The Civil Rights Movement: Where Has It Gone?
Was Martin Luther King's approach to gaining equal rights effective? What methods did he use, and what methods competed with those of King for the attention of Black activists and the American Public during the 1950's and 1960's?

The Civil Rights Movement: Where Has It Gone?

Martin Luther King Jr. used a very effective, non-violent form of protest, which helped African-Americans gain equal rights in the 50's and 60's.

The first major action in the civil rights movement was when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white person in Montgomery, Alabama. This event inspired 50,000 blacks to boycott Montgomery's buses as King led the protest. After this event, in 1957, King and other civil rights leaders formed the Southern Leadership Conference, which organized boycotts and sit-ins across the country. King gained national attention by using the press and TV to denounce segregation. (Government in America, pp. 202, 203)

Under King's leadership blacks started acts of civil disobedience against discriminatory laws. King followed the methods of Mohandas K. Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau. King and his followers held sit-ins at lunch counters and rode on segregated buses. The participants were called Freedom Riders. Others in the country boycotted discriminatory companies and their products, that practiced legal segregation and discrimination. The largest ever non-violent protest in Washington was the March on Washington August 23, 1968, where 200,000 people attended. This was where King gave his famous "I have a Dream" speech.

Although King insisted on non-violent ways, violence persistently occurred. Marchers and protesters were attacked by dogs and were shot at with water hoses. Riots broke out in black ghetto's, and some people were even beaten to death. Others, such as Medgar Evers, and 4 children in a Birmingham bombing, died for the cause of civil rights. The violence was also expressed by black nationalists groups. The largest was known as Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. This group was made up of people who lost faith in America, repudiated Christianity, and had concluded that the white man was the "devil". (Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

King was a major attribute to the civil rights' movement. King and other black protesters, helped bring on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Eventually, the Civil Rights Movement led to some freedom for blacks, even though racism still exists today, and most laws were passed due to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sources: Government in America Textbook, Houghton Mifflin, 1994 
The Stormy Sixties, Martin Luther King Jr., writes from a Birmingham Jail (1963)

Brian L.
Mike T.


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