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When someone mentions the Civil Rights Movement they probably first think of the non-violent
demonstrations such as Rosa Parks’ famous bus ride or the March on Washington DC. However, the
movement goes back further than that, to the early 1700’s when the first anti-slavery tract was published. It
has spanned many years of struggle, from then until present day, with many blacks and many whites
fighting to break segregation in America, the land of freedom.
If there had been no discrimination in the work-place, the social and economic condition of the
Negro would have been remarkably different. Although they would have certainly been far from "equal,"
they would have had a better foothold on their future. The blacks were given jobs as janitors in the
buildings of white stock brokers and lawyers.
In 1896, when Homer Plessy was arrested for riding in a white railroad car after he purchased a
first-class ticket, he started the spark that gave us "separate but equal" in America. When he went to the
Supreme Court against this arrest, things began to change. It gave blacks equality, but not really. For
example, there were black and white pools, usually the black pool was unkempt; there were black and
white restrooms, usually the black restroom was never cleaned; there was black and white everything, with
the black half being downgraded significantly from the white half.
The Supreme Court ruling in 1954 in the Brown v. Board of Education case brought a whole new
aspect of segregation to light. It gave the movement the necessary motion to advance in its struggle. The
Court decided that it was within the Constitution that a black person was to get an education at a white
school, or any school for that matter. Up until this court case, segregation was "legal," in the broadest
sense of the word. However, after this case, the entire outlook on racial segregation was rehashed. For
many, this was the break they were looking for, while for others it was a step back. The first day that Linda
Brown attended her new school, the National Guard was on-hand to keep the peace because many white
parents did not want their children attending the same school as a black child.
Another event that contributed to the movement was the boycott of the Montgomery bus system.
It strengthened the student involvement in the movement and also gave many blacks a non-violent method
to fight racial segregation. It was a combination of nonviolence and legal footwork that was to distinguish
the official Alabama response to the movement in the fifties and sixties.
There was one other major event that was part of the Civil Rights movement, the March on Washington
DC. This was primarily a demonstration for the support of the Civil Rights bills that were being enacted.
It was also a march for better and more jobs and against the injustices that were still present in the Southern
states. This march brought forth over 200,000 men and women to the Lincoln Memorial to hear another
heart-felt speech delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. about his feeling on the entire movement.
In his historic speech, Mr. King proclaimed that he had a dream and that even "one day the state of
Alabama … will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join
hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers." Mr. King also
likened the words of the Constitution to a promissory note that America sent to the colored people but came
back marked "insufficient funds." The speech was meant to give hope and a light to the people he
represented. He wanted to change the way that the world looked at not only the blacks and whites, but also
Jews and Gentiles and Catholics and Protestants as well.
All of these events, including many others, were an integral part of the Civil Rights movement. Many
groups, including the SNCC, CUCRL, NAACP and CORE, and individuals joined in the modern-day
crusade to end racial segregation. Even though the courts "ended" segregation in 1954, everything was still
the same. "Separate but equal" was never over, as we can see today, and it never will be. We have grown
and we can live
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Counterculture of the 1960s, African-American Civil Rights Movement, Movements for civil rights, Community organizing, The United States, Brown v. Board of Education, Racial segregation, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Martin Luther King Jr., Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Civil rights movements, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
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