The CRM made important strides in challenging discrimination and the reduced status of African Americans. What changes? Three important elements led to this shift:
Black Americans realised that they would need to be organised in order to fight for equal rights. Churches often took the lead in organising communities. A central and very important organisation was the:
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE – NAACP
(formed in 1909 by Web Du Bois). It was dedicated to creating an integrated society and used the law courts to challenge unfair discrimination. It also did much to raise the level of awareness of the practices of discrimination and segregation. They were involved in the ‘Little Rock Nine’ integration into their Arkansas high school.
SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE – SCLC (in 1957). Formed after the Montgomery Bus Boycott and led by Martin Luther King Jr.
STUDENT NON-VIOLENT COORDINATING COMMITTEE – SNCC – organised the Sit-ins.
CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY – CORE – organised Freedom Rides.
Tactics used by the CRM
Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955
*Refer to other notes and textbook on Rosa Parks and the boycott. The boycott lasted 381 days.Ninety-eight percent of Montgomery’s African American population participated. Nearly 100 people were arrested, including Martin Luther King Jr.
Outcome: The U.S. Supreme Court said that segregation on buses was against the law, and the bus boycott came to an end. The Supreme Court outlawed segregation on buses in 1956.
Little Rock 1957 (The Little Rock Nine)
In 1954, following the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the US Supreme Court banned segregations in school. The case for desegregation was largely argued by an African American lawyer, Thurgood Marshall. Despite this, schools in the south resisted and the transition to mixed schools was a long and bitter one.
*Refer to other notes and textbook
Elizabeth Eckford as she makes her way to school being mobbed by an angry crowd. President Eisenhower called out 1000 Federal paratroopers against the Governor or Arkansas, who was using the National Guard to prevent these students from taking their place in the school. The NAACP organised the students’ integration.
The Little Rock Nine being escorted.
Outcome: the governor of Arkansas was forced to allow the segregation of the Little Rock Nine at Central High School.
The ‘Greenboro’ four who sat down in a segregated lunch bar in Woolworths in Greenboro, North Carolina. This sparked a massive campaign of similar non-violent civil disobedience, including wade in, play in (parks), read ins (libraries) and kneel ins (churches)¸ all resulting in media attention and the eventual desegregation of public facilities and places. The Greenboro four and their fellow protesters were violently attacked with ‘fists and brass knuckles’ and ‘burned with cigarettes’.
*Refer to other notes.
Outcome: The sit-ins and similar protests brought a measure of success as schools and stores were desegregated in many towns in the South.
Freedom Riders 1961
*Refer to other notes and textbook. Organised by CORE.
‘We planned the Freedom ride with the specific intention of creating a crisis. WE were counting on the bigots in the South to do our work for us. We figured that the government would have to respond if we created a situation that was headline news all over the world, and affected the nation’s image abroad.’ James Farmer, of CORE.
Outcome: Segregation in interstate bus travel was outlawed.
NAACP, CORE and SNCC co-operated to organise its ‘Freedom Summer’ campaign. This involved black and white civil rights campaigners encouraging black to register as voters. Volunteers focused on Mississippi, establishing 30 Freedom Schools. JF Kennedy supported this movement. The organisations of the CRM ran courses to train black Americans in voting procedures. ‘Freedom schools’ taught basic literacy and black history, and focused on black pride and achievements. These schools were targets for the Ku Klux Klan. These projects were met with violence and intimidation – churches were bombed, hundreds were beaten and three young campaigners were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. (Their deaths were the basis of the film Mississippi Burning) The killer was only brought to justice in 2005.
Outcome: Despite the violence, 60 000 new voters were registered.
Martin Luther King Jr and Mass Marches
Birmingham, Washington and Selma-Montgomery
Martin Luther King Jr organised and led marches for blacks’ right to vote, desegregation, labour rights and other basic civil rights. King and fellow civil rights activists took part in mass marches across the southern states in America.
The march in Birmingham in 1963 aimed to expose racism on a national level. In this he was successful. Police Chief, Bull Connor, ordered dogs to be set on the protesters, and they also used high-power water hoses. As a result, Kennedy pressurised the governor of Alabama to desegregate Birmingham. Martin Luther King Jr was arrested or his part in the protests.
