The decade of the turbulent sixties, and especially years from 1964 to 1969, were the times of very traumatic issues that affected the general population and the government. The Civil Rights Movement of 1964 was mainly dealing with discrimination and segregation of the Negroes in the United States. Though the Negroes of the time constituted the most discussed social group, there were also several religious factions, women, and other categories of citizens that were discriminated against and segregated.
The Civil Rights Movement of 1964 was aimed at providing equal rights in all American institutions like education, religion and politics. The Negroes of this time were also fighting for equal rights and de-segregation. The Negro race wanted to be better educated so they could have more opportunities to improve their standing in the communities they lived in; they also wanted to transcend from working as slaves and low paying jobs to becoming doctors and lawyers. The movement also gave the Negro race a better chance to express their ideas in a more direct way.
This movement gave the Negro race more freedom, but also involved a lot of compromises they had to make, and some thought that they had to make too many, and the white race did not have to make much. They wanted to communicate what happened to them in all aspects of living as Americans. They wanted to be treated fairly, but the Whites still thought that they were better and would not let them move forward no matter how hard they tried. This group fought hard for their wishes, and though now the struggle is on hold, for some people even today it still exists.
Institutions were Important
All the institutions during this time were important even though some politicians did not think so for the African-American contemporaries. The main institutions that were affected by this movement were educational, religious and socio-political ones. The movement was started by The President of the United States for he was trying to bring about a more peaceful nation. LBJ had to come up with ideas to promote safety for everyone. At this time in history there were many different factions that did not want these types of people to live better than them.
Race and Rights
Race and rights were what the Civil Rights Movement of 1964 was about and how Johnson could get this to fit into his Great Society. The Civil Rights Movement of 1964 was a program that was led by several people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, Robert Kennedy and many others. The movement started from John F. Kennedy in 1963: when the President was not able to address the racial issues of the time, he understood that getting over issues like segregation started, which led to the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and start of the relevant movement.
The first event which started a fight for civil rights occurred when four black freshmen sat down at a lunch counter and demanded to be served; this was a breach of segregation laws of the time. It was the one actions that started the rebellions and the sit-in movements. The Blacks wanted access to public places and the same rights and freedoms as white people. They thought if they could not and would not be served, then nobody could be served, and the trouble began. This movement also aspired to put to rest the Jim Crow Laws.
The CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) program started. It meant that blacks and whites could work together to show that they could get along. In Alabama, business was declining due to the segregation laws. Robert Kennedy was the one who called for a cooling off period till a problem in Mississippi called for law enforcement of the federal laws that were in practice in that state. Federal troops were needed to keep the peace. The federal government’s help came too late, and it meant that the blacks’ impatience was increased and more violence was ensued, even though Martin Luther King Jr. tried to teach the Blacks that violence was not the answer. Institutions at that time were very important for both Whites and Blacks. They all needed the same things to believe in, and another institution was the NAACP which went into the schools and churches to teach what needed to be done according to a non-violent attitude. The leader who believed in all this was Martin Luther King Jr., and his main viewpoint was to stay away from all forms of violence and to use the media which was another institution used to help further the case for desegregation and discrimination. Every time violence was used to demonstrate against these issues, they made sure the media could report it and see how it may or may not help. Sometimes the media just caused more problems. The media was supposed to show people that they had a sense of justice and morality. King believed in democracy, he knew that nothing would change to the world till television exposed what was happening. He also knew that blacks had to show violence in order to try and get things done.
King expressed this in his famous speech “I Had a Dream”, and when he delivered it on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial he never thought that even more violence would occur. This would lead him in the near future to the Birmingham Jail where he would write “Letter From Birmingham Jail”. King said African-American citizens would reach out goal of America in peace, but under the cameras of television they must use violence the way the police would use dogs, tear gas, cattle prods and clubs to render their point to the nation. However, King was an adherent of non-violent demonstrations. After this was accomplished King had the idea to try and persuade non-Southerner Americans who saw what was going on that the federal government could get involved into finding solutions on the segregation issues.
The Civil Rights Movement’s legitimate goals which were non-violent, but implied several radical racist initiatives that were sought by Malcolm X, Muhammad, and even Farrakhan in the future. These three violent leaders along with J. Edgar Hoover believed in the saying “This coffee is black, which means it’s too strong. . .You integrate it with cream you make it weak”. With constant observation there was still a threat to public order. With King’s non-violent movement and the radical movements of the time that was occurring, on July 2, 1964 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. “This act was and is to say that no one could ever again legally deny black citizens access to the institutions of the United States without being liable to criminal and civil persecution” (Schweikart)
Black Americans were now allowed in all public accommodations, for example, transportation services and restaurants. Black Americans could not be discriminated based on race while employing. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) was established. At the very time King began the movement to start registering black voters in the South. The Voting Rights Act was passed, and the Black majorities in many districts began to send representatives to Congress.
Even with the progress of getting The Civil Rights Act of 1964 all across the nation, all sorts of violent opposition broke out and were televised. This is the way people had to learn that change takes time and had to work together. At this time Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and H. Rap Brown blamed “white oppression” and the “white middlemen” for what was happening in the communities. Now the Blacks were starting to form organizations like The Black Panthers with leaders like Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver. More violence occurred and President Johnson and his administration reacted by creating one of the strongest bureaucracies and making Black Americans truly dependent on governmental help.
