Race Relation and Civil Rights in US History: Reconstruction to the Present

After WWII and gaining its title as the “Leader of the Free World”, the United states soon to develop many issues as it began to reconstruct for the better. Although the US successfully reconstructed its economy and living conditions, it still faced many issues. One of the biggest issues was race relation and Civil Rights. During this time, many have also recognized this era as the “2nd Reconstruction” , which was also known as the “Civil Rights Movement.”

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According to History, Art & Archives, the broad period from the end of World War II until the late 1960s, often referred to as the “Second Reconstruction,” consisted of a grass-roots civil rights movement coupled with gradual but progressive actions by the Presidents, the federal courts, and Congress to provide full political rights for African Americans and to begin to redress longstanding economic and social inequities. African Americans were treated poorly due to the color of their skin. Even though they were citizens, everything was segregated in the southern states due to their history. In 1619, the first slaves arrived in Virginia. This was the beginning of slavery in America. As time progressed and the expansion of the United States, slavery begin throughout the southern states. President Lincoln issues the Emancipation of Proclamation in 1863, declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the Confederate states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Southern whites weren’t happy about it and created “Jim Crow Laws” for African Americans in the south. Africans Americans were treated poorly within the Jim Crow laws, This birth Civil Rights Leaders and groups in regards of equality.

One of the most influential courts cases, which was the sparked of Segregation in the south was Brown Vs Board of Education. On May 17, 1954, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren delivered the unanimous ruling in the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. State-sanctioned segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th amendment and was therefore unconstitutional. The representative-plaintiff, Oliver Brown, was the parent of one of the children denied access to Topeka’s white schools. According to historical documents, Brown claimed that Topeka’s racial segregation violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because the city’s black and white schools were not equal to each other. The federal district court dismissed his claim, ruling that the segregated public schools were “substantially” equal enough to be constitutional under the Plessy doctrine. Brown appealed to the Supreme Court, which consolidated and then reviewed all the school segregation actions together.

In 1955, 2 major events took place. The first event happened in August, which is the Murder of Emmitt Till, Emmitt was born in Chicago and was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was accused of “Whistling” at a Caucasian store owner, Carolyn Bryant. He was kidnapped, brutally beaten, shot, and dumped in the Tallahatchie River, his mutilated corpse barely identifiable. Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J. W. Milam, were arrested for the murder. The all-white jury in Sumner, Mississippi, took just over an hour to reach their verdict to acquit them. The next event took place on December 1, 1955, which is Rosa Parks vs the Montgomery Bus System. That day she refused to give up her seat, in the front portion of the “Colored Section”, to a Caucasian passenger. She was arrested immediately. This sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and it lasted for over 1 year. This significant event also marked the emergence of Martin Luther King Jr., to national prominence as a civil-rights leader and provided the model for future nonviolent movement actions.

In 1957, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights group, is established by Martin Luther King , Charles K. Steele, and Fred L. Shuttlesworth. They met in Atlanta on January 10 – 11, 1957, to form a regional organization and coordinate protest activities across the South. Despite a bombing of the home and church of Ralph David Abernathy during the Atlanta meeting, 60 persons from 10 states assembled and announced the founding of the Southern Leadership Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration. At its first convention in Montgomery in August 1957, the Southern Leadership Conference adopted the current name, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Basic decisions made by the founders at these early meeting included the adoption of nonviolent mass action as the cornerstone of strategy, the affiliation of local community organizations with SCLC across the South, and a determination to make the SCLC movement open to all, regardless of race, religion, or background. Within the same year, the infamous “Little Rock Nine”, made national debut when he first black teenagers to attend all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. They challenged segregation in the deep South and won.

In 1960, four black freshmen at North Carolina A;T State University, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr., and David Richmond, took seats at the segregated lunch counter of F. W. Woolworth’s in Greensboro, N.C. They were refused service and sat peacefully until the store closed. They returned the next day, along with about 25 other students, and their requests were again denied. They were attacked with food and drinks being thrown at them while they peacefully sat at the counter. This event inspired similar sit-ins across the state and by the end of February, Due to the continuation of the peaceful sit-ins, Woolworth’s integrated all of its stores.

One of the most influential Civil Rights leaders was Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. His philosophy of nonviolent resistance led to his arrest on numerous occasions in the 1950s and 60s. His campaigns had mixed success, but the protest he led in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963 brought him worldwide attention. On 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, Ala. He writes “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which advocated nonviolent civil disobedience. He later lead The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is attended by about 250,000 people, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The march builds momentum for civil rightslegislation. Dr. King was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1964. He last protest was held in Memphis, TN, where he went to support of sanitation workers that were on strike. Unfortunately, Dr, King was assassinated on the balcony of his hotel on April 4, 1968. His name will forever be known from the Civil Rights Movement as he fought for equal rights of African Americans with peaceful movements.


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