African-American Civil Rights Movement (1940s-1960s) Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in African-American Civil Rights Movement (1940s-1960s) Deck (27):

What objective encompasses the Civil Rights Movement of the 1940s-60s?

o To secure equal rights for African-Americans under the law in the US.
o Movement represents the struggle for social justice.


Of what scale was the Civil Rights Movement?

o A mass movement consisting of many organisations.
o Its enormous size distinguishes it from previous movements.


Why did the abolition of slavery following the Civil War in the 1860s not stop discrimination against blacks?

o Reconstruction Amendments in US Constitution aimed to secure rights of African Americans, granting them voting rights and ability to hold political office.
- However, racism continued (most prominently in the South).

o Continuation of racist attitudes spurred emergence of Jim Crow laws in the late 19th century.


What were the objectives of Jim Crow laws and what did they entail?

o Objectives:
- Limit civil rights of blacks and disenfranchise them
- Enforce racial segregation

o What laws entailed:
- Signs to show blacks where they could legally walk, talk, drink, rest or eat. (US historian, Leon Litwack in 'Jim Crow Blues')
- Often involved violence


Why did Jim Crow laws encourage many African Americans to migrate?

o System was most prevalent in the Southern states from the 1890s.

o Idea existed that urbanism would eliminate racism as many blacks moved to urban areas to escape south.
- Migration to urban areas encouraged by economic pull to go somewhere else for jobs away from racism and low-wage southern agriculture.
- 35% blacks living in urban areas in 1920 compared to 65% by 1950.
- But, many Jim Crow laws being introduced were designed to also segregate urban areas so no real escape.


What characteristics of the Reconstruction era exploit the continuation of racism?

o Racial segregation
- Reconstruction Amendments aimed to promote enfranchisement of blacks however, this promoted development of legal social segregation.
- E.g. education split into 'white' and 'coloured' (explicitly stated in Birmingham Segregation Laws)

o Disenfranchisement
- New voting power of blacks compromised when white Democrats regained power.
- They passed laws making voter registration more restrictive e.g. provisions such as poll taxes, residency requirements and literacy tests were involved in registering to vote.
- Revival of wanting to disenfranchise blacks derived from fears that blacks wouldn't vote for the best interests of whites.

o Exploitation
- Increased economic oppression of blacks through denial of economic opportunities and widespread employment discrimination.
- Subjected to violence and intimidation by police.
- Etc.


In what ways did the war era (1941-45) contradict the racial prejudice becoming so prevalent in the US again?

o War generated labour demand that blacks were often encouraged to join.
- Propaganda posters promoted racial unity as part of war effort (1943 government poster with slogan, 'United we win').


How did the war era spur African American campaigns for equality?

o Many campaigns during the war period for African American access to defence jobs.

o National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) formed in 1909 - members increased from 50,000 to 450,000
- Suggests that blacks were increasingly becoming more involved in fight for equality due to being granted more opportunities through war.
- War veterans as confident, assertive and experienced beyond South, would turn up to register to vote in uniform, highlight link between war service and citizenship.

o War inspired new drive for black enfranchisement as vote recognised as starting point to provoking change.


Why is the Civil Rights Movement era characterised by events that took place in the 1950s/60s?

o Racism was profound during this period so much to protest.
- There existed a range of social segregation/discrimination which continued to intensify.

o Also driven by the affluence being experienced in US (esp. during 50s), giving rise to concerns that the celebration of the middle class lifestyle was displacing other conceptions of citizenship.

o By this period, many blacks (including some whites) had reached a breaking point so mobilised to launch an unprecedented fight against inequality that would span these 2 decades.


The events of the 1950s/60s Civil Rights era can be labelled as what?

o According to Baynard Rustin, one of the leaders of civil rights movement, the events of this period can be labelled as the 'classical' phase of the struggle.
- ‘Classical phase’ (according to Rustin) chronicles a fairly brief civil rights movement that begins with 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision, proceeds through public protests, and ends with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

o However, Jacquelyn Dowd Hall in 'The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past' emphasises importance of recognising fight for civil rights as a long one.
- Argues that ‘classical phase’ shouldn’t be focused on in isolation, must be seen in context of what had gone before (i.e. there had been numerous movements in previous centuries/fight for equality has been a long one – still continues today)


What are some key events during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s?

o Brown v Board of Education (1954)
o Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama (1955-6)
o Little Rock schools in Arkansas (1957-9)
o Greensboro in N. Carolina sit-ins (1960)
o Birmingham campaign (1963)
o Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama (1965)


Detail the Brown v Board of Education (1954).

o Sought to desegregate schools
- Prior to this event, education segregation was required by law mainly in the South.
- Black and white schools facing massive resistance from southern whites whom considered it unconstitutional

o Supreme Court ordered action with 'all deliberate speed' to desegregate all public schools.
- Considered separation of blacks and whites as unconstitutional.
- Court stated, ‘segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children.’

o However, reality was that desegregation was slow process.
- Exemplified through Little Rock.


What did the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama (1955-56) represent?

o Signified a shift to direct action within the movement.
- Mass community action representing how communities could mobilise over an issue.
- William Henry Chafe in 'The Unfinished Journey: America since World War II', describes the boycott as the mobilisation of blacks to demand a bus system in which passengers would be treated equally.

o Can be considered an isolated event as successful in the end but never followed up on/copied.


