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The Troubled 1960's Had It's Roots in the Affluent 1950s

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Civil Rights and the Troubled 1960s

The events of the 1950s ignited a movement for change and equality in the 1960s, starting with the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954 to desegregate the public school system, then to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, where in December 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested “for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger.” (Foner, 3rd Edition, 946) This act of bravery “launched the movement for racial justice as a non-violent crusade.” (Foner, 3rd Edition, 946) Parks’ bold stand led to the Supreme Court decision in November 1956 that ruled “segregation in public transportation was unconstitutional.” (Foner, 3rd Edition, 946) There was much opposition from the southern members of the House of Representatives, that in 1956 “drew up and signed the Southern Manifesto, stating “The original Constitution does not mention education. Neither does the 14th Amendment.” (Southern Manifesto, 1956) “This unwarranted exercise of power by the Court, contrary to the Constitution, is creating chaos and confusion in the States principally affected. It is destroying the amicable relations between the white and Negro races that have been created through 90 years of patient effort by the good people of both races. It has planted hatred and suspicion where there has ben heretofore friendship and understanding.” It is this viewpoint that caused this uprising for equality. The Civil Rights movement was largely non-violent on the activists side, staging non-violent protests and sit-ins that landed many of them in jail or subject to abuse and violence over fighting for the human rights. Thurgood Marshall said “Separate is not equal, even with the same funding and facilities, he insisted, segregation was inherently unequal since it stigmatized one group of citizens as unfit to associate with others.” (Foner, 3rd Edition, 944) The early 60s brought the “Freedom Movement” (Forner, 3rd Edition, 958) “with sit-ins college students for the first time stepped onto the stage of American history as the leading force for social change. In April 1960, Ella Baker, a longtime civil rights organizer, called a meeting of young activists in Raleigh, North Carolina. About 200 black students and a few white attended. Out of the gathering came the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), dedicated to replacing the culture of segregation with a “beloved community” of racial justice and to empowering ordinary blacks to take control of the decisions that affected their lives. “We can not count on adults,” declared SNCC organizer Robert Moses. “Very few... are not afraid of the tremendous pressure they will face. This leaves the young people to be the organizers, the agents of social and political change.” (Foner, 3rd Edition, 958) These events radically changed American history, in this essay I will talk you through the Civil Rights Movement and how the 1950s paved the way for the changes and demonstrations of the 1960s.

        The Brown v. Board of Education decision opened the door for change and the discussion about equality not only in America’s schools but sparked the movement that would change history, challenging “separate but equal” (Foner, 3rd Edition, 943) making equality accessible to everyone black and white alike. Change in the supreme court came with the appointment of Earl Warren, “Warren presided over the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II as the state’s attorney general. After the war, he became convinced that racial inequality had no place in American life.” (Foner, 3rd Edition, 943) “Justice Warren’s appointment in 1953 would play a key role in the unanimous decision of the Brown v. Board of Education case that outlawed school segregation.” (Foner, 3rd Edition 943) ‘Under the leadership of attorney Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP challenged the “separate but equal” doctrine passed by the Court in 1896 with the Plessy v. Ferguson case, this case “gave it’s approval to state laws requiring separate facilities for blacks and whites.” (Foner, 3rd Edition 646) The case was argued by “Albion W. Tourgee a judge in North Carolina during Reconstruction that waged a courageous battle against the Ku Klux Klan. “Citizenship is national and knows no color,” he insisted, and racial segregation violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection before the law.” (Foner, 3rd Edition 646) “The court did uphold the Louisiana law, arguing that segregated facilities did not discriminate so long as they were “separate but equal in an 8-1 decision.” The lone dissenter, John Marshall Harlan, reprimanded the majority with an often-quoted comment: “Our constitution is color-blind.” Segregation, he insisted, sprang from whites’ conviction that they were the “dominant race” (a phrase used by the courts majority), and it violated the principle of equal liberty. To Harlan, freedom for the former slaves meant the right to participate fully and equally in American society.” (Foner, 3rd Edition, 647) “In 1950, the Supreme Court unanimously ordered Heman Sweatt admitted to the University of Texas Law School even though the state established a “school” for him in a basement containing three classrooms and no library. There was no way, the Court declared, that this hastily constructed law school could be “equal” to the prestigious all-white institution.” (Foner, 3rd Edition, 944) “Thurgood Marshall decided that the time had come to attack not the unfair applications of the “separate but equal” principle but the doctrine itself. Even with the same funding and facilities, he insisted, segregation was inherently unequal since it stigmatized one group of citizens as unfit to associate with others.” (Foner, 3rd Edition, 944) Although the “Eisenhower administration did not directly support Marshall’s position, it did urge the justices to consider when presiding over the case, “the problem of racial discrimination...in the context of present world struggle between freedom and tyranny.” Other peoples, it noted, “cannot understand how such a practice can exist in a country which professes to be a staunch supporter of freedom, justice and democracy.” (Foner, 3rd Edition, 944) “On May 17, 1954, Warren himself read aloud the decision. Segregation in public education, he concluded, violated the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.” (Foner, 3rd Edition, 945) “In the field of education, the doctrine of separate but equal’ has not place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” (Brown Decision, 1954)

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