Civil Rights for Blacks in America

Civil Rights for Blacks in America

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Civil rights are the freedoms and rights that a person may have as a
member of a community, state, or nation. Civil rights include freedom
of speech, of the press, and of religion. Among others are the right
to own property, and to receive fair and equal treatment from
government, other persons, and private groups.

In democratic countries, civil rights are protected by law and custom.
The constitutions of many democracies have bills of rights that
describe basic liberties and rights. Courts of law decide whether a
person's civil rights have been violated. The courts also determine
the limits of civil rights, so that people do not use their freedoms
in order to violate the rights of others.

In many nondemocratic countries, the government claims to respect and
guarantee civil rights. But in most of these countries, such claims
differ greatly from the actual conditions. In some Communist
countries, for example, the people are denied such basic rights as
freedom of speech and of the press. Yet their constitutions guarantee
these rights.

Some people draw sharp distinctions between civil liberties and civil
rights. They regard civil liberties as guarantees to a person against
government interference. They think of civil rights as guarantees of
equal treatment for all people. For example, civil liberties would
include freedom from government interference with a person's right to
free speech. Civil rights would include the right of all people to
receive equal protection of the law. Civil rights often refer to the
condition and treatment of minority groups. In this article, the term
civil rights refer to both civil liberties and civil rights.

Limits of civil rights

All civil rights have limits, even in democratic countries. For
example, a person may be denied freedom of speech in a democracy if it
can be shown that his or her speech might lead to the overthrow of the
government. A person may not use civil rights to justify actions that
might seriously harm the health, welfare, safety, or morals of others.

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A person may be denied a civil right if that right is used to violate
other people's rights. Freedom of expression, for example, does not
permit a person to tell lies that ruin another person's reputation.
Property owners have the right to do what they choose with their
property. However, this right may not allow a person legally to refuse
to sell property to a person of a certain race or religion. This is
because the property owner would be denying the other person equal
freedom of choice.

Examples of civil rights

The basic civil rights recognized by most democratic countries are
freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceful
assembly. These rights are guaranteed under the constitutions of many

Legislation may guarantee other rights concerned with the process of
law. These include protection against arrest and detention without
good reason, the right to jury trial, and protection against being
tried twice for the same offence. In addition, people and property may
not be wrongfully searched or seized and excessive or unusual
punishments may not be inflicted.

Rights against discrimination protect minority groups and ensure equal
rights and opportunities for all people regardless of race, sex,
religion, age, or disability. Laws exist in many countries to give
equal rights to all men and women regardless of their race or
religion. But in some countries, discrimination on racial or religious
grounds is part of government policy.

Rights to form trades unions are intended to protect workers from
exploitation by their employers. In many countries, workers are still
fighting for the right to organize and to campaign for better pay,
improved working conditions, and the right to strike.

Campaigning for civil rights

Most civil rights campaigns consist of public meetings, marches, and
other protests, such as people sitting down on a public highway. Such
campaigns make other people aware of the issues and demonstrate
popular support. They also include taking test cases to court and
lobbying parliamentarians in an effort to change legislation.

One of the most bitter civil rights campaigns was that of black
Americans in the United States, who campaigned for equal rights from
the 1800's. This campaign continued through the 1900's, and led to a
major protest movement during the 1950's and 1960's which resulted in
important civil rights legislation to end discrimination against black

Since the 1970's, when ant discrimination laws were passed in many
countries, civil rights campaigns have emphasized affirmative action
to counteract past discrimination. Provisions may be made to encourage
the employment of disadvantaged groups or to give them special help in
education. But this raises a number of other civil rights issues. For
instance, white men may complain that they are discriminated against
because priority is given to black people and to women. Some religious
groups may demand their own schools or single-sex education, whereas
other people are working to encourage mixed education for children of
all races and religions.

Development of civil rights


The idea that people have certain rights that cannot be taken away
probably began thousands of years ago with the theory of natural law.
This theory states that a natural order exists in the universe because
all things are created by nature, or God. Everything has its own
qualities and is subject to the rules of nature to achieve its full
potential. According to this theory, anything that detracts from a
person's human qualities, or prevents their full achievement, violates
the laws of nature.

