Methods In The Civil Rights Movement Essay

, Research Paper

The progress toward equal rights for blacks in the U.S. has been going on for over

two hundred years. Since the first colonists settled in the Americas, slaves were a

common piece of property. This identity as property was reinforced when the United

States Constitution counted slaves as 3/5 of a human. After the civil war, a series of laws

and the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth amendments tried to set all citizens on the

same level. Unfortunately, as a result of Plessy v. Fergusen, Jim Crow Laws were

enacted as a way of segregating blacks and whites. Then during the middle of the 20th

century the second reconstruction began and civil rights movements attempted to fix the

problems with racism in America. This is where controversy started, what civil rights

movement was most effective in fighting discrimination. With the facts on hand, one

could surmise that civil disobedience had the most positive effect on the civil rights


One method, that was somewhat effective, was affecting change through the

country’s judicial system. People and lawyers tried to repeal unjust law involving

discrimination and enact new ones to fight racism or to integrate. One of the most

famous cases advancing civil rights was Brown v. Topeka Board of Education in 1954.

Hailed as the start of the civil rights movement, it said that segregation was inherently

unequal and therefore unconstitutional. This was preceeded by a less publicized, but

similar case (Sweatt v. Painter) in 1948, saying that segregated law schools at the

University of Texas violeted the Equal Protection Clause. In 1967, the Loving v. Virginia

case judged that the banning of interracial marriages was also unconstitutional. In a

more radically judged decision in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg schools were ordered

to integrate schools even where there were no black or no whites. The judicial system

was very effective in that it controlled the law of the land, and people could not act

against the will of the Supreme Court. It was ineffective too, in that all judges at the time

were white and many blacks had poor legal aid.

One of the ways that blacks were able to acheive competent attorneys was

through organizations intent upon advancing the civil rights movement. Some of the

more well known organizations exist to this day. The SNCC helped blacks in the south

by organizing political parties and helping them to get elected into powerful public

positions. The NAACP provided scholarships for education and the power of size. Many

others from CORE to SCLC fought to help civil rights at every turn. They united blacks

and gave them support; provided legal aid for important cases; and organized actions of

civil disobedience. These organizations were very effective since they turned individual

people into one powerful tool. Despite its uses, many whites viewed them as racist and

bent on destruction and upheaval, eliminating compassion for the cause.

Of the techniques used, civil disobedience inarguably created the most

compassion for the cause. Some organizations mentioned above tied in with this idea,

and a few, like Martin Luther King Jr.’s Freedom Riders were exclusively involved in

this. The goal of the people who followed this credo was to create feelings of anger

toward discrimination and compassion for the black cause. The civilly disobedient acts

frequently practiced were marches(such as the Million Man March), sit-ins at bus

terminals and stores, boycotts, and non-violent demonstrations. When people herd and

saw the brutality being inflicted upon non-violent protesters, they realized that there were

many unfair laws and unjust actions being committed. Instead of trying to appeal to the

sensibilities of blacks who already knew of the unjustice, civil disobedience appealed to

the white majority which needed to be convinced that blacks deserve equal rights. It was

only ineffective in its slow rate of progress and its inability to attract young, angry blacks.

All of these methods had one common goal: equal protection for all people under

the law. Each cause had its own way of reaching this point. This discrepancy diluted the

cause slowing each one’s effectiveness. But at a time when many such groups were

‘preaching to the converted’, civil disobedience had the allure to make many liberal

whites crossover and tip the scales. This forced the country to change its ways. Clearly

civil disobedience had the most positive effect on the civil rights movement.


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