The Civil Rights Movement and Black Power (Importance of Cold War Context,…
The Civil Rights Movement and Black Power
50% black families live below the poverty line of $3,000 for a family of 4
Median income is 55% that of whites
15% held managerial jobs compared to 44% of whites
Enforced racial separation in all public life: schools, hospitals, swimming pools, cinemas, public transportation, water fountains, public accomodations
Jim Crow Laws enforced segregation in the South
Affected them socially, politically and economically.
In the North, although there was no segregation, African Americans still faced racial discrimination in terms of housing and jobs and they were still treated like second class citizens.
In 1964 only 40% of Souther blacks were eligible to vote (32% Louisiana, 20% Alabama, 6% Mississippi)
Low literacy rates
the Grandfather clause: prevented African Americans from voting if one of their grandparents had been unable to. As slavery had only been abolished just under a century ago, many blacks could not vote as their grandparents had been slaves.
Importance of Cold War Context
This helped to internationalise America's Race Problem
USSR made propaganda out of American racism and used it to criticise capitalism as in communism, everyone was meant to be equal.
Civil Rights groups exploited this leverage.
The Federal Government forced to respond and to 'put its own house in order' - some civil rights victories were more about the US's international image than about a moral imperative.
The Vietnam War also contributed to changing people's opinions as a large majority of African Americans fought for America in Vietnam.
America's international reputation was very important as it want third world countries to
Key Movement Ideologies, Tactics & Campaigns
Using the law to chip away and undermine the system
Plessy Vs. Ferguson (1896) and its doctrine of 'separate but equal' was not utilised in practice
Spearheaded by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
NAACP lawyer: Thurgood Marshall
NAACP is America's longest standing civil rights organisation
NAACP undermine Plessy vs Ferguson by proving that the services provided were not equal
May 1954: Brown Vs Topeka Board of Education: challenged segregation in public schools. The judge decided that the facilities are always going to be unequal. This was seen as a turning point in legislation but there were little changes on the ground as it is handed down to Southern White Supremacists to carry it out - no deadline is set for when they have to do it by.
Greensboro Four: Feb 1960 - Four black students sit-in at Woolworths in Greensboro, NC as these counters were segregated.
By April, this movement has spread to 78 Southern towns and 20,000 people have been arrested
The students faced a lot of backlash from local whites
As the students were well-dressed, minding their own business and studying, it looked very bad to the wider public when they saw white people harassing them simply for sitting there.
Led to the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
Led to Woolworths desegregating their lunch counters
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Setting up of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Montgomery Bus Boycott shows that African Americans could organised effectively on a community-wide scale to defeat Jim Crow. It also showed that non-violence could be effective.
Rose Parks refusing to stand on a bus so a white man can sit down and then gets arrested triggers the Montgomery Bus Boycott and puts MLK into the national spotlight. African Americans and whites who supported them withdrew their economic support form the bus system which ultimately led, a year later, to Montgomery buses being desegregated.
Rosa Parks is often remembered as a quiet, unassuming seamstress who got caught up in this situation accidentally. However, she had a long history of activism which predated 1955.
She was politically active in the 1930s, when she worked with the Communist party. She was also in the NAACP and regularly had confrontations with bus drivers
Her action may have been spontaneous, but it is important to recognise her political background
The Freedom Rides
Organised b y the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in May 1961
Designed to test 1960 Supreme Court decision (Boynton V. Virginia) that segregation of interstate transportation facilities, including the terminals, was unconstitutional.
13 Riders test interstate transportation facilities
Buses were met with large white mobs who set fire to buses. Photos of these events are published around the world
The Birmingham Campiagn
Organised by King's SCLC in spring of 1963: targeted segregated downtown and was picked because it was notorious for its vicious racism so they knew there would be a reaction and therefore publicity
National outcry when the nation witnesses the violence police used against black protesters such as using water hoses.
