11 Civil Rights And Social Movements In The Americas

Native Americans and civil rights: Latin America, the United States and Canada

African Americans and the Civil Rights Movement: origins, tactics and organizations; the US Supreme

court and legal challenges to segregation in education; ending of the segregation in the South

Role of Dr Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights Movement; the rise of radical African American activism

(1965‑8): Black Panthers; Black Muslims; Black Power and Malcolm X (Mahalia Ashraf)

Martin Luther King Jr.
• 26-year- old Martin Luther King, Jr., was the chosen leader of the Montgomery bus boycott.
• The Montgomery bus boycott proved to the world that the African-American community could unite and organize a successful protest movement.
• King believed in the power of nonviolent resistance; he appealed for peace and racial harmony.
• After the bus boycott ended, King joined with ministers and civil rights leaders in 1957 to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Its purpose was “to carry on nonviolent crusades against the evils of second-class citizenship.”
• Martin Luther King, Jr., and the SCLC lead a series of demonstrations help desegregate Birmingham, Alabama, a city that had a reputation for racial violence.
• Continued protests, an economic boycott, and negative media coverage finally convinced Birmingham officials to end segregation. This stunning civil rights victory inspired African Americans across the nation.
• Martin Luther King, Jr., objected to the Black Power movement. He believed that preaching violence could only end in grief.
• On April 3, 1968, King was shot by James Earl Ray.
• Reaction to his death
o After his death, Robert F. Kennedy (current candidate for Democratic presidential election) pleaded for nonviolence.
o Despite Kennedy’s plea, rage over King’s death led to the worst urban rioting in United States history. Over 100 cities exploded in flames.

The rise of radical African American activism
• In the mid 1960s, clashes between white authority and black civilians spread like wildfire.
o In New York City in July 1964, an encounter between white police and African-American teenagers ended in the death of a 15-year-old student. This sparked a race riot in central Harlem.
o Many riots and violent clashes broke out in the years, 1966-1967 due to racial disturbances.
• Leaders like Malcom X promoted the racial riots.
• He studied the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the head of the Nation of Islam, or the Black Muslims.
• As he gained a following, the brilliant thinker and engaging speaker openly preached Elijah Muhammad’s views that whites were the cause of the black condition and that blacks should separate from white society.
• He called for armed self defense.
• After taking a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, Malcom X radically changed his views towards whites and no longer believed in racial differences.
• Because of his split with the Black Muslims, Malcolm believed his life might be in danger.
• On February 21, 1965, while giving a speech in Harlem, the 39-year-old Malcolm X was shot and killed.
• The phrase “Black Power” was created by activist, Stokely Carmichael who urged SNCC to stop recruiting whites and to focus on developing African-American pride.
• In Oakland, California, in October 1966, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded a political party known as the Black Panthers to fight police brutality in the ghetto.
• The party advocated self-sufficiency for African-American communities, as well as full employment and decent housing. Members maintained that African Americans should be exempt from military service because an unfair number of black youths had been drafted to serve in Vietnam.
• On March 1, 1968, the Kerner Commission was appointed by President Johnson to study the causes of urban violence. “White racism” was found to be the number one cause.
• Congress passed the most important civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, including the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which ended discrimination in housing.

Role of governments in civil rights movements in the Americas

  • all branches impacted the civil rights movement
    • President JFK supported enforcement of desegregation in schools and public facilities
    • Attorney General Robert Kennedy brought more than 50 lawsuits in four states to secure black Americans' right to vote
    • President LBJ was personally committed to achieving civil rights goals
      • under LBJ, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
        • Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin and provides federal government with powers to enforce desegregation
    • advocated civil rights even though he knew it would cost the Democratic Party the South in next presidential election
    • FBI director J. Edgar Hoover concerned about possible Communist influence in civil rights movement and personally antagonistic to Martin Luther King, Jr.
      • used FBI to investigate King and other civil rights leaders
    • U.S. District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., ruled against segregation and voting rights discrimination in Alabama and made the Selma-to-Montgomery March possible.
    • reemergence of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, in its role as protector of individual liberties against majority power
      • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision of 1954

Youth culture and protests of the 1960s and 1970s: characteristics and manifestation of a counterculture. (Jesse Kirlin)

Counterculture during the 1960s and 70s identified with the rejection of the “social norms” of the 1950s. The 1950s have been claimed as the “high point” for American culture—our economy was thriving and we had as close to a utopian society as we had ever had (according to some).

The protests of the 60s and 70s were based mainly in student groups. The main group was the SDS—Students for a Democratic Society. This group had a short life (mid 1960s-1969 when it split and formed the Weathermen, a more radical group) however it had a very strong influence.

The main source of aggravation during this time period was racial segregation, the Vietnam war, women’s rights, and rights for homosexuals.

Many of the protests were against the Vietnam War. Because this was the first televised war, Americans were able to view the atrocities on a nightly basis—this caused a lot of frustration from the student population.

Counterculture has been tied with the hippies. This group had a voice during the 60s and 70s but they were not in the majority. Hippies would use psychoactive drugs to give themselves a sense of euphoria and the drugs allowed them to escape the world that they were living in. They often lived on communes together to escape "society" which is ironic since they created their own sense of society.

Not all of the people who protested during the 60s and 70s were hippies. Many people simply desired equality for all people in this world. They did not participate in the Summer of Love, psychoactive drugs, etc.

