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Civil Rights Movement And Black Nationalism

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English 1302.044

March 3, 2000

Militant and Violent Acts of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Nationalism

The rights of African-Americans have been violated since they were brought over to America as slaves in the late 1600's to the land of the free. Great political gains for African-Americans were made in the 1960's such as the right to vote without paying. Still, many African Americans were dissatisfied with their economic situation, so they reacted with violence in the form of riots. Other African-Americans became frustrated with the system of "white" America; hence they turned to militant organizations that stressed black power. Many people believe that violence or militant actions solve their problems, but in reality the results of these actions create problems rather than eradicate them.

African-Americans' rights continue to be violated, although not as overtly since the gains made in the 1960's under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King was an advocate of civil disobedience or using non-violent means to persuade America to give African-Americans their due rights. King sought to fully integrate African-Americans into white society. King was often at odds with the young people within the civil rights movement who wanted to use more aggressive means to advance the cause. Out of respect for Dr. King they held their peace, and "each time the black people saw Dr. Martin Luther King get slapped they became angry. When they saw little black girls bombed to death in a church and civil rights workers ambushed and murdered, they were angrier; and when nothing happened, they were steaming mad"(Carmichael par. 2). Dr. King's death deprived the civil rights movement of a leader who was successful in combating the idea that violence was needed to achieve change.

With the violent response that African-Americans received for their peaceful and non-violent demonstrations, some leaders decided that it was time to fight back. According to the Revolutionary Workers League, Malcolm X, a leader of the Nation of Islam, believed that racism was at the heart of American society; so there was no point for African Americans to struggle to be integrated within this society. Malcolm X was never the leader of a mass movement. Malcolm X's ability to express the needs and aspirations of black people made him very influential with militant young people. Malcolm X was a militant and often criticized Dr. King's method of nonviolent civil disobedience. Malcolm believed that [African-Americans] had to defend [themselves] and fight for [their] liberation "by any means necessary." (Socialism par. 3-6)

The factions of the civil rights movement that gained prominence after Dr. King died insisted that power for African-Americans would come faster with shows of violence. Many young African-Americans took the philosophy "by any means necessary" to heart. Some African-Americans believed that a strict policy of nonviolence would lead to their demise as a culture. They balked at the idea "that a black minority could bow its head [to violence] and get whipped into a meaningful position of power" (Carmichael par 4). People with these views were the leaders of the Black Power movement and the Black Panther Party. The advocates of Black Power had many radical ideals and goals. The Black Power movement was born as a cultural movement inspiring racial pride. The Black Power movement is directly related to the concept of Black Nationalism or emphasizing African origins and identity, pride in being black, and the desire to control their own (black) communities. (Black par. 2) In this movement there was no room for whites, black moderates, compromises, strategies or political maneuvering which were keys to all previous successes of the civil rights movement. The Black Power advocates expelled white members from some civil rights organizations because they believed that the white people could not be trusted. Nor did the Black Power movement want anything to do with African-Americans that were economically successful, had degrees in higher education, or already living within the white middle class and above. "The black man in the ghetto has one big advantage that the bourgeois Negro does not have despite his 'superior' education. He is already living outside the value system white society imposes on all black Americans" (Civil Rights 282-85).

Whereas the earlier basis of the civil rights movement focused on love and unity between the races, the militant black power movement sprung from hatred of white society and packaged along with it the "white man's religion" of Christianity. "We must fill ourselves with hate for all white things . . . We have to learn to ridicule the black man who says he worships the white Jesus. He is truly sick" (Civil Rights 283-84). The consequences of the Black Power movement



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