The Civil Rights Movement Of The 1960'S
In the history of the United States there have been many social changes that have occurred. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s was one of the most significant and important for the equality of all people. Since the abolition of slavery in 1863, there had been a continuous conflict between the races of people who live in the United States. Rights were violated on a consistent basis, purely because of the color of that person’s skin. Unfortunately many of the changes that the movement fought for brought on a violent opposition from many white southerners and that led to the violent deaths of some of the famous leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. It also led to two pretty distinct groups of black activists. One group was rather violent, and one believed in peaceful nonviolent resistance.
Violence Breeds Violence
One side of this coin was more militant groups who demanded change or they threatened violent activity. The Black Panthers were a great example of this type of organization. Although they did preach violence, this organization also provided some much needed child care infrastructure to many black citizens all over the country. The Muslims also posed a violent threat, as leaders like Malcolm X, stated consistently that blacks deserve change and equality and if they aren’t given it, they should take it. Although toward the end of his life, he became more reconcilable, he was murdered not by the white opposition, but from fundamental opposition within his own organization. Violence was a part of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s but it was the far less effective force in leading to change. Violence leads to fear and separation, and ultimately to only more violence.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was the leader of the Civil Rights Movement and he preached strict nonviolent resistance. This meant that protesters would violate laws and traditions which were racist and discriminatory, but wouldn’t resist any action by the police or government or both. This led to young peaceful African Americans being sprayed with water hoses, and punched and kicked as they simply walked in a peaceful protest. It also led to sit ins at establishments that practiced segregation, or at the college buildings where black Americans were unable to enroll, not because they weren’t intelligent enough, but because they happened to be born with a dark skin pigmentation.
In the end, Martin Luther King was killed by an assassin, but his death couldn’t change his message. All men are the same, it is the content of their character by which they should be judged not the color of their skin. This is a message that is accepted as a matter of fact today and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s is largely responsible for this.
International Relations and Human Rights
Prof. Michael Joseph Smith
Director, Political and Social Thought Program /
Woodrow Wilson Department of
Government and Foreign Affairs
232 Cabell Hall
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Special thanks to Cheyenne Sheafe for his assistance in the creation of this Human Rights website. Thanks as well to Prof. William F. Felice of Eckerd College. To submit URL links for consideration on this site, write to MJSmith@Virginia.EDU.