The ancient Greek philosophers and the writers of the Old Testament
stressed that there is a higher law than human law. In the first
century B.C., the Roman philosopher Cicero insisted that this higher
(natural) law is universal and can be discovered through human reason.
This idea led to the belief that governmental power has limits, and
that people and governments everywhere are bound by natural law.

Some of the most historic English legal documents are based on the
principles of natural law. The earliest and most famous was Magna
Carta, which the king approved against his will in 1215. The document
placed the king himself under the law. In 1628, the English Parliament
drew up a Petition of Right. The petition claimed that certain actions
of the king, such as levying taxes without the consent of Parliament,
were unconstitutional.


Natural law had always stressed the duties more than the rights of
government and individuals. But during the late 1600's, the natural
law tradition began to emphasize natural rights. The change was
brought about largely by the writings of the English philosopher John

Locke argued that governmental authority depends on the people's
consent. According to Locke, people originally lived in a state of
nature with no restrictions on their freedom. Then they came to
realize that confusion would result if each person enforced his or her
own rights. People agreed to live under a common government, but not
to surrender their "rights of nature" to the government. Instead, they
expected the government to protect these rights, especially the rights
of life, liberty, and property. Locke's ideas of limited government
and natural rights became part of the English Bill of Rights (1689),
the French Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789), and the U.S. Bill
of Rights (1791).

Today, many scholars reject the natural law and natural rights
theories. These scholars believe that all laws--including those
guaranteeing civil rights--are simply devices that people find
convenient or useful at a particular time. Nevertheless, nearly all
civil rights laws have resulted from the theories of natural law and
natural rights.


Civil rights have long been protected in the constitutional
democracies of Western Europe. These nations include France, Great
Britain, Switzerland, and the Scandinavian countries. Personal
liberties are also secure in such newer democracies as Australia, New
Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Many new nations of Africa and
Asia have adopted constitutions that guarantee basic civil rights. But
in many of these countries, unstable governments and inexperience with
self-rule have often led to political arrests, censorship, and other
denials of civil rights.

Most nondemocratic governments claim to protect civil rights. But in
practice, they grant civil rights only when they find it politically
convenient to do so. The civil rights tradition is weak in many
Latin-American countries. Most Communist nations have constitutions
that guarantee the people basic rights and liberties, but the
governments have seldom enforced these rights. China's Constitution,
for example, guarantees the right to vote and assures freedom of
speech, of the press, and of assembly. But China's Communist Party
completely controls the government, and the Chinese people may be
punished if they publicly criticize the party. The Chinese government
controls the newspapers and other forms of communication.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a Universal Declaration of
Human Rights in 1948. It states that all people are born free and are
equal in dignity and rights. Many experts in international law believe
that the declaration lacks legal authority, but most agree that it has
high moral authority.


Source A show how white people are against blacks going to mixed
schools after the law was passed in 1964 that segregation in schools
was not allowed. The source is from a black girl's point of view on
her first day going to a mixed school. The girl's name is Elizabeth
Eckford. In this source it describes how she was stopped at the front
of the school by an armed man who refused to let her in.

"When I got to the front of the school, I went up to the guard. He
didn't move. When I tried to squeeze past him he raised his bayonet"

This source shows the difficulty faced by blacks going to a mixed
school. White people were determined to stop the blacks getting in to
the schools.

"The crowd came towards me, calling me names"

This source shows that even though the laws had changed white people
were still against mixing blacks and whites.

"Somebody shouted, "lynch her! lynch her"

This quotation shows that whites were still prepared to treat the
blacks badly and were determined not to mix with them. The guards
stopping the blacks from entering the schools were not sent by the
government but by the Governor of Arkansas to show that they were not
happy with the law and would not follow it.


Source B supports Source A because it shows how opposed whites were to
blacks attending mixed schools.

Source B states:

"The crowd let out a roar of rage. Oh God, "said a woman, "the Negroes
are in school."

