The civil rights movement continues its march (2023)

learning objectives

At the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the strategies of the African-American civil rights movement in the 1960s
  • Discuss the rise and philosophy of Black Power
  • Identify the achievements of the Mexican-American civil rights movement in the 1960s

During the 1960s, the federal government, spurred as much by genuine concern for the have-nots as by the realities of the Cold War, increased its efforts to protect civil rights and ensure equal economic and educational opportunity for all. However, most of the credit for progress toward racial equality in the United States goes to grassroots activists. In fact, it was the campaigns and demonstrations of ordinary citizens that led the federal government to act. While the African-American civil rights movement was the most prominent of the racial justice crusades, other ethnic minorities also worked to win their share of the American Dream during the boom years of the 1960s. Many were influenced by the African-American cause and often used similar tactics.

For many people inspired by the victories ofBrown v. Board of Educationand the Montgomery bus boycott, the glacial pace of progress in the segregated South was frustrating, if not intolerable. In some places, such as Greensboro, North Carolina, local NAACP chapters were influenced by whites who provided funding for the organization. This help, along with the belief that stronger reform efforts would only increase white resistance, persuaded some African-American organizations to pursue a "policy of containment" rather than trying to radically alter the status quo. However, the inspirational appeal of Martin Luther King Jr. for peaceful change in the city of Greensboro in 1958 planted the seeds for a more assertive civil rights movement.

On February 1, 1960, four sophomores at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro (Ezell Blair Jr., Joseph McNeil, David Richmond, and Franklin McCain) entered the Woolworth premises and sat down at the cafeteria counter. The cafeteria counter was segregated and they were denied service as they knew it would be. They had specifically chosen Woolworth's because it was a national chain and therefore considered especially vulnerable to negative publicity. In the following days, more protesters joined the four sophomores. The hostile whites responded with threats and insulted the students by throwing sugar and ketchup on their heads. The successful six-month demonstration in Greensboro launched the student phase of the African American civil rights movement, and within two months the demonstration had spread to fifty-four cities in nine states.

The civil rights movement continues its march (1)

Companies like this were among those targeted by activists protesting segregation. Segregated companies can be found throughout the United States; this one was located in Ohio. (credit: Library of Congress)

In the words of civil rights activist Ella Baker, Woolworth students wanted more than a hamburger; the movement they helped launch was about empowerment. Baker pushed for a "participatory democracy" that relied on the popular campaigns of active citizens rather than yielding to the leadership of educated and expert elites. As a result of her actions, in April 1960, theStudent Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)formed to continue the battle. Within a year, more than 100 cities had desegregated at least some public places in response to student-led protests. Sit-ins have inspired other forms of non-violent protest aimed at disrupting public spaces. "Rooms" occupied motel lobbies, "readings" filled public libraries, and churches became places of "prayers."

Students also participated in the 1961 “freedom rides” sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and SNCC. The intent of the African-American and white volunteers who conducted these southbound bus trips was to test the enforcement of a US Supreme Court ruling banning segregation in interstate transportation and to protest segregated waiting at southern terminals. Leaving Washington, DC, on May 4, the volunteers headed south on buses that defied the Jim Crow seat segregation order. Whites rode in the back, African Americans sat in the front, and at other times, cyclists of different races shared the same seat. The Freedom Riders encountered little difficulty until they reached Rock Hill, South Carolina, where John Lewis, a Freedom Rider who later became president of SNCC, was severely beaten by a mob. The danger increased as passengers continued through Georgia towards Alabama, where one of the two buses was set on fire outside the town of Anniston. The second group continued on to Birmingham, where passengers were attacked by the Ku Klux Klan as they tried to disembark at the city's bus station. The remaining volunteers made their way to Mississippi, where they were arrested when they tried to desegregate Jackson's bus terminal waiting rooms.

