The Civil Rights Movement
What are “Civil Rights” ?
Civil Rights means equal rights and fair treatment for all citizens as guaranteed by our Constitution regardless of race or other distinctions (such as gender, religion, sexuality, etc.)
What is the greatest power you have as an Americancitizen ?
Does our Constitution give you the right to vote just because you are a citizen ?
African American Voting Rights Gained and Denied
15thAmendment • 1869 • The right of citizens to vote shall not be denied on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
But did the 15th Amendment guarantee that African Americans would be able to vote ?
Poll Tax a fee charged for voting
Literacy Tests • Reading tests given to prove a person was literate (able to read) in order to register to vote • Often included questions, such as • “How many words are in the Constitution?” • “How many bubbles are in a bar of soap?” • “Write a one page essay explaining Article II of the Mississippi State Constitution.”
How could poll taxes and literacy tests keep African Americans from voting ?
Grandfather Clause • Laws that exempted voters from the literacy test or poll tax if they had voted before or if their grandfathers had voted • This ensured that even poor illiterate whites could vote.
Plessy v. Ferguson 1896 - Supreme Court ruled that segregation of the races was legal as long as the public facilities provided were essentially equal. “Separate but equal” became the standard as several more Southern states legalized segregation.
Jim Crow Laws After the Civil War ex -Confederate states passed laws that required separation of the races. When the Supreme Court ruled that such laws were legal (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896), several more southern states began to separate Blacks and Whites. Bus Station in Dallas, Texas
Segregation • A policy of keeping the races separated in public facilities. • Different schools, parks, restaurants, hospitals, etc. for different races
discrimination Unfair treatment because of differences in race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc.
The Slow Progress Toward African American Civil Rights
W.E.B. DuBois • First Black man to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University • Founded the NAACP in 1909 • Demanded immediate and full equality for African Americans
NAACP • Founded in 1909 • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People • Organization dedicated to achieving equality for people of all races and ending racial violence in the South
But the first real breakthrough for African American Civil Rights comes 60 years after the Plessy v. Ferguson case . . .
Brown v. Topeka Board of Education Oliver Brown 9 year old Linda Brown
Brown v. Topeka Board of Education • May, 1954 • Supreme Court case • Ruled that separate facilities could never really be equal. (Overturned Plessy v. Ferguson ) • Declared segregated schools were illegal • The Court ordered schools to integrate the races with “all deliberate speed.”
But what does “all deliberate speed” really mean ?
So school districts in Southern states begin the process of “integration” slowly and deliberately.
Integration The process of combining the races in public facilities (de-segregation) Clinton, TN Schools Integrated: Dec. 1956
Do you think the process of integrating schools went smoothly ?
Little Rock Central High School • 1957 • The Governor of Arkansas defied the Supreme Court and President Eisenhower by refusing to integrate Central High. • The Governor used National Guard troops to block the entry of 9 African-American students who had volunteer to be the first to attend this all white school.
The Little Rock Nine • Mobs of angry Whites swarmed the high school to protest integration. • President Eisenhower placed the National Guard under federal control. • He then sent more federal troops (101st Airborne) to Little Rock to escort the “Little Rock Nine” to classes.
Army transport of Black students to Central High School was necessary for their protection all year.
101st Airborne escort the Little Rock Nine into Central High School and stand guard outside their classrooms throughout the day.
Teacher – not a student The Little Rock Nine
The Little Rock Nine 50 years later attend the dedication ceremony of a museum built in their honor (2007).
But de-segregation of public schools was only the beginning. Much more work would need to be done.
The question became HOW ?
Peaceful Strategies and People
Henry David Thoreau Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? 1849
Translation: When a law is bad, BREAK IT!
Civil Disobedience • Citizens have a duty to disobey a law when it is unjust, especially when it’s unjust to others. • Always involves non-violence • Method adopted by many civil rights leaders and activists • Those who choose to break the law must be willing to suffer the consequences.
Passive Resistance Ancient strategy of non-violent protest and civil disobedience use throughout history to bring about social and political change. Made famous by Mahatma Gandhi in overthrowing the British control of India.
Boycott • People refuse to buy goods and services from a business. • This causes an economic hardship on the company and sometimes forces them to change their policy. • It’s a very effective strategy when large numbers of people participate. • This strategy was used by the American colonists before the Revolutionary War to force England to repeal tax laws.
Sit-in • Non violent strategy in which protestors (both Black and White) go to a segregated business (such as a restaurant), sit down, and attempt to place an order. • If they are refused service, they just sit there until forced to leave by the police. • Business operators must choose between serving Black customers or having their business disrupted and loosing profit.
February 1960 - Sit-in at a lunch counter in Greensboro North Carolina
April, 1960Home of Nashville attorney who defended sit-in participants was bombed.
March • A form of non-violent protest • A large group of people walk together and meet at a designated endpoint. • Usually the march ends in a rally with motivational speakers. • Our 1st Amendment right to peaceful assembly gives protestors the right march peacefully.
Peaceful Organizations Activists & Protests