African American Civil Rights Movement A journey from Racism and Segregation to Equal Rights in America

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America became in independent on July 4, 1776, but a reflection of independence did not extend to every individual in the nation as it continued to practice slavery on the individuals of African heritage. The incident continued for a long time until the 1860 when civil war started (Merwin 3). After the war, it was realized that there was a need to maintain uphold, and all Americans had equal rights and privileges that had to extend to their sons and daughters. With time, it embraced diversity by allowing more immigrants, as well as people with disability, to have laws that would ensure equality and fairness unto them. However, equality did not just happen in a twinkle of an eye; it involved a long process through struggling and protesting.

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According to (David 298, National Park Service 9), “Lincoln had to think of his plan of emancipation in 1862.” President Lincoln, in 1863 on 1st January, gave an emancipation declaration with the aim of making the slaves free by all the states were holding them and making them fight in the war. When the civil war ended, in the year 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment in the constitution made all the states in the United States abolish slavery and all the activities that involved slavery trade in the whole state. A further amendment, The Fourteenth Amendment of the year 1868, was intended to make all the former slaves who had been fighting and any other black person given birth and raised in the state to be naturalized and be made citizens of America. They had to get equal rights, protection, and medication as it was entitled to the white people. Further amendments that had been initiated by Lincoln initially, clarified that it would be against the law in denying any individual voting rights due to his or her color, race or being a former slave.

Despite the effort that was made Abraham Lincoln to equalize the rights of each, former slaves and their children and descendants did not can enjoy equal rights under the law. According to Jill (2005), to inflict pain further, United States’ Supreme Court in 1896 gave a ruling that, government can segregate individuals of different races if the segregation facilities were equal or equally distributed. This doctrine of “Separate but Equal” existed until the year 1954 when an overruling was made against the initial rule by the same court in the case (Jill 13). The cases involved schools in Virginia, Kansas, South Carolina and Delaware.

Another problem that existed is the voting rights, the African Americans were barred from participating in elections, and they could not exercise their rights of voting by taxes. Those taxes were referred to as “poll tax.” Poll tax involved making some payments before voting, and then one was subjected to tests by voting registrars who could fail or pass an individual based on his or her skin color and race. These taxes were abolished during the civil movement in the year 1965, through the Voting Rights Act (Noll 8).

The civil movement had to start due to a series of events that took place in the 1950s period. A seamstress in Montgomery by the name Rosa Parks in Alabama got arrested on December 1, 1955. She would not surrender her seat to a white man who happened to stand because of boarding the bus after her. In this period, at the south, Public buses were segregated according to the race (article by, National Park Service 11). African American had to ride in the back of the buses and give up their seats if a white person happened to be standing, or wanted to sit on it. She was arrested and immediately jailed for failure of giving up her seat. “Four day later, on December 5, 1955, persons of African heritage began to boycott in Montgomery from boarding the public buses. They were under the leadership of Martin Luther Jr., a minister by then who had paid a visit to Dexter Avenue Church” (Jill 14).

For a period of 381 days, the peaceful boycott continued in which the 90 percent of African American did not board the buses. Eventually, the boycott had a positive impact on the Africans since the buses were desegregated.


          Any form of discrimination in schools, whether public or private is prohibited under the Title IV of Civil Rights Act of 1964. “Such discrimination should not be on the basis of religion, gender, sex, race or national origin,” (Noll 8). In the category, public schools comprise of public colleges, secondary schools, elementary and universities.

After the Supreme Court abolished the segregation in schools in 1954 in the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, its implementation was very slow. There was a massive protest that led to the desegregation of schools of Arkansas, in Little Rock in the year 1957 (Jill 13). However, the governor, Faubus Orval, refused the acceptance of 9 black children who had to attend the school by ordering Arkansas National Guard to stop them. President Eisenhower had to order the 1000 paratroopers in the Airborne and National Guard of the US army to offer protection to the children. Despite the governor closing schools in Little Rock, the Supreme Court had to order the reopening of the schools hence allowing more black children to attend.

Another case was that of “James Meredith, who made an application to the University of Mississippi for admission in 1961” (Charles 1). The officials returned the application and had to take the case to court. The Supreme Court determined that he had the right to attend that university in September 1962, but still faced protest. According to Charles (2009), it took the intervention of the President, Kennedy by sending 16,000 more federal troops. The protesters against Meredith had overpowered the 123 federal marshals and the 316 Border Patrolmen for the US providing Meredith with security. Two people were killed while they shot 28 marshals with a casualty of 160. Despite all these protesting, Meredith had to be the first African American student to attend the University.

Voting rights

          As the civil rights movement continued, their central issue again was the voting rights, Led by Martin Luther Jr. Black people needed to have an equal right to vote and elect their representatives without paying the poll tax. “Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, it should not be conducted based on race and color” (Noll 8). Congress enacted laws in the years 1957 and 1960, which initiated the process of increasing minority in participation of voting. Further struggle by the by the civil rights movement leadership saw them, make it a reality in 1965 Act when poll taxes had to be abolished.

For this to be achieved the activists started the effort of registering black voters form the county of Dallas in 1963. “They held a protest in Selma after failing to register in 1965, January and February for the violation of voting rights. However, there were shootings in February 17, resulting to the death of Jimmy Lee Jackson on 20,” (Noll 8).

