The Emergence of Civil Rights in the 1950's

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The Emergence of Civil Rights in the 1950's The civil rights movement is the title given to the concerted effort to gain greater social, political and economic equality for black Americans which, it has been argued, emerged in its most recognisable form during the 1950s. To many, the civil rights movement was one of the greatest reform impulses of the twentieth century and its many victories have included such things as the Supreme Court decision in 1954 which declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional, the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-1956, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting rights act of 1965 (White, 1991, p.9). Nevertheless, the reasons behind the emergence of the modern civil rights movement in the 1950s have continued to be a subject of debate throughout the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond. Many have seen the Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education decision of 1954 as a watershed in both legal and political terms which provided the impetus for a civil rights movement to emerge during the latter half of the 1950s. Indeed, many contemporaries such as Mary Ellison saw the Brown decision as ‘the avenging angel of a Gothic tragedy’ (Verney, 2000, p.45) instantly casting aside decades of injustice. However, whilst this view does, perhaps, hold some truth and therefore deserves to be examined, what this essay will hope to show is that the Brown decision can not simply be viewed as a bolt of lightening from a clear sky and was not solely responsible for the onset of the civil rights movement in the 1950s. Indeed, an examination of other Supreme Court rulings which would at first ... ... middle of paper ... ...ess) Cook, R. (1998) Sweet Land of Liberty? (New York: Longman) Heale, M.J. (2004) Twentieth Century America (London: Arnold) Martin Riches, W.T. (1997) The Civil Rights Movement (New York: Palgrave) Sitkoff, H. (1981) The Struggle for Black Equality 1954-1980 (New York: Hill and Wang) Tindall, G.B. & Shi, D.E. (2004) America: A Narrative History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.) Verney, K. (2000) Black Civil Rights in America (London: Routledge) White, J. (1991) Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement in America (British Association for American Studies) Morris, A.D. (1999) A Retrospective on the Civil Rights Movement in Annual Review of Sociology (1999, p.517) Rathbone, M. (2004) The US Supreme Court and Civil Rights in History Review (March 2004, Issue 48, pp.41-46)

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