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Historically, the Civil Rights Movement was a time during the 1950’s and 60’s to eliminate segregation and gain equal rights. Looking back on all the events, and dynamic figures it produced, this description is very vague. In order to fully understand the Civil Rights Movement, you have to go back to its origin. Most people believe that Rosa Parks began the whole civil rights movement. She did in fact propel the Civil Rights Movement to unprecedented heights but, its origin began in 1954 with Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka was the cornerstone for change in American History as a whole. Even before our nation birthed the controversial ruling on May 17, 1954 that stated separate educational facilities were inherently unequal, there was Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896 that argued by declaring that state laws establish separate public schools for black and white students denied black children equal educational opportunities. Some may argue that Plessy vs. Ferguson is in fact backdrop for the Civil Rights Movement, but I disagree. Plessy vs. Ferguson was ahead of it’s time so to speak. “Separate but equal” thinking remained the body of teachings in America until it was later reputed by Brown vs. Board of Education. In 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, and prompted The Montgomery Bus Boycott led by one of the most pivotal leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. After the gruesome death of Emmett Till in 1955 in which the main suspects were acquitted of beating, shooting, and throwing the fourteen year old African American boy in the Tallahatchie River, for “whistling at a white woman”, this country was well overdo for change.
Before any steps could be taken for the equality of human kind, we had the tackle the idea of intergrationism. This time is often referred to as the Nadir of American Race Relations, which simply put means that racism was at its worst during the time period of the Civil Rights Movement. Pulling together for equality proved to be a grueling task for Americans. In order to move into the future, one must let go of the past, and many people were not eager to abandon the beliefs that had been engrained in them since birth. Racial discrimination was present nationwide but the outrageous violence of African Americans in southern states became know as Jim Crow Laws.
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During the mid 1960’s some African Americans had had enough, that is when The Black Panther Party emerged formed by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. The Black Panther Party promoted civil rights coupled with self defense. This was a step back as far as Intergrationism is concerned. The Black Panther Party adopted the term “Black Power” which argued for black self-determination, and to assert that the assimilation inherent in integration robs Africans of their common heritage and dignity. Every idea or thought has a parent. Malcolm X was the father of “Black Power”. The teachings of The Black Panther Party poked holes in the efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. claiming that it unrealistic for African American’s to fully be accepted as equals in American society. The party remained an all-black organization but recognized that other minority communities needed to organize their own set of rules and encouraged alliances with such organizations. The party believes that African Americans did not reform to U.S. mainstream culture but became more oppressed by their own actions, because the teachings of “Black Power” never had the chance to be fully carried through.
The Civil Rights Movement in America made many things possible for Society. Through hard work, perseverance, determination, and unshakable faith, our ancestors carved a permanent pattern in the over all well being of mankind. Despite that fact that the ideas of our ancestors have been on two extreme ends of the spectrum as discussed, their main goal was to create as close to a utopian society as possible. During a time when fear was the common state, and could have been crippling, our ancestors used it as a driving force. It is scary to think about where we would be as Americans if Rosa Parks hadn’t stood up for what was right. Or Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t stress Intergrationism as the way to eliminate racial discrimination. Huey P. Newton made it possible for African American people to believe that we had the power to govern ourselves and be self sufficient without the help and guidance of other races. These two different ideas were in a tug of war during the Civil Right Movement in America. Neither is right nor wrong, both ideas have elements that contribute to our history as Americans, in that, there is no right or wrong.