Outcome: the racism and brutality of the South was exposed and placed in the media
In August, 1963 King organised a march to Washington in order to persuade President Kennedy to introduce a civil rights bill. Approximately 250 000 people marched on Washington, and King delivered his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. This was effective in raising public consciousness of the Civil Rights Movement.
This occurred in Selma (Alabama) in 1965 when the mob and police brutality turned against demonstrators on their Freedom March. As marchers were leaving Selma, mounted police beat and tear-gassed them. Televised footage of the scene, called ‘Bloody Sunday’, shocked many Americans and was broadcast extensively and aroused national public outrage. Martin Luther King Jr delivered another famous speech, referred to as ‘How Long, Not Long’, after the completion of the march from Selma to Montgomery.
Excerpt from MLK’s speech:
“Once more the method of non-violent resistance was unsheathed from its scabbard, and once again an entire community was mobilized to confront the adversary. And again the brutality of a dying order shrieks across the land. Yet, Selma, Alabama, became a shining moment in the conscience of man. If the worst in American life lurked in its dark street, the best of American instincts arose passionately from across the nation to overcome it… How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Outcome: In 1965 the US Congress passed the Voting Rights Act that outlawed the discriminatory practices (such as the literacy test) that had barred blacks from voting in the South.
By 1967 King had become an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. He argued that the money should be spent on the poor of America. He lobbied for Federal assistance to the poor and became increasingly involved in the trade union struggles. King was arrested many times during his civil rights campaign. He believed that God had called himto leadership, but he truly wanted a normal existence. King agreed that going to jail may have been a publicity stunt, but argued that sometimes it was necessary to dramatise an issue because many people were not aware of what was happening.
How successful was MLK and the CRM?
Civil Rights act of 1964:
This barred segregation and discrimination in employment, public facilities, schools, hotels and restaurants.
Voting Rights Act of 1965:
This outlawed obstacles to voting for African Americans. It gave the national government power to register those whom the southern states refused to put on the voting list.
The success of all of the above ventures, plus the massive media attention generated by them, together with the tactics of non-violence used, played in important role in leading to the passing of the following acts:
King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1964 for his efforts to end segregation through non-violent means. This was a triumphant and historic moment as few people had believed that this honour would be given to an African American. In 1967,Thurgood Marshall became the first African American Judge on the Supreme Court. In the same year, the Supreme Court ruled that state laws forbidding inter-racial marriages were unconstitutional. On an international level, King’s legacy included influences on Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa. King’s work was cited by and served as an inspiration for Albert Luthuli. When he was assassinated in 1968, riots erupted all over the country.
“I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice. I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalised and murdered. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder …”. (Martin Luther King Jr website) Here is an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:
Television address to the nation by President Kennedy,
11 June 1963:
It ought to be possible for American consumers of any colour to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any colour to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal …
Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law.
Overall Achievements of the CRM:
Although the achievements of the CRM did not satisfy all black Americans (as you will see later on), significant changes were made. The ‘dream’ which Martin Luther King Jr spoke of was realised to some extent. . The CRM was a major example of how effective popular mass protests could be. As a result of it, there was less discrimination against African Americans. The CRM ensured the African-American’s legal rights were protected, but was less successful in securing economic and social equality. Remember, aslo, that at this time, the USA was waging an ideological war against Communism. It did not therefore, want the eyes of the world to witness the injustice and brutalities that were occurring in the South. America wanted to project an image of a free and fair democracy. The press coverage of these events were very effective in pressurising the government to act against unjust laws in order to save face in the international community.
Black Power Movement (s)
* See other notes.
The CRM and the new laws that were passed as a result, led to progress in gaining equality for black Americans. But not all African Americans were impressed with the Civil Rights Movement. IN reality, prejudice still existed. African Americans still experienced racial discrimination, lower wages than whites and higher crime rates in their inner city neighbourhoods.
Many young African Americans in particular wanted to speed up real social change. They saw the Civil Rights Movement as too mainstream, and unable to give blacks the same opportunities as whites – socially, economically and politically. Furthermore, they felt that the Civil Rights Movement was based more on white perceptions of civil rights rather than black perceptions.
By the mid-1960s, dissatisfaction with the pace of change was growing and the Black Power Movement arose out of this dissatisfaction. The Black Power Movement argued that, in order to achieve genuine integration, blacks first had to unite in solidarity and become self-reliant.
