Researching the History of the Civil Rights Movement

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Overview of a Search Process (Gardner), Followed by Student Findings While there are many histories of the Civil Rights Movement (including books and online sources) that I might have consulted, I deliberately restricted my search to three sources?Facts on File, The New York Times Index, and The Reader?s Guide to Periodical Literature?in order to assess how magazine and newspaper coverage of the time reported events that we now understand as historically significant. One of the first things I discovered was that ?Civil Rights Movement? wasn?t a heading in the Times Index: this suggests that the various attempts to boycott businesses and local bus services, or integrate lunch counters, were still so separate and so small as to gather little national attention. Still the most productive heading for 1955 (as it was for 1943) was the term ?Negroes,? whether I looked in the Times Index or the Readers? Guide. Under this heading in the Times Index, I found articles reporting that the Interstate Commerce Commission, following the 1954 Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, banned segregation on interstate bus and railroad lines. Later in the year, the Supreme Court itself banned segregation of public parks, beaches, and golf courses?a ruling bitterly protested by a number of white Southern leaders as soon as it was announced. Using ?Negroes? as a subject heading in the Readers? Guide, I found several articles on black economic prospects, with titles ranging from ?The Negro?s Economic Progress? (America 1/15/55) to ?Wanted: Qualified Negroes? (Time 11/07/55). Under the subheading of Psychology I found an article entitled ?When Schools Are Mixed, Will Standards Fall?? (U. S. News and World Report 4/22/55), which s... ... middle of paper ... millions of black readers (people who actually cared about the subject) read what he had to say. Baldwin called out to blacks to stand up for what they believe in. By publishing his work in places that would receive attention from those that agreed with him, he in a way paved the path for a ?boycott? and a protest against the way that blacks were treated. He fueled the civil rights movement by calling out to blacks to demand equal rights and fight against the injustices that blacks experienced everyday because of the whites. Just as Rosa Parks brought attention to the unfair treatment that blacks received, Baldwin told stories about the unfair treatment he and his family received. Although not immediately evident Baldwin used a specific strategy to affect society with his writing by publishing it where it would be seen and read by people who cared about the issue.

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