The Civil Rights Movement Overview
Brutally mistreated and regarded as “sub-human” by whites in Southern America, many African-Americans living there grew weary of their malicious white overlords and the tyrannical, racist laws imposed upon them by Jim Crow. Seeking an exodus from their discrimination, many blacks in the South sought out for their Moses, one who would lead them to freedom. Spanning from the 1950s into the 1970s, the Civil Rights Movement forever changed American life because of three powerful, historic changes to America’s black community: the return of black World War II veterans refused to submit once again to life under Jim Crow, the development of African-American colleges, a new, well-educated class of black professionals emerged as cultural leaders, and the heroic role played by thousands of pastors and parishioners who were willing to sacrifice anything for the principle of non-violent, civil disobedience.
Serving in the United States military changed black soldiers’ views about Jim Crowe. No longer would they submit to the discrimination and cruelty of southern whites, as one black soldier pronounced upon his return to America, “We thought it was the way it was supposed to be, we was dumb to the facts and didn’t know.” Told his whole life that whites were superior to blacks, fighting in World War II changed Roscoe Pickett. “I knew then that I wasn’t going to go back on the farm. I knew that I was going to go to college somewhere.
That’s the thing that changed my life. I knew that a black man could do things other than mess around plowing with an ox, messing around cutting horse ties. That’s the thing that changed me,” Pickett proclaimed while reentering America (Wormser). In response, whites tried to put blacks “back in their place,” with the Southern Manifesto, a law to reinstate segregation (Allen 662-663; Wormser). When he was asked to take up arms and serve his country in the military, P.B.
Young told white liberals, “Help us get some of the blessings of democracy here at home before you jump on the ‘free other peoples’ band wagon and tell us to go forth and die in a foreign land” (“Civil Rights”). Returning home to Jim Crow and discrimination, the war-hardened veterans of World War II knew that they could change America, as Luella Newsome, an African American who fought in the Women’s Army Corps, said, “It had to change, because we’re not going to have it this way anymore” (Wormser). Receiving a quality education from a college or university proved to be one of the most important factors of blacks gaining civil rights. To many whites in the South, an educated black man knew the laws and knew how to fight racial discrimination effectively, thus a dangerous enemy (“Education”). For example, in the South, literacy tests required voters to be able to read; since many blacks were illiterate, this policy favored whites (Allen).
Black Americans utilized their education to fight for civil rights (“Historically”). Providing the education for these men were colleges like Howard University, an all-black college started by a Civil War veteran dedicated to educating the newly freed slaves. Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice and a leading figure of the Civil Rights Movement, attended Howard University after a white university rejected him (“Brief”). As John Farr stated after being rejected from a job as a mechanic because of his race, “That isn’t what I went to school for or come out of service for.
I want a real job.” Using his education, Farr eventually worked his way into becoming a mechanic and worked successfully for twenty-two years (Reinhart). Due to the establishment of black universities, blacks were able to both obtain respectable, well-paying jobs and fight more effectively for their civil rights. Establishing a peaceful, nonviolent organization dedicated to gaining civil rights for blacks remained vital to the Civil Rights Movement. The pastors of black churches, whose leadership played a key role in black communities throughout the South, also became a crucial branch of the Civil Rights Movement (“Southern”). The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) brought all of these churches together under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr.
, a Baptist Minister who later delivered his eternal “I Have A Dream Speech” (“Civil”; “Southern”). The SCLC advocated nonviolence for all protest campaigns regarding civil rights, aided uneducated blacks in registering to vote, and set up citizenship schools (“Southern”). Reverend Albert Delaine sacrificed his career to fight the clause “separate but equal,” which segregated Southern schools. After learning that the black children in his community walked to dilapidated schools everyday while white children received bussing to high-quality institutions, Delaine attempted to contact the superintendent to voice his concerns about segregation. He was ignored.
Teaming up with Harry Briggs, a gas station attendant and a World War II veteran, Delaine started a petition to end segregation in schools. Reverend Delaine lost his teaching position, and Briggs lost his job as a gas station attendant, but eventually “separate but equal” was ruled unconstitutional and segregation in schools ended: a major step in the assimilation of civil rights for blacks (Cochran). The Civil Rights Movement might have failed had not the church in the South risen up and fought against the tyranny of Jim Crow. In conclusion, although they were subjected to humiliation and violent acts of racism, blacks stood up for themselves. They refused to submit to Jim Crow because of three powerful, historic changes to America’s black community: the return of black World War II veterans refused to submit once again to life under Jim Crow, the development of African-American colleges, a new, well-educated class of black professionals emerged as cultural leaders, and the heroic role played by thousands of pastors and parishioners who were willing to sacrifice anything for the principle of non-violent, civil disobedience.