The civil rights movement continues its march (2)

Civil rights activists Bayard Rustin, Andrew Young, Representative William Fitts Ryan, James Farmer and John Lewis (left to right) in a 1965 newspaper photograph.

(Video) What Did the Civil Rights Movement Achieve?

Popular efforts by people like the Freedom Riders to change discriminatory laws and longstanding racist traditions became better known in the mid-1960s. The upcoming centenary of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation spawned the slogan "Free for the 63" among activists of civil rights. As African Americans have increased their calls for full rights for all Americans, many civil rights groups have changed their tactics to reflect this new urgency.

Perhaps the most famous of the civil rights-era demonstrations was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, held in August 1963, the centennial of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Their aim was to pressure President Kennedy to keep his promises regarding civil rights. The date was the eighth anniversary of the brutal racist murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi. As the crowd gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial and spilled onto the National Mall, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his most famous speech. In "I Have a Dream", King called for an end to racial injustice in the United States and envisioned a harmonious, integrated society. The speech marked the high point of the civil rights movement and established the legitimacy of its goals. However, it did not stop white terrorism in the South, nor did it permanently support nonviolent civil disobedience tactics.

The civil rights movement continues its march (3)

During the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (a), a large crowd gathered on the National Mall (b) to hear the speakers. Though thousands turned out, many of the march's organizers hoped that enough people would arrive in Washington to shut down the city.

Other meetings of civil rights activists ended tragically, and some demonstrations were aimed at provoking a hostile response from whites and thus revealing the inhumanity of Jim Crow laws and their supporters. In 1963, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) led by Martin Luther King Jr. organized protests in about 186 cities in the south. However, the campaign in Birmingham that began in April and lasted until the autumn of 1963 attracted more attention when a peaceful protest was met with violence by the police, who attacked demonstrators, including children, with fire hoses and dogs. The world watched in horror as innocent people were assaulted and thousands arrested. King himself was arrested on Easter Sunday 1963 and, in response to the white clergy's pleas for peace and patience, wrote one of the most significant documents of the struggle: "Letter from a Birmingham Jail". In the letter, King argued that African Americans had patiently waited for over three hundred years to receive the rights that all human beings deserved; waiting time is over.

Letter from a Birmingham prison

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. had become one of the most prominent leaders of the civil rights movement, continuing to advocate nonviolent civil disobedience as a way to register African American resistance to unfair, discriminatory, and racist laws and behavior. Although the campaign in Birmingham began with an African-American boycott of white businesses to end discrimination in employment practices and public segregation, it turned into a fight for free speech when King was arrested for violating a local court order. against the demonstrations. King wrote his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" in response to an op-ed by eight white Alabama clergymen who complained about the SCLC's cruel tactics and argued that social change needed to come gradually. The letter criticizes those who did not support the cause of civil rights:

Despite my shattered dreams of the past, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leaders in the community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, serve as a channel through which our righteous grievances could be heard. 🇧🇷 to the power structure. I hoped each of you would understand. But again, I was disappointed. I've heard several religious leaders in the South call their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it's the law, but I longed to hear white ministers say to follow this decree because desegregation is morally right and the Negro is your brother. Amidst the blatant injustices inflicted on black people, I have seen white churches stand by and just talk about pious irrelevancies and hypocritical platitudes. In the midst of a great struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say, "These are social issues that the Gospel doesn't really address," and I have seen so many churches commit themselves to a completely supernatural religion that made a difference. mysterious distinction between body and soul, the sacred and the secular.

Since its publication, the "Charter" has become one of the most forceful, passionate and succinct statements of the civil rights movement's aspirations and frustration with the glacial pace of progress in achieving justice and equality for all.

(Video) History of the Civil Rights Movement

What civil rights tactics raised the white clergy objections King addressed in his letter? Why?