This put pressure on Johnson to pass the Civil Rights Act on 1964
Organised by the SCLC in 1965: targeted voting rights; Selma is renowned for its racism and local sheriff Jim Clark.
the campaign helped produce the 1965 Voting RIghts Act
Drew on Ghandi's methods
Some see nonviolence as just a strategy for achieving their aims while others see it as a way of life.
Seeks to build a beloved community (integration, justice and love)
King was really important for popularising the philosophy of non-violence
Stokely Carmichael popularisies the slogan black power
Questioned the value of interracial organising and called for racial unity, black pride and self determination
Demand increased black political power; community control of schools and Black Studies programs
Rejection of non-violence and advocacy of self-defense
Internationalism - views the black struggle in America in a global context
racial justice for the poor: addressed this more than other groups
Policed the police by using military and an outwardly aggressive stance
What is often overlooked about the black power movement is the community based action they got involved with such as providing free breakfasts for poor children
Set up their own ambulance service and took basic first aid training so they could go to the black neighbourhoods as the white ambulances would not enter these areas.
The media focused on the violence of the black power movement rather than the community action.
Women were active in circulating newspapers and were on the frontline of organising the movements for both black power and CRM
Classical narrative: Top-down
Confined to the South
Top-down and led by charismatic men such as MLK and liberal presidents like JFK and LBJ
Tactics: legal challenges to segregation and nonviolent direct action
Timeline: from mid 1950s to mid 1960s, it was a glorious decade of acceptance and progress; this is disconnected from earlier struggles and also breaks it up from Black power
Echo media portrayal of events
Aimed at securing legal victories
Focus on the role of charismatic male leaders (MLK), national organisations and the Federal Government
Lawson, Fairclough and Garrow
Revisionist: grassroots movements
These scholars argued that the CRM got most of its strength from the ordinary people who got involved
These scholars came about in the 1980s and 90s:
Carson, Dittmer and Payne
Shows the local roots of tactics and ideologies
Demonstrates how the breadth of the movement extends beyond the South
From 1990s onwards, women's role has become more of a focus of historiography.
Criticise top-down accounts for ignoring the role women played
One example was how Rosa Parks was portrayed as an innocent unassuming woman when actually she had been involved in activism for a while
The grassroots shift encouraged scholarship surrounding women
Women: Fanny Lou Harner, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks
Men led, but women organised
women acted as 'bridge leaders' connecting national organisations and the black community
: The myth that black political history is the product of gifted male leadership has been produced by popular and print cultures, high and low cultures, academic and lay cultures. Women chose to work in organisational positions as they saw them as the most effective way to make change
limited understanding of black womne's leadership roles. Reinforces gendered view of women as tireless background labourers. Their leadership roles are hidden in plain sight.
Challenges traditional distinction between the CR and BP movements
longstanding tradition of black self-defence in the South before and during the CRM operated in tension and tandem with legal efforts and nonviolent protest
Rather than black power being an epilogue of the CRM and being responsible for its downfall (as the violence harmed the movement), Tyson promotes it as a focus
scholars quick to characterise the Black Power movement as the evil twin that ruined the CRM.
Counter revisionists have argued that revisionists have over-emphasised the similarities between civil rights and Black Power. There were important differences that existed
argues that armed resistance played a really different role in the deep south than black power did.
Black people turned to self-defense because they didn't want to be passive bystanders.
Non-violence is extremely popular as everyone can participate
There's no suitable alternative to non-violence as it is working well right now
Used sit-ins as an example as it was made very difficult for white people to criticise them
Robert F. Williams
Supports armed defence as believes there are no other options for African Americans to defend themselves.
Wanted to bring international attention to it to force the federal government to make a change.
Claims violence only ok in self-defense and not violence for the sake of it. People should be able to protect themselves when they are attacked
Not against non-violence as it brings more attention to the issue, but thinks that self-defence can be used in conjunction with it
Non-violence is good for the soul: uses religion to justify non-vilence and criticise violence.
VIolence towards the person is pointless and need to focus hate on the injustices rather than those perpetrating the injustices.
Hurting someone else doesn't damage the system
Better in the long-term - post-settlement relations : creating a community