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Civil Rights Movement

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Civil Rights Movement: Social and Political Injustice

Civil Rights Movement: Social and Political Injustice

The Civil Rights Movement started with such events as the murder of Emmett Till and the Rosewood affair, but the end of the movement came from the power of Martin Luther King Jr. His works "I Have a Dream," "I've been to the Mountaintop," and "Letters from Birmingham Jail" had a huge impact on the success of the Civil Rights Movement, and the movie Mississippi Burning gives a strong sense of what the black community was going through. Black people in the south were going through hardship because of the large number of white people who would not respect them and give them the civil rights to which they were entitled as American citizens. They were treated unfairly in all aspects of life, particularly poorly as people, citizens, and as human beings. Dr. Martin Luther King and other organizers began a Civil Rights Movement to bring justice to all who were treated unjustly. There were many incidents that helped begin this movement and to bring peace to the South and the black community.

The Civil Rights Movement was started by the murder of a young boy named Emmett Louis Till from Chicago, Illinois. He went down to visit his great-uncle Mose Wright in Mississippi. While he was visiting his great-uncle, he went to a store and saw a lady and whistled at her. Later that night he was abducted by two men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, who were friends of the lady at whom Emmett whistled. A couple of days later Emmett Till's body was pulled out of the Tallahatchie River. His body had been brutally mutilated and destroyed. His head had been barb-wired to a 75-pound cotton gin fan. His eye had been gauged out and his forehead crushed. A bullet had also been shot through his head. His body had been brutally beaten that when it was sent back to his mother she was unable to identify her own son. Emmett's mother was so disgusted with what had happened to her son while he was located in the South that she demanded to have an open casket at his wake so the whole world could see how the black community was being treated down in the South. There was said to be an estimated 50,000 people who witnessed the body of Emmett Till as he lay mutilated in his casket at his wake (Beauchamp "Murder Emmett" 3). Emmett's disgraced body was even portrayed in the national publication Jet Magazine for the whole country to see, allowing ill informed people the opportunity to realize the atrocities that were ripping apart the South.

The men that abducted Emmett Till were caught and arrested for his abduction and murder. At the subsequent trial, the injustice toward and the poor treatment of the black community continued. The jury consisted of all white males from the town in which Emmett was murdered. It took the jury 63 minutes of deliberation to reach a verdict. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were found not guilty and sent home the very same day (Beauchamp "Murder Emmett" 3). A couple months later these same men sold their confession to a journalist and admitted to killing Emmett Till. J.W. Milam even went so far as to grant an interview to Look Magazine. In his interview, Milam admitted to the Look Magazine reporter that right before he shot Emmett Till he screamed to him, "God damn you, I'm going to make an example of you just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand." (Beauchamp "Murder Emmett" 5).

The entire Emmett Till episode exemplifies the atrocities toward the African American that existed in the South prior to the Civil Rights Movement. The injustices that were apparent in the murder of an innocent, young black male and the later acquittal of his self-confessed murderers demonstrated not only how terrible racism had become in the South but also showed the country how necessary it was for a major change to take place.

Change did indeed begin to take place shortly after Emmett Till's trial. Indeed it can be argued that Emmett's death gave Rosa Parks the courage and determination to not give up her seat designated for white people on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama several months later. From Ms. Parks' strength came a complete boycott by the black community of the Montgomery Bus System. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his first civil rights speech, denouncing the way blacks were being treated in the South. How appropriate that Emmett's mother, Mrs. Mamie Till-Mobley, called her son the "Sacrificial Lamb" of the Civil Rights Movement (Beauchamp "Murder Emmett" 1). Emmett's death was a huge significance for the Civil Rights Movement. It opened the eyes of a blind country and paved the way for the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement. His death stirred up a large amount of people to help fight against the racist barrier that existed in the South. Emmett's death was not in vain, for it was the beginning of the end for injustice in the black community.

The Rosewood affair occurred in the early 1920's. This horrific and unimaginable experience is comparable to what people today might refer to as "race riots" (Aronson "Rosewood 3). Several incidences in the town of Rosewood and surrounding areas resulted in the death of many colored people. The one that started the bloodshed was on New Years Day 1923. After an excited woman claimed she was assaulted by a black man, the local Sheriff organized a group in order to search for the assailant the woman had described. Unable to locate him, the group, which had at this point turned into an angry mob, came upon a blacksmith named Sam Carter. The mob threatened to harm him until he confessed to have given the alleged attacker a ride. Carter brought the mob to where he supposedly dropped off the assailant. Since there was no sign of any suspect, one of the people in the mob shot Carter in the face. It was later reported in the newspaper that Carter was shot by someone unknown. This was yet another example of the murder of a black person by a white person and the subsequent protection of the white person by the press and the law.

The worst case that happened during the Rosewood affair was a gun fight between a mob of white people and a black family in their home. After the fight two white men and a black man and his mother were found dead. The mob of white people was so upset that they went and burned every black person's home in the community. Some colored survivors said "they burned everything we own." (Aronson "Rosewood" 10).

Most of the Rosewood



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