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    The Civil Rights Movement: Discussion of Race & Power

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    Ponder how the movements led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez in the Central Valley of California influence how you live today. After viewing the montage of the 1963 civil rights march in the reading below what, in your mind, have we as a nation overcome? In what areas do we still have work to do, and what evidence of this have you experienced in your own life or in the life of someone you know?
    What similarities and differences do you see between the civil rights movement and the labor movement led by Cesar Chavez? What was the influence of poverty on these movements? Give two specific examples that show the influence of poverty.
    Singing: "We Shall Overcome" Just 100 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves, 200,000 people converge on the nation's capital to rally for civil rights. They come by train, they come by bus, and by air. They come from the north, the south, the east, and west. They come united in one cause: To urge Congress to pass a civil rights bill to end forever the blight of racial inequity. This great throng with a cause gathers on the mall that stretches from the Washington Monument to the capital. From the break of dawn they filter into the city.
    By 9:30 it is estimated that 40,000 have assembled. But it's more like a Sunday outing as they form into groups and discuss the day quietly. They are scheduled to move to the Lincoln Memorial at noon to hear the top leaders of the movement. Those leaders at the moment are conferring on Capitol Hill with members of Congress pointing up the aims of the rally.
    By 11:30, there are more than 200,000 thronging the mall, a crowd that is bigger than the most optimistic forecasts. Now there is a growing animation as it seems as if the demonstrators are finding strength in each other and discovered their cause was a common bond.
    The crowd becomes impatient to get started and they moved toward the Lincoln Memorial before the scheduled hour. They move with good humor, laugher, and song. Few realize that in a sense they are participants in an historical day. It would become part of the American scene that today's gathering is the largest in Washington history. The men who organize the rally walk with springing steps towards the speaker stand. On the left, Roy Wilkins with A Phillip Randolph. They have fought their fight all of their adult lives. In the van is Martin Luther King who has been jailed twelve times of racial issues. Others on hand include Walter Reuther, head of the auto workers.
    Authorities were fearful of disorders and there are over 5,000 uniformed men on duty. They had little to do but keep dissident groups away from the rally. Arrests in Washington were below normal. Police attribute this to the fact that for the first time in thirty years you couldn't even buy a beer in Washington. The Civil Rights marchers needed no stimulants like that. They provided their own with songs that ranged from the sacred to the hillbilly. But with the one recurring theme: the case of twenty million Negros.
    Singing: "We Shall Overcome"
    The crowd assembled around the reflecting pool before the Lincoln Memorial occupies every inch of the lawn and under the trees. There's a great swell of tears to welcome Martin Luther King to the speaker's podium, a man who stands as a symbol of all they are fighting for. Later Dr. King and the other leaders are to go to the White House where the President said that everyone must be impressed with the demonstration of the throng's faith and confidence in our democratic form of government. However he warned there's a long fight ahead in Congress. The theme, the keynote, the thought uppermost in minds of all here today is best said forth by Dr. King. He sums up a day at the capitol we'll all remember. MLK: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self evident that all men re created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream." Washington, DC. 1963. Democracy speaks.

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    Solution Preview

    There are several theories and ways to look at the rise of the Civil Rights movement in U.S. History - one is through the manner in which the charismatic leaders of the movements influenced student and individual protests to rally new thoughts and action in an already volitile area. In fact, the five decades comprising the 1950s to the millennium were, in United States History, both tumultuous and exciting. There were so many changes in the social, political, and technological areas, the World War II Era now seems quite primitive. Sine 1950 we have had a major cultural revolution, at least four major military conflicts (depending on who defines), rapid technological growth, new and virulent diseases, a President who resigned rather than face impeachment and jail, the fall of the Soviet Union, telecommunications and transportation improvements that are vast, and several economic challenges.

    The 1950s was an Era of dramatic change. America had been on the winning side of the war, and the resultant economic boom and political situation pushed the United States into the limelight. America was "rich," and expected to help other countries, but was going through its own crises at home, and growing pains socially and economically. Several large trends occurred during the 1950s, the Cold War between the United States and the USSR developed, Africa began to be decolonialized throwing the economic and political situation out of balance, the Korean War brought the United States into another global conflict, tensions heated up in Egypt (the Suez Canal Crisis) and Cuba (Castro and the Cuban Revolution), and America went through a turbulent time with Anti-Communist feelings and Senator Joseph McCarthy's accusations and focus on "reds in the State Department." (Halberstam, 1994, intro.)

    The Civil Rights Movement, far from beginning in the 1950s, did have some rather impressive gains. The gains occurred not because of one person or one group, but of a movement that seemed to coalesce and solidify even through adversity. Perhaps it was the right time - Blacks had served in World War II, exposing some White Americans to race issues for the first time; the country was focused on anti-communism, so race may have taken a second seat. It is also important to remember that it was not just brave African Americans who led the fight for justice, but college students and religious leaders of many races. In fact, these activities often employed legal challenges, civil protests, and other initiatives to bring the issue of race into the living rooms of middle-class Americans. Not all African Americans agreed with the manner in which the struggle should be put in place: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was a primary advocate of peaceful change - reasonable dialog, and taking the arguments of Thoreau and Gandhi to heart. King believed if enough people openly disobeyed, albeit peacefully, unjust laws and actions, those laws would fail. (Morris, 1986, 30-44, 58-89). In contrast, though, as millions of African Americans migrated from the rural South to the North and West seeking new jobs, they demanded higher pay and a more egalitarian system. This, combined with more mechanization of agriculture in the South, moved the African American into a wider dispersion in the country. It is also interesting to note that most Americans, politicians especially, supported the decolonization of the African nations and equal government and rights for those populations - but then, in their own backyard, had differing views. Legal challenges abounded, the most famous was the 1954 decision "Brown vs. Board of Education," in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional. By denying anyone the right to an education, the Court said, many institutions in the South were denying basic Constitutional rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. (See: http://brownvboard.org/summary/) However, while the ruling was a major victory, when, in 1957 the little Rock Arkansas School District was ordered to desegregate, its Governor Fabus refused, arguing that the States had the right to administer their schools. In the Fall of 1957, Fabus called out the National Guard to prevent African Americans from entering Little Rock High School - and, media coverage in its infancy, Americans were still shocked to see White mobs attacking Black children. (See: "Governor Fabus Resists Integration," in http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/school-integration/lilrock/faubus.html). With the world's eyes watching America, and President Eisenhower desperate to regain control over the States, Federal Troops were called in to protect African Americans, and Governor Fabus closed the schools in 1958 and 1959. Still, the Movement accentuated the idea of peaceful coexistence and the establishment of legal authority for members of all races. What possibly made the Civil Right's Movement of the 1950s so important is not necessarily what battles were won, but what preparations were made as the decade drew to a close. (Jackson, 2006, inclusive).

    In contrast, though, as millions of African Americans migrated from the rural South to the North and West seeking new jobs, they demanded higher pay and a more egalitarian system. This, ...

    Solution Summary

    The solution provides a comprehensive background narrative on the topics of power and race within the Civil Rights Movement. Full of historical, social and political insight, dates, presonalities and events are named and references are also provided - a valuable guide to anyone studying this period of American History.