Stokely Carmichael popularised the term Black Power and by the late 1960s the Black Power Movement had made a significant mark on American culture and society.
“Black people must redefine themselves, and only they can do that. Throughout this country, vast segments of the black communities are beginning to recognise the need to assert their own definitions, to reclaim their history, their culture; to create their own sense of community and togetherness. There is a growing resentment of the word ‘Negro’, for example, because this term is the invention of our oppressor; … Many black are now calling themselves African Americans or black people because that is our own image of ourselves. When we begin to define our own image, the stereotypes = that is, lies – that our oppressor has developed will begin in the white community and end there. The black community will have a positive image of itself that it has created. That means we no longer call ourselves lazy, apathetic, dumb, good-timers, shiftless, etc. Those are words used by white America to define us. If we accept these adjectives, as some of us have in the past, then we see ourselves only in a negative way … From now on we shall view ourselves as African-Americans and as black people who are in fact energetic, determined, intelligent, beautiful and peace-loving.”
S.Carmichael and CV Hamilton, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America, 1967. Stokely Carmichael said
The Black Power Movement was very broad (and should perhaps more accurately be described as the Black Power Movements) and aimed to express a new racial consciousness among black people in the USA. Significant aspects of the Movement included:
Racial dignity and self-reliance.
An emphasis on cultural heritage, history and black identity. This was referred to as ‘Black Consciousness’. Musicians sang phrases like James Browns “Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud”.
The necessity for black people to define the world in their own terms.
Malcolm X was a member of this movement, and shared these sentiments. He was also influenced by Elijah Mohammed and the Nation of Islam. This movement rejected Christianity as it symbolised Western culture/religion.
Who was Malcolm X?
See other notes *
‘By any means necessary’ Malcolm X became the most influential leader of the Black Power movement. He was a contemporary of Martin Luther King Jr, but with a different personal history. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr shared many goals. They analysed the problems of America in similar ways, in terms of class and poverty as well as race. They both denounced American imperialism, particularly the Vietnam War. But their strategies to achieve equality for African Americans were different. Malcolm X argued that black people should fight for their rights by ‘whatever means necessary’. His message particularly appealed to young black people. His support of violent protest made him far less acceptable to both liberal whites and the government than Martin Luther King. He thought King’s methods were ineffective and called the March on Washington in 1963 ‘The Farce on Washington’.
Malcolm Little was a rebellious teenager with a difficult home background who fell into crime. In jail he was introduced to the ideas of the Nation of Islam led by Elijah Muhammad. The Nation of Islam followed many ideas of orthodox Islam but with a major difference. Elijah Muhammad said that whites were ‘devils doomed for destruction.’ Malcolm Little was released from jail in 1952 and adopted the surname ‘X’ to show that his family’s original African name had been lost. He soon rose high in the Nation of Islam, advocating black separatism, nationalismand self-reliance.
In 1963 after he had made the hajj to Mecca, Malcolm X changed his views about relationships between black and white people. In 1964 when Malcolm X discovered that Elijah Mohamed was promiscuous and corrupt, he denounced his former leader and formed his own group – the Muslim Mosque Inc. He renounced his previous racism against white people, declaring that in Mecca he had realised that people of all colours were children of Allah. Now he encouraged African Americans to vote, to participate in the political system and to work with each other with sympathetic white and Hispanic people for an end to racial discrimination. He told a group of African leaders that the problem of race was ‘not a Negro problem, nor an African problem. This is a world problem, a problem of humanity.’
Like King, in his last years, Malcolm X increasingly wrote and spoke out against American imperialism and capitalism. He showed how white people at all levels kept black people in poverty. He was assassinated on 21 February 1965. He remained extremely influential even after his death. He was a powerful writer and orator. His slogan that black people should liberate themselves ‘by any means necessary’ inspired some and terrified others. He attacked King’s non-violent strategies and advocated self-defence against white violence. He declared that non-violence was ‘the philosophy of the fool’. In answer to King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, Malcolm X said: ‘While King was having a dream, the rest of us Negroes are having a nightmare!’ Conditions in the North and South were very different. In the South, the CRM was dealing with the issue of segregation. In the north, black people were dealing with conditions of poverty, the repeated violence and abuse of police towards African Americans and the continued racial prejudice they still faced. Malcolm X made the above statement largely in reference to conditions of African Americans in the north.