Who inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama (1955-56)?

o Sparked by Rosa Parks
- Prominent activist who became symbol of boycott
- Arrested when refused to give up seat on bus for white person (expectation at that time that seats where prioritised towards whites)
- Later hailed as ‘mother of the civil rights movement’.
- Just over a year later, the Montgomery bus boycott takes place.


What organisations were involved in the ontgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama (1955-56)?

o Variety of organisations involved:
- Women’s Political Council (Jo Ann Robinson a member of this and led the boycott)
- Unions
- Spurred formation of South Christian Leadership Conference (ML King leader - boycott marks his first real entry into Civil Rights campaign)


Detail the event of o Little Rock schools in Arkansas (1957-9).

o Involved Little Rock Central High School
- State governor used troops to exclude black pupils (prompted President Eisenhower to take action)
- Eisenhower ordered 1000 state paratroopers to ensure protected access, subject to harsh racism during attendance.
- Eventually, Little Rock closed its public school system completely rather than continue to integrate

o Other southern cities try to avoid Little Rock (racist) reputation and profile but many southern school systems followed suit by closing schools.

o Exemplifies how desegregation of schools enforced by Brown v Board was slow process.


Detail the Greensboro sit-ins (1960).

o College town

o Involved student sit-ins at Woolworth counter
- 4 college students took a stand against segregation when they refused to leave the lunch counter without being served.

o Inspired a wave of copy-cat actions.

o Sometimes police and other officials would use brutal force to physically escort the demonstrators from the lunch facilities.

o Helped to launch Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee
- Encouraging young people to become involved with the movement.


What did the Birmingham campaign (1963) entail?

o Birmingham marked most segregated city in US

o Campaign used variety of non-violent methods of confrontation like sit-ins and marches.


How did Martin Luther King play a significant role in the Birmingham campaign (1963)?

o Strategy of non-violent protest (ex. of King coming to local campaign in non-violent way)

o Provoked response from authorities, forcing federal intervention – instigated violence

o Heavily recorded as TV era so gained media publicity

o King jailed spurring thousands of black schoolchildren to march (this was the Children’s Crusade)
- While in jail he wrote famous ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’

o Bombings of church and homes, riots throughout city – chaotic protest.
- Referred to by ML King as ‘the whirlwinds of revolt.’

o President Kennedy intervened
- Mediated truce and desegregation of public facilities
- Appointed black officials and had more active civil rights division


Detail the Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama (1965).

o 3 protest marches organised by non-violent activists to demonstrate desire of black citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote


What were the protesting methods/strategies used by the Civil Rights Movement?

o Utilised various strategies, groups and organised social movements to accomplish goals of ending legalised racial segregation and discrimination.

o Predominantly carried out nonviolent campaigns and peaceful protest (Erik Erikson, Ghandi’s Truth: On the Origins of Militant Nonviolence)
- Often referred to as pacifism

o Practiced civil disobedience to highlight the inequalities facing blacks.


Who criticised the Civil Rights Movement?

o White southerners
- Opposed desegregation over fears that it would be the downfall of their race and promote interracial marriage.
- Many whites moved into suburbs to avoid mixed schools.

o Ku Klux Klan
- One of the most dangerous things to be was an NAACP organiser as target of the Klan.


What influence did the Cold War have on the Civil Rights era?

o The Cold War highlighted the hypocritical nature of the US.
- Soviets emphasised this by criticising US as 'leader of the free world' yet subjected many of its citizens to racial discrimination and violence.
- Mary Dudziak in Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy argues that hypocrisy claims was major factor in moving US government to support civil rights legislation.


What were the landmark federal achievements of the Civil Rights Movement of this period?

o Civil Rights Act (1964)
- Signed by President Johnson
- Banned discrimination based on 'race, color, religion, sex or national origin' in employment sectors and public accommodations.

o Voting Rights Act (1965)
- Spurred dramatic increase of blacks voting.

o Equal Employment Opportunities for Commission (1968)


What was the position of the Civil Rights Movement post 'classical' phase (1965 onwards)?

o Movement experiences shifts.

o Emphasis shifts to economic issues
- Whites beginning to fear blacks taking jobs and are actually becoming the favoured workers.

o President Johnson believed he had done what was needed, increasingly concerned with war in Vietnam so rights had fallen off his agenda so less engaged with issue.
- Begins to regard continuing protestors as not being grateful for what he has done for them as they cause disturbances.

o SLC declines following assassination of MLK in 1968.


What new organisation emerged to enforce the black power slogan?

o Black Panther Party (BPP) founded in 1966.
- Local focus but new images
- Initial core practice was its armed citizens’ patrols to monitor behaviour of police officers to challenge police brutality in California.
- Triggers ‘white backlash’
- Contrasts with MLK’s non-violence approach, many riots ensued



o Long-term civil rights struggle
o War and Cold War influences
o Migration to north and cities
o Development of a mass movement (through impatience of newer generations)
o Economic/social gains in 1960/70s, but elements of continued disadvantage