The Civil Rights movement has a long and complicated history in the United States, and this sample essay seeks to explain the major players and groups responsible for the fight for civil rights in the latter half of the 20th century.
The United States history of civil rights
The Civil Rights movement in the USA has been studied with attention placed on nearly every single detail, and the many different angles from which it was fought. The movement is considered by some now as a singular one, but in reality, there were various different approaches being taken from different groups and forces to ensure the different end goals of each group.
African Americans start the civil rights movement
Two movements that were highly visible at the heights of the 20th century Civil Rights movement by African Americans, are the Militant ones and the more peaceful non-violent approaches that involved peaceful resistance. Black Nationalism Movements like the Black Panthers, and the nation of Islam were representative of the militant groups and believed in racial pride and obtaining rights at any cost.
Other groups that sought to secure their rights through peaceful measures were the RCNL and the SNCC. Each group hoped for the betterment of their rights through either equalization, or both equalization and integration.
The militant nationalistic movements fought hard to ensure their rights for many years starting from the 19th century and even before that century. The main objective was not to integrate but ensure that there was economic prosperity and independence from the white people, as well as a consideration of African heritage and custom. This started very early on with the arrival of Africans to the United States as slaves.
Individuals like Absalom Jones in the 18th century were already discussing how the blacks were moving too far away from African identity and were seeing their circumstances and decisions along European and American ideologies (Jones, 260). 3 centuries later these ideologies would turn into entire movements that groups like the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam would espouse during the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century.
Bringing attention to civil rights in the United States
The movements would secure the rights movement by drawing the attention of thousands of people and shining a light on the fact that many blacks were seeking not only integration, but also the need for an identity that allowed the central focus to be centered on the experience, culture and history of being a black citizen in the United States. These activities went a long way towards influencing Afrocentrism and bringing black studies and culture into classroom settings and being incorporated into college curriculums.
Other groups like the SNCC and the RCNL focused on more inclusive activities that concentrated on integration and equality. These movements were successful and came to represent the core of the civil rights movement from the 1950s-1960s. These movements grew so large that they were operating in interconnected ways and on national scales that made them visible not only domestically, but internationally too.
The approach was to peacefully resist inequality and injustice in manners seen in other nations like India. The approach was successful and the desire for integration and equality, coupled with no violence, made their movement that was supported by a substantial portion of the US.
These groups were not always initially for integration, like with the RCNL that started out being okay with the concept of being “separate”, and rather focused on the issue of being “equal”, but even they later came to join with SNCC and their integration initiatives (Perlstein, 314).
The groups were not static however, and the RCNL eventually died out and was replaced by the SNCC in many parts of the south, and the SNCC itself would move away from nonviolence and align itself with the Black Nationalism, before also dying out in the 1970s.
Despite the eventual changes that would be seen by the groups, their impact was widely felt and they highlighted the concerns of the movement and brought national attention on a continuous basis by organizing sit-ins and protests against laws and circumstances that were seen as outdated, unfair and pervasive.
The end result
The many different approaches taken during the Civil Rights movement all worked on the same types of goals, but in different manners. All the groups wanted equality and fairness, as well as the ability to live the types of lives they wanted without invisible barriers and oppressive laws holding back their development. Some came at it from the angle of wanting to stay separate, but wanting to be equal in opportunities, while others felt that while there was separation, there could never be equality and fairness.
The combination of the efforts across every corner of the nation brought the movement to center stage and grew it in number and fervency to the point that it could no longer be ignored, and could not be contained, ultimately leading to victories and successes across the country, and eventually on a national stage.
Jones, Rhett S. “Structural Isolation and the Genesis of Black Nationalism in North America” Colby Quarterly Journal 15.4 (1979): 252-256.
Daniel Perlstein. “Teaching Freedom: SNCC and the Creation of the Mississippi Freedom Schools.” History of Education Quarterly 30.3 (1990): 297-324.