He called the March on Washington the ‘Farce on Washington’ and members of the Nation of Islam who attended the march were temporarily suspended. He said: I am for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man’s problem just to avoid violence.” He was confrontational. He rejectedinter-racial co-operation and favoured Pan-Africanism. After a trip to Africa, he established the Organisation of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). He was assassinated in April 1965 by members of the Nation of Islam.
Malcolm X’s speech in Cleveland, Ohio April 1964:
“Black people are fed up with dilly dallying, pussy footing, compromising approach that we’ve been using toward getting our freedom, we want freedom now, but we’re not going get it saying ‘we shall overcome’. It’s time for you and me to STOP sitting in this country, letting some cracker senators sit there in Washington DC and come to a conclusion that you and I have civil rights. There is no white man going to tell me anything about my rights … if it doesn’t take senators to give freedom to the white man, it is not necessary for legislation to give freedom to the black man. You let the white man know, if this is a country of freedom, let it be a country of freedom; and if it’s not a country of freedom, change it…”George Breitman, ed. Malcolm X Speaks New York: Grove Press 1965.
What did Malcolm X achieve
He inspired the Black Panthers but did not achieve anything fundamentally himself. His greatest achievement was inspiring Black Pride.
Exercise: use the information in your notes and textbook and what you have learnt in class to complete the following table:
Martin Luther King Jr.
Inspiration and motivation for nature of protest methods
Methods and philosophy of forms of protest
Success and failures of protest philosophy and actions
Who were the Black Panthers?
Who were the Black Panthers?
This was a group formed by two black students; Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in 1966. It was formed for self-defense. They were young and angry and identified with the teachings of Malcolm X. The Black Panthers were a militant group within the Black Power Movement. They believed that the moderate leaders of the Civil Rights Movement had failed the black people of America. They chose the panther as their symbol because 'the nature of the panther is that he never attacks. But if anyone attacks him or backs him into a corner the panther comes up to wipe the aggressor or that attacker out'. The panther also symbolised power. The Black Panthers made their largest impact in the urban areas of California and major northern cities, such as New York, Chicago and Boston. Many young black people, living in poverty and with no hope for future employment, were attracted to the Black Panthers. Other members were college students and graduates who had an understanding of the law. They were armed, well trained and very determined in their fight.
What were their aims?
Like the Nation of Islam, they taught black pride and acceptance. They wanted black people to define their own goals, lead their own organisations, recognise their heritage and build a sense of community. They aimed to make American society more politically, economically and socially equal. They emphasised class unity, and criticised the black middle class for acting against the interests of other, less fortunate African Americans. They wanted to improve the life of ghetto-dwellers. They also wanted to expose the brutality of the police against black people. They wanted to make African Americans aware of their right to carry guns. They talked of the armed struggle and revolution. They argued that black people in America and the Vietnamese people (during the Vietnam War) were waging a common struggle against a common enemy; the US government.
What methods did the Black Panthers use to achieve their aims?
In order to improve the life of ghetto-dwellers, the Black Panthers established ghetto clinics which provided health care and legal aid. They also provided free food to school children. The leaders argued that violence was necessary to bring about change. They used both the guns and the law to make their point. California law allowed a person to carry a rifle as long as it was not hidden and it was not loaded. One of the Black Panthers' tactics was to 'police the police'. They followed the police around and when they found the police harassing or arresting a black person, they would approach them. Dressed in black and carrying a camera, a law book and their guns in full view, the Black Panthers would make sure that the police operated within the law. They informed the police: 'So long as we remain the proper distance from you, we can observe what you do. This is not interfering or disorderly conduct.' They were regarded as the greatest threat to internal security of the United States. Towards the end of the 1970s, a combination of the continued activities of the FBI and internal conflict led to the end of the Black Panther Party.
Summary of Achievement of the Black Power Movement/s
The Black Power Movement was not successful in getting much improvement in the social and economic status of black in the 1970s, but it did provide an outlet for black frustrations and helped in developing a sense of pride in being black and in black traditions and culture.
This image shows two winning black athletes at the Olympic Games held in Mexico City in 1968. The athletes gave the Black Power salute during the awards ceremony and were later suspended by the U.S. Olympic committee.
an inspiration and dynamic speaker. ‘I Have a Dream’ inspired thousands. Led the Birmingham organisations where he organised protests against segregation and was arrested.