′S Essay, Research Paper
American black civil rights
The 1960’s were a time of great turmoil in America and throughout the world. One of the main protest issues was black civil rights.
The movement really got underway with civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X in the early 1960’s. Students who wanted to jump on the equality and protest bandwagon quickly followed. Most of the students went to the southern states (Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana) to try and stop the racism and hate crimes.
The truth of the matter is that the violence and hatred would get worse before it got better. Even though the Negroes had very few rights they were not assaulted and abused nearly as much as when the college kids came and started to ‘help’ them. Then the Klan became stronger and more violent committing many more lynchings and hangings. But gradually most of the whites came around to the idea of integration, and did not see the blacks as a ‘threat’ anymore.
The only reason that this great and monumental change occurred was because of the great leadership of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, not to mention the 1,000’s of other less famous civil rights leaders, that worked to change the views of their community. Also there were lobbyists and protesters that risked their lives and went out on a limb to fight against injustice. All these factors, put together, made one of the biggest changes in the twentieth Century.
In my essay I plan to compare the differences of opinion between the six writers and directors etc. towards racism and the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.
- 2 -
Rob Rheiner (the director of ‘Ghosts of Mississippi’) has successfully portrayed the blatant dishonesty toward blacks by the police force and the Mississippi courts. On one occasion when the accused murderer was in court, the Governor of the State went up and shook hands right in front of the victim’s wife. Another example of dishonesty against blacks was that a retired judge had taken home murder weapons (mainly from the murders of blacks) and kept them as souvenirs. It was later discovered that police officers had also taken home evidence from crimes against blacks, for souvenirs.
The murderer portrayed a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude during the first trial in 1962 and in the retrial in 1992. He knew that he would be found not guilty in the 60’s with the all male, all white jury. But he under- estimated the changes in people’s views in the twenty years since his last trial and still had the same cocky attitude. The theme of this text is different to all the others I have studied.
The writer of Malcolm X, Bernard Aquina Doctor, has informatively shown (if not with a bit of bias) the life of Malcolm X. He wanted to show that Malcolm dragged himself out of the gutter to become one of the most famous civil rights leaders of the twentieth century. This is shown by his chequered life, when he hung around with criminals and committed small thefts, etc. In the text he was shown as being right a lot of the time, as when Malcolm believed in violent protest and Martin Luther King believed in non-violent protest. ‘Dr King was forced to reconsider his views [on non-violent protest] when be was thrown in jail and beaten up’. This comment by the writer makes Martin Luther King appear wrong and Malcolm right. This text is similar to the Rosa Parks text in the way the writer looked upon Rosa Parks Malcolm X, that is, in a revered way.
‘Rosa Parks, a Woman Who Changed a Nation’ by Kira Albin is focused on the great injustices that the black community had to suffer in the 1960’s and beyond. She explains how the blacks had to pay at the front of the bus and then walk around the outside to the back door where, more often that not, the bus driver would pull away without letting them on, even after they paid. Rosa Parks rose to fame after she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man, this came at a time when the civil rights movement was under way, and the story was published throughout America. It is similar to the Malcolm X text as I explained before.
- 3 -
The Martin Luther King Jr article on Encarta ‘98 is an overview of his life and achievements. It pays special attention to his ‘I have a dream’ speech. It has quotes such as ‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it’s creed.’ It also has quite a bit of background to the speech explaining what he wanted for America. King’s assassination is also covered with details about the FBI’s spying on him and what he had done for society in general. The text is purely factual, slightly similar to ‘Rosa Parks’ and ‘Malcolm X’
The ‘I have a dream’ speech by Martin Luther King Jr has a potent message which is delivered in a powerful manner. He managed to reach both the black and white audiences. Unlike Malcolm X, he is for the idea of integration and hoped that some day it would be self-evident that all men are created equal. This is shown by the quote ‘One day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and girls as sisters and brothers.’ This text is unlike any other I have studied because it is so powerful, forward thinking and imaginative.
Alan Parker, who directed ‘Mississippi Burning’, made a very powerful movie about a small Mississippi town with a large Klan and small-minded residents. FBI agents were called in to investigate the murder of one black man and two Jews. When one of the Sheriff’s deputies was on up on trial for beating a black man, the judge said ‘crimes were provoked by outside influences and the deputies received suspended sentences. This is similar to the movie ‘Ghosts of Mississippi’ because the judge was very racist and not inclined to convict a white man who assaulted or killed a black man. Most of the locals were members of the Ku Klux Klan and shared the same views as the judge and police. One of the townsfolk said ‘We don’t accept Jews because they reject Christ and have control of the international banking cartels, they are at the root of what we call communism today. We do not accept papalists, because they bow to a Roman dictator, Turks, Mongols, Tartars, Orientals or Negroes because we are here to protect Anglo-Saxon democracy for Americans.
- 4 -
In conclusion, the topic of racism and civil rights of the 1960’s is a large one with many different points of view. I think that Martin Luther King Jr had the right idea of integration and non-violent protest. Malcolm X’s idea of keeping segregation was untenable. The text with the most relevance for me was ‘The Ghosts of Mississippi’ because it really showed how few rights black people really had, and the unnecessary cruelty and hatred against black people that had done nothing to them.