Some of the greatest violence during this era was directed at those trying to register African Americans to vote. In 1964, SNCC, working with other civil rights groups, started its Mississippi Summer Project, also known as Freedom Summer. The goal was to register African American voters in one of the most racist states in the country. Volunteers also built “freedom schools” and community centers. SNCC invited hundreds of mostly northern, middle-class white students to help with homework. Many volunteers were harassed, beaten and arrested, and African-American homes and churches were burned. Three civil rights defenders, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, were killed by the Ku Klux Klan. That summer, civil rights activists Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Robert Parris Moses formally organized the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) as an alternative to the all-white Mississippi Democratic Party. However, the organizers of the Democratic National Convention allowed only two MFDP delegates to attend and were limited to non-voting observer roles.

The civil rights movement continues its march (4)

Many businesses, such as those in this neighborhood on 7th and N streets in northwest Washington, DC, were destroyed in the riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The vision of blacks and whites working together peacefully to end racial injustice was dealt a severe blow by the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, in April 1968. King had gone there to support health workers. They were trying to unionize. In the city, he found a divided civil rights movement; older activists who supported his nonviolent policy were being challenged by younger African Americans who advocated a more militant approach. On April 4, King was shot and killed while standing on his motel porch. Within hours, cities across the country erupted into violence as angry African Americans, shocked by his murder, burned and looted inner-city neighborhoods across the country. While whites recoiled in fear and dismay at news of the riots, they also criticized African Americans for destroying their own neighborhoods; they failed to realize that most of the violence was directed against non-Black businesses that treated African American customers with distrust and hostility.

The violent episodes that accompanied the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. they were the latest in a series of urban riots that have rocked the United States since the mid-1960s. Between 1964 and 1968, there were 329 riots in 257 cities across the country. 🇧🇷 In 1964, riots broke out in Harlem and other African American neighborhoods. In 1965, a traffic stop triggered a chain of events that culminated in riots in Watts, an African-American neighborhood in Los Angeles. Thousands of businesses were destroyed, and by the time the violence ended, thirty-four people had been killed, mostly African Americans killed by Los Angeles police and the National Guard. More riots occurred in 1966 and 1967.

Frustration and anger were at the heart of these interruptions. Despite Great Society programs, good health care, employment opportunities, and safe housing were sorely lacking in urban African American neighborhoods in cities across the country, even in the North and West, where discrimination was less obvious but equally paralyzing. In the eyes of many protesters, the federal government was unable or unwilling to end their suffering, and most existing civil rights groups and their leaders were unable to achieve meaningful results regarding racial justice and equality. Disillusioned, many African Americans turned to those who had more radical ideas about how best to achieve equality and justice.

Watch “Troops Patrol L.A.” to see how heup to 1965 wattsthey were featured on the day's news.

Within the chorus of voices calling for integration and legal equality, many were those who called most vehemently for empowerment and, therefore, supportedBlack Power🇧🇷 Black Power meant a variety of things. One of the most famous users of the term was Stokely Carmichael, president of SNCC, who later changed its name to Kwame Ture. For Carmichael, Black Power was the power of African Americans to come together as a political force and create their own institutions beyond those dominated by whites, an idea first suggested in the 1920s by political leader and orator Marcus Garvey. Like Garvey, Carmichael became an advocate ofblack separatism, arguing that African Americans should live separately from whites and work out their problems on their own. Following this philosophy, Carmichael expelled white members from SNCC. He left SNCC in 1967 and later joined the Black Panthers (see below).

Long before Carmichael started championing separatism, the Nation of Islam, founded in 1930, championed the same. In the 1960s, its most famous member was Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little. The Nation of Islam advocated for the separation of white Americans and African Americans due to the belief that African Americans could not thrive in an atmosphere of white racism. Indeed, in a 1963 interview, Malcolm X, discussing the teachings of the head of the Nation of Islam in America, Elijah Muhammad, referred to white people as "demons" more than a dozen times. Rejecting the nonviolent strategy of other civil rights activists, he argued that violence against violence was appropriate.