Source A shows the white people have the same attitudes towards the
blacks as in

Source B.

Source A states:

"They came towards me calling me names …..Somebody shouted "lynch her!
lynch her"

Source C also supports Source A because it shows the black girl
Elizabeth Eckford on her way to her new school with a crowd of white
people behind her shouting and spitting at her.

However Source B does not support Source A in the way that Source A
states that Elizabeth Eckford was not able to enter the school because
the guards would not let her past. Where as in Source B it states that
the blacks entered the school.

Source B states:

"They've gone in, "a man shouted, "the Negroes are in our school,
"they howled hysterically"

Source A states:

"When I got to the front of the school, I went up to the guard. He
didn't move. When I tried to squeeze past him he raised his bayonet"

Source C does not support Source A in the way that it does not show
the guards stopping the black girl from entering the school.

The reason for Source B not supporting Source A is because B is taken
from point of view of the white people around the school: whereas A is
from the girl's point of view. The whites wanted support in stopping
the blacks from going to the same school as their white children so
they over-reacted and made a scene to get sympathy and gain support
from the other whites. Source C does not support Source A because
although it shows the white crowd around the black girl shouting and
spitting at her it does not actually show the guards physically
stopping her from entering the school.


The aims of Martin Luther King (MLK) and Malcolm X (MX) were different
in the way that MLK believed strongly in integration. He wanted to
gain the respect of whites so blacks and whites can work together. I
know this because Source D states

"When the Negro uses force in self-defence he does not lose support,
he may even win it, by the courage and self respect it reflects"

MX aimed for equal rights for blacks as well as MLK but he didn't want
integration; he wanted separation between blacks and whites.

Source E states:

"It has always been the case with white people that even though we
might be with them, we weren't considered to be part of them…which I
try to point out to these integration hungry Negroes about their
"liberal white friends"

This source shows that MX was against MLK strongly. MX makes it clear
in this quotation that he does not want to make friends with the
whites his only aim is equality.

This quotation also shows that MX were against MLK "integration hungry
Negroes" aimed at other civil rights leaders i.e. MLK. The methods of
MLK and MX were also different in the way that MLK believed in slow
gradual change and achieving this with non-violent protest.

Source E States:

"It is unfortunately true that however the Negro acts his struggle
will not be free of violence begun by his enemies…But if he seeks it
and organises it he cannot win"

MX believed in revolution, quick change, he believed in using violence
to get this change.

Source F states:

"The Negroes revolt will merge into the worldwide black revolution…The
so-called revolt will become a real black revolution. Revolutions over
turn systems"

In this quote MX uses the term Revolution in a strong manner, which
implies he is going to use violence to get the revolution.


Source G shows how public opinion changed between 1961 to 1964. In
1961 and 1962 Source G shows us that the most important problem
according to the public were prices, inflation and war. However, in
1963 and 1964 the biggest problems were racial problems and
integration. One of the reasons for the public's opinion changing was
because in 1963 and 1964 the public were being shown pictures in
newspapers of how badly black protesters were being treated. This is
shown in Source H. The news was showing graphic pictures of the
non-violent protesters being beaten and set on by dogs and water

Source I states:

"The protesters came into conflict with the police…men broke up
demonstrators with water cannons, dogs and baton charges. They made
500 arrests…These events were fully reported on by national press"

The public's opinion also changed because they were greatly exposed to
the civil rights movements such as the march on Washington1963. The
public was exposed to civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King
(MLK) and Malcolm X (MX), which meant they were able to get their
views across and influence whites people to follow them. They were
able to show how blacks were really being treated. JFK strongly
supported the civil rights movement, which influenced whites to follow
him. In 1963 JFK was assassinated which showed people really how bad
racism was and people began to take more notice of his ideas.


Source H and I tells us that the methods used by Martin Luther King
(MLK) in Source D were successful and he was supported by many black
leaders. It also shows that MLK didn't use violence in his method.
Source H shows non-violent protesters being broken up by the police
using water cannons. Source I is a report describing Source H. Source
H and I show that the methods used by MLK were successful in the way
that the non-violent protest was reported on by the national press and
the reporters filmed the police using water cannons, dogs and baton
charges. This is a successful way of showing the world how badly
blacks were being treated.