Johnson constructed a massive framework of new federal programs like Job Corps, VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America), and the Head Start programs. These programs were to improve the health, welfare and education of low income families and families with no male family head. Some of these programs made Black Americans feel like they were still slaves to a certain point in this modern society. From the start the law cases like Plessy vs. Ferguson and the case of Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka brought the subject of segregation to light, and a fight for civil rights began. President Johnson wrote his speech “We Shall Overcome», he did want equal rights for Black Americans and wanted all citizens of the time to come together and work together. In his speech “The American Promise” he believed all people should have the same rights and follow the morals taught by parents. This was a true battle for Johnson who had to use all his political skills to get the Civil Rights Act passed. This act had to survive an 83 day filibuster by the Senate, and Johnson used his connections and lobbied for what he believed in to get this act approved.
While dealing with the Civil Rights Movement and promoting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Johnson and various institutions that make up the country were very important. Again, all people needed to work together. At this time it was a period of discussion on a lot of issues. There were verbal and physical outbursts, and this was the way people were trying to make many drastic changes in how the nation learned to live with each other. People had to learn to be fair and show understanding of the issues that were affecting them. All the similarities and differences of the races were to be considered. There were other people than the Black Americans who had to overcome discrimination and segregation. People needed the organizations that were framed through this act, even though there is still a lot of violence and many steps backward were made. The Americans just wanted to understand where they all came from and did what they thought was best.
The Civil Rights Movement and its’ activists were sensitive to religious freedom and included a limited but important exemption for religious institutions into the law; now state and local laws contain these religious exemptions. Discrimination is the term now used to force religious groups and individuals to follow secular social norms. This movement was mainly to ban only actual discrimination, but with the modern law which was an attempt to ensure that no member of a protected group is subjected to “hostile work, educational environments or even public venues.” Various laws were written, so people can follow certain behavior codes in all these settings. Reading various speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., LBJ and even those of Malcolm X one can feel the tension of the period they were written in. When one reads Johnson’s ‘We Shall Overcome’ speech, one can hear the chanting of people saying the phrase over and over again. The readers become a part of the struggle. They can see all the hard work that all the parties, black and white, had done since Kennedy first started what he was trying to do back in 1963.
When one reads or even listens to Kings’ “I Have A Dream” and his “Letter From Birmingham Jail”, one can sense the angst that he was going through and the feeling of excitement of what was occurring at that moment in history. Both Johnson and King wanted understanding between the races, even though there were so many differences in ideas. Still, all the violence that happened is even at times occurring today. All that violence had to happen so that the understanding they wanted would appear. Johnson wanted to help people at the political level, and King wanted to help people at the social and religious levels.
The Civil Rights Movement of 1964 was a way to bring an end to the protests and human dissatisfaction that were arising. This movement was mainly designed in order for people to be a part of the world with improved human rights. In the end, this act helps everyone despite race or sexual orientation. All human beings strive for acceptance for their own ideas whether young or old, black or white, Catholic or Protestant. Without this act people would not want to be activists and make the others think and bring ideas and problems to light leading to their understanding. The Black Americans needed to see themselves as really existing in this world and be able to share their ideas without fear of persecution. This movement tried to do this; it just takes a lot of it time to please everyone.
Contributions of LBJ and King
The Civil Rights Movement of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were all about bargaining and compromising between LBJ and King and all the others figures (private and public) involved. In order to facilitate compromise and bargaining the federal government, state and local governments had to cooperate to determine how this worked in the communities especially for the Black Americans. In the public sector there were many meetings and debates between the senators and representatives; they appealed to the president to discuss the pros and cons of this issue. In the private sector there were many demonstrations and speakers on behalf of the common people. The federal, state and local governments had to decide how to handle problems when they arrived. When violence broke out, they had to decide when to refer to the police or the federal government and the National Guard. All this was necessary to make sure that the main goal of peace between the races would prevail in educational, social, economic and political arenas. LBJ was a teacher, and all he wanted to do was to help people get along. Martin Luther King Jr. and even Malcolm X also wanted to get along, but even they could face eye to eye even within their own groups, for they were both killed for what they believed in.
Both King and X were interested in how the spiritual aspects were involved and how the federal government could help them by allowing to state what they believed in out on the streets. However, while the federal government was filibustering on this issue, this was when the bulk of the violence would break out. Even though there were still some negative offshoots of various programs developed by LBJ, King, Malcolm X and all their separate followers, some violent and some not, this is where compromise was to enter the picture. During this time people did not have the patience to wait for all the talks to end; they wanted action, and this is how the demonstrations were formed and, generally, this is how the violence emerges. This movement was a lesson on how leadership is formed for pros and cons of whatever issue is to be discussed.
The Civil Rights Movement of 1964 was also about empowerment not just for the Black Americans, but for anyone who was feeling the pressure of discrimination and segregation. People are still learning how to combat this issue even today. There is a tendency to act before thinking and it usually breeds violence ensues. People look towards the future, instead, it is needed to look and study the past to keep the memories and improve what Kennedy and Johnson and King started through their writings and legislation. The citizens must strive for change and move forward for improving the living standards. People are still linked to each other and comprise one world. Governments have to provide the proper educational, social, political and economic growth for the citizens to live without discriminating or segregating anybody. Again, people must always try to work together, and that is what the Civil Rights Movement and Act was all about.
This Movement was concerned with freedom of expression and the right to what the United States Constitution said everybody should have, and that is the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The leaders of this time knew this, and that was what they were trying to do to keep this country happy.