful protests took place in school lunch halls, with sit-ins, where black students would sit at ‘white only’ lunch counters. Oliver Brown sued his state for not letting his black daughter into a white school.

Brown won, and the Supreme Court decided that segregation of schools was against blacks and deprived them of a decent education. The court ordered states to allow black and white students to attend the same school. This law was tested at Little Rock. In 1957 a school in Little Rock was to be the first school to start school desegregation. The federal government ordered Little Rock to allow nine black students to enrol, but the State Governor and the local white population refused to let them when they turned up. As a result, Eisenhower sent 10 000 national guardsmen and 1000 paratroopers to make sure that the black students enrolled. This shows how strong racial attitudes were and what the Civil Rights Movement was up against. This decision showed how desperate the government was to end segregation and what they were up against, bringing thousands of armed men. Because of these racial attitudes, the Civil Rights movement had limited success. John F Kennedy also had to deal with these problems.

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John F Kennedy became the president in 1961. However, he was a fairly successful leader and supported the Civil Rights Movement, more in spirit than practice. He did do and make some changes; however, like most changes, these were limited, and some didn’t get passed or happen until after he died. In the summer of 1961, JFK and his brother, Robert F Kennedy, had meetings with the SNCC, CORE and NAACP and devised the Voter education project to get black people to register and vote. However, the success was limited by the white racial attitude that threatened blacks if they voted. Kennedy also gave many high positions in the government, political and law areas to black people. The Voting Rights Act was eventually passed in 1964, allowing blacks to vote freely. However, the success of this was limited, as white racial attitudes still existed. It took a long time for an official law to be passed enabling anyone to vote; this was also the case with desegregation.

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To put an end to segregation was one of the major aims of the Civil Rights Movement. Nearly everything was segregated, busses, schools, benches, fountains etc. They were labelled either ‘Whites only’ or ‘for coloured people’. Busses were segregated until the bus boycott in 1955. Rosa Parks, a black woman, sat in the ‘white only’ seats on the bus instead of the black section at the back of the bus. When a man came on and told her to move, she refused and was arrested. This led to the Montgomery bus boycott, which was quite successful in that, a year later, it achieved a law forbidding segregation on busses. However, it was unsuccessful, as the law forbidding all segregation on busses and bus stations in 1961. Birmingham, Alabama, was one of the most southern segregated cities. This attracted many demonstrations from civil rights leaders.

In 1963 Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders arranged a large demonstration around Birmingham. City police violently attacked the peaceful protestors with police dogs, batons, fire hoses etc. This was caught by the media, which sympathized with the peaceful protesters, causing uproar in Birmingham, which in some ways makes this protest quite a successful protest, as it created many more supporters of the civil rights movement. However, there were still many white racial attitudes. This was not the only hold back limiting the success of the Civil Rights Movement; many blacks were in poverty and had poor housing making it hard for them to get a decent job, which was already hard because they were black.

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In 1965 SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by Martin Luther King founded in 1957) focused on black poverty. In 1968 Martin Luther King devised the Poor People’s Campaign, including a march on Washington, D.C., intended to draw attention to the relationship between poverty and urban violence. As part of the campaign, King and other SCLC leaders frequently spoke out against economic discrimination. In 1968, King and other SCLC leaders went to Memphis, Tennessee, to support striking black garbage workers. King was assassinated there on April 4 by an escaped white convict, James Earl Ray.

Ralph Abernathy succeeded King as head of the SCLC and oversaw the Poor People’s Campaign. SCLC led the long-planned march and encampment in Washington, D.C., in May 1968. The campaign had limited success overall, but it did prompt the federal government to provide food aid to the neediest U.S. counties and pressured the U.S. Senate to approve a bill to fund the construction of low-income housing. But SCLC’s broadened agenda for social change increased criticism by white officials. Abernathy also led SCLC in supporting striking hospital workers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1969. This campaign allied SCLC with labour unions and ultimately resulted in a victory for the workers.

After 1969, SCLC had trouble raising money and was forced to cut its staff. Accustomed to following King’s lead, the staff often disagreed about goals and tactics. As a result, young left SCLC in 1970, and Jackson resigned in 1971. The organization survived, however, and its leaders continued to oppose racial injustice and advocate greater economic opportunity for the poor. Joseph E. Lowery became SCLC president (1977- ) and led the organization in battling efforts by the administration of President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) to limit civil rights legislation. SCLC’s opposition to the Reagan Administration policy in Central America induced the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to begin surveillance of SCLC along with more than 100 other civil rights, labour, and religious groups for “alleged criminal activity.” Lowery also led SCLC’s support to help end the racial segregation known as apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s.

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Overall I think that the Civil Rights Movement had limited success. Even though today, Black people still aren’t seen or treated equally in some parts of the world. There was quite a big change when it started; it achieved the black vote and did gain a lot of support. However, there is still much racism against black people today, with the Ku Klux klan and lynches. However, the amount has decreased a lot, so I think it had some success but couldn’t achieve a lot as the seed never falls too far from the tree. Therefore with some of one generation being racist, there will still be racism with the next generation, no matter how many anti-racial campaigns are created; however, one true thing is that the amount is decreasing. We can only hope that one day there is no racism in the world.

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Was the Civil Rights Movement Successful?. (2021, Aug 17). Retrieved August 14, 2022, from