The Civil Rights Movement took the better part of two decades and deeply changed the ways in which the United States conducted itself towards its own citizens. The Cold War helped spur the civil rights movement in the sense that the government faced large attacks on its claims of freedom, equality, and democracy abroad, given its own domestic contradictions.
This sample edited research paper focuses on the Civil Rights Movement and its impact on American domestic policy.
What is the Civil Rights movement?
The Civil Rights Movement is a long-lasting fight for equality that spans nearly all nationalities and most continents of the globe to this day still. However, it is more commonly understood as that time period in the United States, during the 1950s and 1960s, where African Americans, as well as Latino-Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans began in earnest to finally make headway in their unending charge for freedom from the injurious injustices of inequality.
Several contributing factors aided in this endeavor, including (to a substantial amount) the international affairs of the United States and other foreign nations. In Mary L. Dudziak’s book, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy, Barbara Sargent (married to the pastor of the American Church in Paris) describes a civil rights meeting that took place in a Paris night club called the Living Room with about 100 people attending:
[M]any of the negroes asked if there was anything they could do. The pianist…Art Simmons spoke movingly of being forced every night to explain to foreigners something about America which he could not really explain to himself. They all felt that as jazz musicians they were the most influential unofficial ambassador’s [sic] that America had…so they began to plan.
Americans abroad, as well as foreigners, could see the problems rife within America, thus even jazz musicians began working on plans in an attempt to stop the insistence that people of color were second-class citizens devoid of rights.
The Cold War acted as catalyst to Civil Rights
The Cold War had a massive influence on the Civil Rights Movement, but also acted as an impediment. Communist Russia asserted that America’s inequality problems strengthened the points Russia had been espousing all along. However, this further complicated and divided things in America. Many African Americans joined the Communist Party simply because of its aspects of equality, and many racists used the “Red Scare,” effectively white-washing the issue of racism so that it was hid behind a political narrative. It was also a real danger to speak of any causes that seemed too left, for fear of being harangued and locked away by the McCarthy era goon squad. The Civil Rights Movement was swallowed up in all the hubbub.
Even before this, the inequalities in the U.S. were of concern to leaders of the nation. President Truman often said civil rights were needed to keep smooth relations with foreign nations. Even Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, remarked:
“the existence of discrimination against minority groups in this country has an adverse effect upon our relations with other countries.”
This is notable because Acheson was not an outspoken advocate for racial equality. Even he realized the country’s desperate need. A famous example of this is when the Ambassador to Chad was refused service in Maryland on his way to meet President Kennedy because, according to the waitress:
“He looked like just an ordinary run of the mill nigger to me.”
Foreign nations pushed America to accept the Civil Rights Movement
Foreign nations learning of these incidents through long-distance news, or (as in the ambassador’s case) in first-person changed their policies toward the U.S. which put pressure on the U.S. to create amenable domestic policy in order to find success in creating amenable foreign policy with other nations. The fights were fought and won on many fronts, with more foreign allies that one might initially have thought. Many history research papers recount the Civil Rights movement not only as a change to American history but a catalyst for world-wide change.
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