The hospitalization of 17 marchers led to the Dr. King filing a lawsuit asking to be allowed to march. They allowed and on March 21; federal troopers escorted the marchers to protect them, but they encountered 4 Ku Klux Klan, who shot at them killing Liuzzo Viola. She was a white woman who had joined them in support for the push of their voting rights. President Lyndon gave a speech praising her saying “she was serving justice when murdered” (Miller Centre) The Voting Rights Act finally got to be passed by Congress in 1965, August.

Accommodations in the public facilities

          Discrimination in the work place is prohibited in the Civil Rights Act, Title II depending on race, color, sex or religion. These places include restaurants, motels, stadiums and concert halls.

According to (National Park Service 11), minority were excluded in motels, restaurants and other places up to Civil Rights Act of 1964. It commenced when the African American Students went to Woolworth’ store, North Carolina for coffee and could not be served since they were seated. It was only the whites who would be served while seated. The next day they came in large numbers, but they were beaten and sent to jail. Hence the beginning of “Peaceful Seat in”


          Title VIII of 1968 Civil Rights Act, contains the Fair Housing Act, does not allow discrimination in financing, selling and renting a house due to a person’s colour, races, handicap, national origin, handicap or sex.

After the Voting Act was through, there was a riot in 1965’s summer in Los Angeles, Watt’s section due to police brutality on blacks. Martin Luther King Jr. went to Chicago, which was residentially segregated to lead protests and rallies. The issue turned to residential and fair housing. Blacks had been segregated to small houses and could not find a house outside those regions. In the year 1966, in July, 350 marchers got attacked with 4,000 protesters with stones and bottles. “In August, Dr. King and city leaders had to agree on fair housing program but later was assassinated in 1968” (Jill 20).

Modern LGBT rights Movement

          The Gay Rights Movement is a Civil Rights lobby group that protests for the rights of lesbian, gays, bisexuals and the transgender individuals in the society. According to American Psychology Association, several historians do agree that there is an evidence of homosexuality existence and same sex activity in the world whether they have to be accepted or be persecuted. These issues currently are in the American culture.

According to Plummer (2002), the history of homosexuality movement came to be realized effectively on the 1970s onwards, when African American civil rights activists had already achieved almost all of their demands. It was identified as “community’s movement that was aimed at reshaping politics, identities and the community as a whole” (Plummer XVIII).

Commentators on the topic have argued that we “need to be sharp on our behavior and act more like normal individuals.” Plummer (2002) further adds Others have expressed their anger by showing aggressiveness and confrontation in the campaigns that they have condemned much. In the USA, groups that were protesting for gay rights were less known and started after the Second World War, although it had flourished in cities such as the Harlem and Greenwich Village in the period of Harlem Renaissance in 1920s.

Unlike the African American civil movement that was faced with bloodshed and death tolls, the gay movement in the period of has not experienced death or assassination of its leaders. The first demonstration by the gay community was in Washington and Philadelphia under the leadership of Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny. They had to fight the police who consistently raided their bar, Stonewall Inn. However, (Peter 5) adds, “despite their long development, they still have much to do.”

According to (Sears 96), ” the gay liberation movement led politicians come up in their support” unlike in the case of African American civil movement. Since the males dominated in the Gay movement, ladies formed their Lesbian movement. In 1972, a gay pastor was ordained in United Church of Christ leading to increased support by parents and friends (PFLAG). There support all over, and its contribution saw the ending of soldier expulsion from duties because of their sexual orientation.


          In conclusion, civil rights have had major impacts to the wellbeing and the cohesiveness in the society. African American civil rights movement shares similar attributes to the LGBT civil rights movement in some ways. Both movements did lobby for equal rights and treatment that like the other members of the society. Leaders such as King, Whitney, Wilkins and James had a great contribution in ensuring the movement was properly organized during their lifetime. Their efforts are observable through the 1965, Civil Act passing through. Embracing anti-capitalism helps to integrate the best liberation approaches not only to lesbians and to gays, but the approach can be used to lobby for equal rights all over the world. “It provides essential tools that are useful for in negotiating complex issues” (Sear 109)


American Psychological Association. Sexual Orientation Development. Retrieved on November 24, 2014. Retrieved from:

Charles W. Eagles., The Fight for Men’s Minds”: The Aftermath of the Ole Miss Riot of 1962. The Journal Of Mississippi History. 2009.

David L., Abraham Lincoln and the Ideal of Equality. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984), Vol. 75, No. 4 (Winter, 1982), pp. 289-308

Jill K., The Civil Rights Movement. Thomson Gale, a part of The Thomson Corporation. 2005. Print.

Ken P., Routledge. Modern Homosexual. Social Science. 2002. Retrieved on November 24, 2014. From:

Lyndon B. Johnson. Statement on Arrests in Viola Liuzzo Murder (March 26, 1965). Miller Center. Retrieved on November 24, 2014. From Roe., Speeches and Letters by Abraham Lincoln 1858-1860. Dutton 1907, Updated 2006.

Noll, M., A., God and Race in American Politics. Princeton University Press. 2008. Print.

Peter Hill., LGBT Rights Law: A Career Guide: President and Fellows of Harvard College. 2007

Sears A., Queer Anti-Capitalism: What’s Left of Lesbian and Gay Liberation? Science & Society, Vol. 69, No. 1, January 2005, 92–112

National Park Service. The National Historic Landmarks Program Cultural Resources. CIVIL RIGHTS IN AMERICA: RACIAL DESEGREGATION OF PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS. U.S. Department of the Interior Washington, D.C.2004, Revised 2009.

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