Counterculture has also been tied with an arts movement. There was a large increase in the music world with the creation of the new genre—rock n’ roll. Woodstock, 1969

Counterculture began to disappear for several reasons—many of the hardcore protesters were involved with hardcore drugs. There was also the fact that many of the counterculture figures died—some to the previously mentioned hardcore drugs. Two of the main reasons for the counterculture disappeared as well—the Vietnam War ended and thanks to new legislation, Civil Rights became less of an issue.

Feminist movements in the Americas (Rebecca Purser)
Feminism- the belief that women should have economic, political, and social equality with men.

Precursors to the Feminist Movement:
Feminist movement gained momentum in mid 1800s-1920, when women won the right to vote. The movement was reawakened in the 1960s with the onset of political activism.

1950s: Approx 3% of women worked for wages
1960s: Approx 40% of women worked for wages
However, certain jobs were still considered “men’s work”, and women were limited to jobs such as clerical work, domestic service, retail sales, social work, teaching and nursing—all of which were paid poorly.

1961- Kennedy appoints Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, which in 1963 reported that women were paid far less than men and were rarely promoted to management positions—two facts that made women realize their unequal status in society.

Causes of Women’s rights movement: Women were feeling the sting of discrimination in their involvement with civil rights and antiwar movements, where men took the leading roles. Therefore, many women organized small groups to discuss their concerns, share their life stories, and relate to one another. Many recognized a pattern of sexism and discrimination based on gender.

Accomplishments of the Feminist Movement:
The Feminine Mystique: written by Betty Friedan, became a bestseller and helped fire up women across the country to seek something more in their lives.
Civil Rights Act of 1964: Prohibited discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and gender. Also created Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to handle discrimination.
National Organization for Women (NOW): Created to pursue women’s goals. The organization pushed for the creation of child-care facilities, and for the EEOC to vigorously enforce the ban on gender discrimination in hiring. This prompted the EEOC to claim sex-segregated job ads illegal and to issue guidelines for employers that they could not refuse to hire a woman for a traditionally male job.
New York Radical Women: Staged a well-publicized demonstration at Miss America Pageant in which they threw bras girdles, wigs, etc. into a “Freedom Trash Can”, and proceeded to crown a sheep as Miss America.
Gloria Steinem: Made her voice heard on feminism and equality by helping to found the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971. The group encouraged women to seek political office. She also helped create a magazine, Ms., to offer the feminist viewpoint on contemporary issues.
Congress bans gender discrimination: On “any education program or activity receiving federal assistance”. (Higher Education Act)
Roe v. Wade: 1973 Supreme Court ruling that claimed that women have the right to an abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Equal Rights Amendment (ERA): 1972 Congress decision to guarantee that both men and women would enjoy same rights and protections under the law.
New Feminist practices: Protesting girl’s exclusion from sports, women using the title “Ms.”, women refusing to adopt their husband’s last names, colleges opening their doors to women, and working parents were given tax break for child-care expenses.

Opposition to Feminist Movement:
Phyllis Schlafly, along with many other conservatives and conservative religious groups were worried that the ERA would lead to the drafting of women, the end of laws protecting homemakers, the end of a husband’s responsibility to provide for his family, and same-sex marriages. These conservatives built the “Pro-Family Movement”, which focused on social, cultural, and moral problems (New Right). The New Right built grassroots support for social conservatism, and would later play a key role in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Legacy of the Movement:
The Women’s Movement transformed women’s conventional roles and their attitudes toward career and family. The Movement also succeeded in expanding career opportunities for women. By 1983, women held 13.5 percent of elected state offices as well as 24 seats in U.S. Congress. The Women’s Movement has helped countless women open their lives to new possibilities.

Sample Essays

Evaluate the impact of Black Power on the civil rights movement in the United States during the second half of the 1960s → 2005
(Hannah Wichmann)

I. Introduction

  • Black Power” slogan used by Stokely Carmichael in the 1960s that encouraged African-American pride and political and social leadership
  • Slogan became the battle-cry of militant civil rights activists
  • THESIS: Black Power impacted the civil rights movement in the United States in the second half of the 1960s by successfully encouraging increased pride in African culture and heritage, yet Black Power also encouraged a more militant approach to civil rights and discouraged public support for the movement for fear of violence.

II. Birth of the movement and Initial Impact

  • early June 1966 → James Meredith (who had helped integrate the University of Mississippi) was shot during his 225-mile “walk against fear”
  • MLK Jr. (SCLC), Floyd McKissick (CORE), and Stokely Carmichael (SNCC) decided to bring their organizations together to finish Meredith’s march
  • Became apparent that the SNCC and CORE members were much more militant
  • Carmichael claimed that “black power” was a class “for black people to begin to define their own goals…[and] to lead their own organizations”
  • Carmichael urged SNCC to stop recruiting white volunteers and to focus on developing pride in African Americans

III. Militant Movement

  • The push for a more militant approach to the civil rights movement came with the development of the Black Panthers in October 1966 → led by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale
  • Black Panthers = militant African American political organization formed to fight police brutality and to provide services in the ghetto

IV. Conclusion

  • Black Power helped to push the civil rights movement in the United States in a more militant direction
  • Gained significant support from African Americans who were frustrated by the very slow progress of the civil rights movement → the movement empowered its participants
  • But public support for the civil rights movement as a whole declined because some whites were frightened by the violence that often accompanied the Black Power movement
  • The Black Power movement contributed significantly to the increased pride of African Americans in their racial identities → push for more “black studies” programs, more African-influenced styles, proud display of symbols of African heritage and culture

Key Terms for Civil Rights

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