The Civil Rights Movement

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The civil rights movement in the middle of the 20th century marked an important point in the changing of race relations in the United States. Prior to and during the civil rights movement, African-Americans faced legally sanctioned persecution and Jim Crow justice at the hands of white Americans. Peaceful protests and other methods of civil disobedience were often met with aggression and violence from whites.

Although legally having the right to vote since the 19th century, many African-Americans were unable to practice their right. Poll taxes and often outright violence made exercising their right to vote difficult and dangerous. In 1961, Robert Parris Moses worked to register fellow African-Americans to vote, and he and his coworkers were met with much resistance from the white community. "Along with other SNCC workers who subsequently joined him and local blacks who supported them, Moses was harassed and beaten; he was jailed several times. The threat of violence discouraged most blacks from registering" (Albert, 69).

In the result of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional. This decision reversed the previous decision in the case of Plessy vs. Ferguson, ruling in favor of the legality of the separation of races, as long as the facilities were equal. After the legal ending of segregation, one of the major focuses of African-Americans was to integrate schools. They wanted their children to benefit from the better facilities of the schools for white children. Unfortunately, the integration of schools was also met with resistance and violence from white communities. The experience of Fred Schuttlesworth, shown left, and his wife, while trying to enroll in a white high s...

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... by local police departments. Even if the local police departments were forced into action, it is easy to imagine how few faced jail time suitable punishment when being tried in front of a jury of their white peers. Local police forces even encouraged vigilante justice by turning prisoners over after their release, another act for which participants were surely not held accountable. The violent stories that can be told of events during the civil rights movement illustrate the manner in which race, violence and crime combine, in a way that is difficult for many young Americans to relate with.

Works Cited

Albert, Peter J. and Ronald Hoffman Ed. We Shall Overcome: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Black Freedom Struggle. New York: Da Capo Press,c. 1990

Branch, Taylor. Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963 - 65. New York: Simon and Schuster. c. 1998.
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