Source I states:

"The protesters came in conflict with the police…men broke up
demonstrators with water cannons, dogs and baton charges. These events
were fully reported by the national press and television…Many whites
were sickened by the brutality"

However all the other civil rights leaders like Malcolm X (MX) and his
supporters did not support MLK. MLK was not supported by other black
activists because of his non-violent methods and his aims for
integration. The other black activists i.e. MX aimed for separation.
MX believed in fighting for his rights and quick change. MLK got laws
changed but people's attitudes didn't.


By the late 1960's the civil rights movement had been successful in
the way that

Ø Segregation on buses was made illegal

Ø Civil rights act was passed which states that there is to be no
discrimination on busses, in jobs, schools, hotels etc

Ø Equal employment

Ø Voting rights act

Ø Mixed race marriages were made legal

Ø No discrimination

Source K also shows that the registers were increasing. The number of
blacks voting had gone up in the southern states. 1964 to 1968 voting
numbers did improve.

Source K states:
















South Carolina



Source J shows that still not many black people were successful
however, Source J shows that there is still a large number of blacks
living below the poverty line:

Racial Group

Number Of People Below The Poverty Line

Percentage Of People Below The Poverty Line




Black and Other



Source J show that although the laws were being passed, people's
attitudes were not changing. Blacks were still treated badly. Using my
own knowledge I know that there were many failures:

v In the northern cities many blacks were still living in Ghettos with
poor health care and high unemployment

v Whites still had a better income

v There was high infant mortality in black families

v The police force was still predominantly white

Overall there were many successes in the civil rights movement in the
way that many laws were passed but there was still a lot of racism
among the majority of whites towards blacks. This still presents
problems for blacks in the way that they were still getting treated
badly. This shows overall there were not really many successes for


Television played an important role in end of segregation. Before the
1960's civil rights movements such as speeches and marches, were not
shown on television or in newspapers. This meant that most people were
unaware of the brutality blacks faced every day by white people and
the authorities. Television was important in the way that the nation
was being exposed to the way that blacks were being treated. This
changed people's views about blacks and many whites become sickened by
how the non-violent protesters were being treated.

Source I states:

"Many whites previously in differed to the campaign were now sickened
by this brutality"

By the 1960's 90% of Americans had televisions, which meant the
majority of people were exposed to the way blacks were treated. I
agree with Source L in the way that television played a big part in
the ending of segregation.

Source L states:

"Before television the public in the USA had no idea of the abuses
blacks suffered in the South"

However I do thing the author of source L is a bit biased in way that
he states:

"We made it impossible for congress not to act"

This statement is being biased to the television station he works for
and he is trying to promote it. There are also other factors that
contributed to the ending of segregation such as:

· newspapers were fully reporting on the civil rights movements. A lot
of people buy newspapers so a lot of people were being exposed to the
movements through the news.

Source B is taken from an article from New York Times, September 1957,
describing the reaction in Little Rock High School to the arrival of
the students:

"The crowd let out a roar or rage, "they've gone in" a man
shouted…"the Negroes are in our school"

Martin Luther King (MLK) and other black power groups such as Malcolm
X (MX) were shown on television and in newspapers all over the world.
This meant people were being exposed to their views, which influenced
many people. Speeches were shown on television given by the civil
rights leaders such as MLK and MX, which thousands of people black and
white attended. This meant the leaders were able to express their
views clearly. The civil rights leaders published books which meant
they could tell the nation in a lot more detail how hard thing were
for blacks.

Towards the last years of JFK's life he strongly supported and
followed the civil rights movements, which influenced the nation to
follow him. When JFK was assassinated by a white youth (part of a
group against blacks) it showed the nation how serious the racism was
and how badly something needed to be done about it.

Overall I agree that television played a major part in the ending of
segregation but I do think that civil rights leaders and JFK played a
major part in the ending of segregation as well.
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