(Video) I Have a Dream speech by Martin Luther King .Jr HD (subtitled)

The civil rights movement continues its march (5)

Stokely Carmichael (a), one of the most famous and outspoken advocates of Black Power, is mobbed by members of the media after speaking at Michigan State University in 1967. Malcolm X (b) grew up in a family influenced by Marcus Garvey and hounded for his support outspoken about civil rights. While serving time in prison for armed robbery, he became acquainted with and became involved with the Nation of Islam. (b credit: modified work from the Library of Congress)

In 1964, after a trip to Africa, Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam to found the Organization for African American Unity with the aim of achieving freedom, justice and equality "by all means necessary". His views on black-white relations changed somewhat after that, but he remained strongly committed to the cause of African-American empowerment. On February 21, 1965, he was assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam. Stokely Carmichael later recalled that Malcolm X provided an intellectual foundation for Black nationalism and gave legitimacy to the use of violence to achieve Black Power's goals.

the new black

At a roundtable discussion in October 1961, Malcolm X suggested that a "New Negro" was emerging. The term and concept of the "new Negro" emerged during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and was revived during the civil rights movements of the 1960s.

“I think there is a new black call. We don't recognize the term 'Negro', but I do believe there is a new Black vocation here in America. He's not just impatient. He's not just dissatisfied, he's not just disappointed, but he's getting very angry. And while so-called blacks in the past were willing to sit back and wait for someone to change their condition or correct their condition, there is a growing tendency for large numbers of today's so-called blacks to take action on their own. Don't sit back and wait for someone else to correct the situation. This, in my opinion, is primarily what produced this new black. He is not willing to wait. You think what you want is right, what you want is fair, and since those things are fair and right, it's wrong to sit back and wait for someone to correct an unpleasant condition when you're ready.

How did Martin Luther King Jr. and were SNCC members “New Negroes”?

Unlike Stokely Carmichael and the Nation of Islam, most Black Power advocates did not believe that African Americans needed to separate themselves from white society. The Black Panther Party, founded in 1966 in Oakland, California, by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, believed that African Americans were victims of both capitalism and white racism. Consequently, the group embraced Marxist teachings and called for jobs, housing and education, as well as protection from police brutality and exemption from military service in its Ten Points Program. The Black Panthers also patrolled the streets of African American neighborhoods to protect residents from police brutality, but they sometimes beat and killed those who disagreed with their cause and tactics. His militant attitude and advocacy of armed self-defense appealed to many young people, but it also led to many run-ins with the police, sometimes including arrests and even shootings, such as those that occurred in Los Angeles, Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois. 🇧🇷

Black Power's philosophy of self-empowerment influenced major civil rights groups such as the National Organization for Reconstruction for Economic Growth (BLACK), which sold bonds and operated a clothing factory and construction company in New York, and the Center for Opportunities Industrialization in Philadelphia, which provided job training and placement - by 1969 had branches in seventy cities. Black Power was also part of a much larger process of cultural change. The 1960s was a decade not only of Black Power but also ofblack pride🇧🇷 African-American abolitionist John S. Rock coined the phrase "Black Is Beautiful" in 1858, but by the 1960s it had become an important part of the African-American community's efforts to increase self-esteem and promote pride in ancestors. Africans. Black Pride urged African Americans to reclaim their African heritage and, to promote group solidarity, replace African and African-inspired cultural practices, such as handshakes, hairstyles, and clothing, with white practices. One of the many cultural products of this movement was the popular television music programsoul train, created by Don Cornelius in 1969, which celebrated black culture and aesthetics.

The civil rights movement continues its march (6)

(Video) Alabama City Remembered as Climactic Battle of Civil Rights Movement

When the Jackson Five appeared on Soul Train, each of the five brothers wore a large afro, a symbol of Black Pride in the 1960s and 1970s.

