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From Civil Rights to Black Power. Aims of Civil Right Movement. Civil Rights = Rights of the citizen of a country CRM was a ‘reformist’ movement. It wanted black people to be treated equally, to have full citizenship rights and be integrated into the power structures of US society.

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From Civil Rights to Black Power

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aims of civil right movement
Aims of Civil Right Movement
  • Civil Rights = Rights of the citizen of a country
  • CRM was a ‘reformist’ movement. It wanted black people to be treated equally, to have full citizenship rights and be integrated into the power structures of US society.
  • CRM claimed moral authority from the Declaration of Independence ‘All man are created equal…’ and the American Constitution ‘We the people…’
main tactic before crm
Main Tactic before CRM

Litigation (ietrying to change the laws)

- 1909: National Association for the advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founded. Challenged the legality of segregation – unsuccessfully until 1930s.

- “a lawyer’s either a social engineer, or he’s a parasite on society” Charles Houston 1935.

- Expensive and slow to bring court cases + in southern white segregationists controlled legal system.

1954 brown vs board of education
1954: Brown vs Board of Education
  • Supreme Court ruled that segregation in schools was against the constitution. (A major victory)
  • How did the NAACP’s legal defence team, headed by Marshall Thurgood win the case?
  • By showing that separate schools could never be equal, the NAACP had to prove that the psychological, intellectual and financial damage caused by segregation of schools prevented equality.
from litigation to direct action
From Litigation to Direct Action
  • Boycott

Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat, Montgomery Bus Boycott started (1955-1956). Results: Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to segregate seating on any bus in the USA on the basis of colour + Martin Luther King emerged as CRM leader + established SCLC

  • Non-violent Civil Disobedience

‘sit-ins’ in segregated restaurants and public facilities were started by students at Greenboro in 1960. Their success led to mass movement of ‘Kneel ins’ in segregated churches, ‘read-ins’ in segregated public libraries, ‘play-ins’ in segregated public parks, ‘wade-ins’ in segregated beaches. Action co-ordinated by SNCC (founded 1960).

1961 63 mass action
1961-63: Mass Action
  • 1961: Black activists in Albany, Georgia campaigned for desegregation. SCLC and MLK joined their protest but were unable to achieve definite gains.
  • 1963: MLK and SCLC organised mass demos in Birmingham, Alabama. MLK arrested; ‘children’s crusade’; extreme reaction from police was broadcast around world by media. Positive Results: Birmingham began to take measures to desegregate downtown businesses.
federal reaction to birmingham
Federal Reaction to Birmingham
  • President JF Kennedy forced to respond to Civil Rights Crisis (sees it as moral not racial)

“It ought to be possible …for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race for color…We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American constitution”

JFK introduced a Civil Rights Bill into congress.

mass demonstration and backlash
Mass Demonstration and Backlash
  • August 28 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (note the economic concerns)

- 250,000 people, non-racial, non-violent.

Martin Luther King gave his ‘I have a Dream’ Speech.

‘…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…’

freedom summer 1964
Freedom Summer: 1964
  • June 1964: A coalition (SCLC, NAACP, SNCC and CORE) launch the Mississippi Freedom Summer. Southern activists joined by black and white volunteers from the north.
  • Tactic: Mass voter education and registration + ‘Freedom Schools’ to teach black history.
  • June 21: Three volunteers (2 white, 1 black) disappeared and were found murdered. Huge media coverage. (Movie: Mississippi Burning)
what did the crm tactics achieve
What did the CRM tactics achieve?
  • 1964: Civil Rights Act

- banned segregation and discrimination in all workplaces and public facilities on the basis of race (or gender).

  • 1965: Voting Rights Act

- no one could be prevented from voting because of the colour of their skin.

BUT legal and legislative victories did not immediately translate into social and economic transformation(ie The majority of black people remained poorly educated and in low paying jobs)

p olitical rejection of mfdp
Political Rejection of MFDP
  • August 1964: an interracial group (Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party) attempted to challenge the legitimacy of Mississippi’s all-white delegation to Democratic Party convention. Open confrontation with President LB Johnson. MFDP was denied any seats.
  • Fannie Lou Hammer gave her ‘Is this America?’ speech.
  • ‘That was the turning point in the Civil Rights Movement…We had played by the rules, done everything we were supposed to do…had arrived at the doorstep and found the door slammed in our face’ (John Lewis, SNCC)
selma montgomery march
Selma-Montgomery March
  • In March 1965, ten years after the bus boycott, King lead a multi-racial demonstration into Montgomery, Alabama.
  • The first attempt to complete this march ended in an event called ‘Bloody Sunday’. State troops attacked the peaceful demonstrators with whips and batons, and let off canisters of teargas.
  • Footage of the attacks was broadcast across America
  • Over the next two days there were demonstrations in over eighty cities.
  • Accompanied by Federal troops to guarantee their protection this was the end point of a 70 km march from Selma to demand that black people be allowed to register to vote.
white supremacist backlash
White Supremacist Backlash
  • 1963 – a Baptist church in a black community in Mississippi was bombed by white extremists killing four black children.
  • 1964 – Three civil rights student activists who had travelled to Mississippi to help register black voters disappeared and were found murdered.
  • 1965 – In Selma, Alabama governor George Wallace ordered troops to brutally beat up peaceful demonstrators attempting to register to vote in Selma (‘Bloody Sunday”)
rebellions and race riots in mid 60s
Rebellions and Race Riots in mid-60s

1964: Riots in Harlem, Bedford-Styvesant

1965: Riots in Watts, L.A.