The African American attempt at full citizenship was arguably the most visible of the civil rights battles that took place in the United States. However, other minority groups who had been legally discriminated against or denied access to economic and educational opportunities began to increase efforts to secure their rights in the 1960s. Like the African American movement, the Mexican American civil rights movement gained his first victories in federal courts. In 1947, inMendez x Westminster, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the segregation of children of Hispanic descent was unconstitutional. In 1954, the same year thatBrown v. Board of Education, Mexican-Americans prevailed inHernández v. Texas, when the United States Supreme Court extended Fourteenth Amendment protections to all ethnic groups in the United States.

The most visible struggle of the Mexican-American civil rights movement was waged by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta in the fields of California to organize migrant rural workers. In 1962, Chávez and Huerta founded the National Association of Agricultural Workers (NFWA). In 1965, when Filipino grape pickers led by Filipino-American Larry Itliong went on strike to draw attention to their plight, Chávez lent his support. Workers organized by the NFWA also went on strike, and the two organizations merged to form the United Farm Workers. When Chávez urged American consumers to boycott grapes, politically aware people across the country heeded his plea, and many union dockers refused to unload shipments of grapes. In 1966, Chávez led striking workers to the state capital in Sacramento, further publicizing the cause. Martin Luther King Jr. telegraphed words of encouragement to Chávez, calling him "brother." The strike ended in 1970 when California farmers recognized the right of farm workers to unionize. However, the farmers didn't get everything they wanted and the biggest fight wasn't over.

The civil rights movement continues its march (7)

César Chávez was influenced by the non-violent philosophy of the Indian nationalist Mahatma Gandhi. In 1968, he imitated Gandhi by going on a hunger strike.

The equivalent of the Black Power movement among Mexican Americans was the Chicano Movement. Proudly adopting a derogatory term for Mexican Americans, Chicano activists demanded greater political power for Mexican Americans, an education that recognized their cultural heritage, and the restoration of lands taken from them at the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848. One of the founding members, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, launched the Crusade for Justice in Denver in 1965 to provide Mexican-Americans with jobs, legal services, and health care. Out of this movement emerged La Raza Unida, a political party that attracted many Mexican-American college students. Elsewhere, Reies López Tijerina has struggled for years to recover lost and illegally expropriated ancestral lands in New Mexico; he was one of the co-sponsors of the March of the Poor on Washington in 1967.

The African American civil rights movement made significant progress in the 1960s. Although Congress played an important role in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Act of 1968, actions from civil rights groups like CORE, SCLC, and SNCC were instrumental in breaking new ground. , pioneering new techniques and strategies and achieving great success. Civil rights activists participated in rallies, freedom walks and protest marches and registered African American voters. However, despite the movement's many accomplishments, many were frustrated by the slow pace of change, the Great Society's failure to alleviate poverty, and the persistence of violence against African Americans, particularly the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. . in 1968. Many African Americans in the mid-1960s embraced Black Power ideology, which promoted their work within their own communities to solve problems without white help. The Mexican-American civil rights movement, largely led by César Chávez, also made significant progress during this time. The rise of the Chicano Movement marked the determination of Mexican Americans to gain political power, celebrate their cultural heritage, and demand their citizenship rights.

review question

  1. How does the message of Black Power advocates differ from that of leading civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr.?

Answer to review question

  1. King and his followers fought for the racial integration and political inclusion of African Americans. They also called for the use of non-violent tactics to achieve their goals. Black Power advocates, on the other hand, believed that African Americans should seek solutions without white help. Many also promoted black separatism and accepted the use of violence.


black separatisman ideology that required African Americans to reject integration into the white community and, in some cases, physically separate themselves from whites in order to create and preserve their self-determination

Black Powera political ideology that encourages African Americans to create their own institutions and develop their own economic resources independently of whites

black pridea cultural movement among African Americans to encourage pride in their African heritage and replace African and African American art forms, behaviors, and cultural products with those of whites

(Video) Rare Video Footage of Historic Alabama 1965 Civil Rights Marches, MLK's Famous Montgomery Speech


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