Malcolm X assassinated in NYC

1967: Riots in Newark and Detroit

1968: MLK assassinated.

Countrywide riots erupted

President Johnson ordered a commission to investigate the cause of this violence. Its key finding was that the country was divided, along racial and socio-economic lines, into two societies:

NB: 40% blacks lived below the poverty line.

‘Chronic poverty is the breeder of chronic chaos’

from rights to power
From Rights to POWER!
  • ‘’This is the twenty seventh time I have been arrested – and I ain’tgoing to jail no more! The only way we gonna stop them white men from whuppin’ us it to take over. We been saying freedom for six years and we ain’t got nothin’. What we gonna start saying now is BLACK POWER!’

(Stokley Carmichael, Student non-violent co-ordinating Committee SNCC)

black power
  • Black people should do things for themselves.
  • Black people should control the politicians and politics in their own communities.
  • Black people should defend themselves and fight back if necessary.
  • Black people should develop and emphasise pride in their own culture.
black power movement inspired by malcolm x
Black Power Movement inspired by Malcolm X
  • May 19, 1925   Malcolm Little is born in Omaha, Nebraska.
  • 1931   Malcolm's father (a preacher) found dead (presumed murdered). Grew up in poverty fell into crime.
  • 1946   Malcolm sentenced to 8-10 years for armed robbery; serves 6 ½ yrs.
  • Converts to the Nation of Islam while in prison.
  • 1953   Changes name from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X
  • 1959   Travels to Middle East and Africa.
  • 1964   Malcolm X leaves the Nation of Islam
  • May, 1964   Starts the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), a secular political group.
  • February 21, 1965   Malcolm X is assassinated  
what did malcolm x say
What did Malcolm X say?

‘be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts a hand on you, send him to the cemetery’

  • ‘"Who ever heard of angry revolutionists all harmonizing 'We shall overcome ... Some Day...' while tripping and swaying along arm-in-arm with the very people they were supposed to be angrily revolting against ? Who ever heard of angry revolutionists swinging their bare feet together with their oppressor in lily-pad park pools, with gospels and guitars and 'I have a dream' speeches? And the black masses in America were--and still are--having a nightmare.“
what did malcolm x say1
What did Malcolm X Say?

‘One thing that the white man can never give the black man is self-respect. ..The black man needs to start his own program to get rid of drunkenness, drug addiction, prostitution. The black man in America has to lift up his own sense of values’

black panther party for self defence
Black Panther Party for Self Defence
  • Founded in 1966 by Bobby Searle and Huey Newton.
  • Wanted revolutionary change in society – socialist (wanted better living and working conditions for poor blacks) and black nationalist (pride in black culture and history)
  • Patrolled inner cities (armed) to protect black people from police brutality.
  • Ran feeding schemes, child care, literacy projects in black communities.
black panther party s manifesto
Black Panther Party’s Manifesto

1) We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community. 2) We want full employment for our people.4) We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.5) We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.6) We want all black men to be exempt from military service.7) We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of black people.8) We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.10) We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.

black is beautiful
  • Black Power was also a cultural movement
  • Consciousness raising groups started to encourage pride in being African-American (rather than a seeing themselves as ‘negroes’)
  • Black Music (MOTOWN singers sang ‘RESPECT’ and ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’
  • Black History taught in schools and universities
  • Fashion statements: Afros, African clothes
  • Black artists, poets, novelist are published
  • See Maya Angelou’s poem: ‘I Rise...’
what else was won
What else was won?
  • 1965: Johnson Declared ‘War on Poverty’
  • Federal money for new housing schemes and Headstart pre-schools in poor black communities.
  • Exec order 11375 – sanctions affirmative action policies for federal employment.
  • 1972: Georgia Marnard Jackson, 1st black major of a southern city (Atlanta)
  • 1974: Boston ordered to bus school children around city to force integration.
focus shifts from black rights to women students and anti war protest
Focus Shifts from Black Rights to women, students and anti-war protest.
  • 1965 President Johnson also stepped up America’s involvement in war against Vietnam.

Late 1960s

  • Anti-war movement emerges
  • Feminist movement emerges
  • New Left student politics emerges

- Hipster culture emerges


Major Civil Rights Organisations

NAACP: National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. It was founded in 1909 by W E DuBois, among others. Its strategy was to use

the courts and law making bodies to advance the rights of African Americans.

SCLC: Southern Christian Leadership Conference founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1957. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was the first president. Their strategy was direct action and mass mobilisation.

CORE: The Congress of Racial Equality was founded in 1942 by a group of students in Chicago. CORE organised student sit-ins during 1961. Within six months these sit-ins had ended restaurant and lunch-counter segregation in twenty-six southern cities. Student sit-ins were also successful against segregation in public parks, swimming pools, theatres, churches, libraries, museums and beaches.

SNCC: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was founded in October, 1960 by students involved in the sit-ins. The committee followed the policy of non- violent direct action. In 1966 Stokely Carmichael became President and advocated a shift from ‘Freedom Now’ to ‘Black Power’. Many people left the organisation in protest at this more radical approach. The SNCC stopped functioning in 1970.