Discussion #10: The Struggle for Civil Rights. NEEDED BY Tuesday 12/07 at 5pm HALF PAGE Discussion #10: The Struggle for Civil Rights Throughout the 1950

Discussion #10: The Struggle for Civil Rights. NEEDED BY Tuesday 12/07 at 5pm HALF PAGE Discussion #10: The Struggle for Civil Rights

Throughout the 1950

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Discussion #10: The Struggle for Civil Rights. NEEDED BY Tuesday 12/07 at 5pm HALF PAGE Discussion #10: The Struggle for Civil Rights

Throughout the 1950s African Americans in northern cities grew increasingly active in opposing discrimination and in protesting white resistance to black progress in housing, education, and employment. Martin Luther King and others embarked on a campaign of nonviolent resistance and demonstrations, which spread to the south. Some of the leadership in the Deep South responded with brutal force, taking a militant stand against change, and in defiance of federal legislation to grant African Americans their civil rights.  


Response to only one of the following questions:

Identify and list some of the factors that contributed to the success of the Civil Rights movement. Choose one, and discuss its significance to the movement, and explain why you made this particular choice.
“Ironically, the reaction of many southern whites to the civil rights activities may have actually served to help the blacks’ cause.” Agree or Disagree with this statement.  Make sure that you provide evidence to support your argument.

In order to earn the full 100 points (100%) for this assignment, you must:

Directly and completely answer at least ONE question. Please make sure that you clearly indicate which question you have chosen to discuss. Clearly and accurately explain your answer based on factual information contained in the assigned readings. (80 points)
Students must respond to at least one fellow student’s posting explaining the reason(s) for their agreement or disagreement, with the arguments that have been presented, in order to get full credit for the discussion. (20 points)
When posting your response to a fellow student’s comment, please try whenever possible, to select the question that you did not address for your discussion.
Make sure that all statements are supported with facts from the reading selections.


https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/eyesontheprize-responses-coming-civil-rights-movement/ The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the American People, 6/e

Alan Brinkley, Columbia University, Copyright year: 2010

Debating the Past

Chapter Thirty-One: The Ordeal of Liberalism

Where Historians Disagree – the Civil Rights Movement

The civil rights movement was one of the most important events in the modern history of

the United States. It helped force the dismantling of legalized segregation and

disenfranchisement of African Americans, and also served as a model for other groups

mobilizing to demand dignity and rights. And like all important events in history, it has
produced scholarship that examines the movement in a number of different ways.

The early histories established a view of the civil rights movement that remains the most

widely accepted. They rest on a heroic narrative of moral purpose and personal courage by

which great men and women inspired ordinary people to rise up and struggle for their

rights. This narrative generally begins with the Brown decision of 1954 and the Montgomery

Bus Boycott of 1955, continues through the civil rights campaigns of the early 1960s, and

culminates in the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. Among the central events in this

narrative are the March on Washington of 1963, with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I

Have a Dream Speech,” and the assassination of King in 1968, which has often symbolized

the end of the movement and the beginning of a different, more complicated period of the

black freedom struggle. The key element of these narratives is the central importance to the

movement of a few great leaders, most notably King himself. Among the best examples of

this kind of narrative are Taylor Branch’s powerful studies of the life and struggles of King,

Parting the Waters (1988) and Pillar of Fire (1998), as well as David Garrow’s important

study, Bearing the Cross (1986).

Few historians would deny the importance of King and other leaders to the successes of the

civil rights movement. But a number of scholars have argued that the leader-centered

narrative obscures the vital contributions of ordinary people in communities throughout the

South, and the nation, to the struggle. John Dittmer’s Local People: The Struggle for Civil-

Rights in Mississippi (1994) and Charles Payne’s I’ve Got the Light of Freedom (1995) both

examine the day-to-day work of the movement’s rank and file in the early 1960s and argue

that their efforts were at least as important as those of King and other leaders. The national

leadership helped bring visibility to these struggles, but King and his circle were usually

present only briefly, if at all, for the actual work of communities in challenging segregation.

Only by understanding the local origins of the movement, these and other scholars argue,
can we understand its true character.

Scholars also disagree about the time frame of the movement. Rather than beginning the

story in 1954 or 1955 (as in Robert Weisbrot’s excellent 1991 synthesis Freedom Bound or

William Chafe’s remarkable 1981 local study Civilities and Civil Rights, which examined the

Greensboro sit-ins of 1961), a number of scholars have tried to move the story into both

earlier periods and later ones. Robin Kelly’s Race Rebels (1994) emphasizes the important

contributions of working-class African Americans, some of them allied for a time with the

Communist Party, to the undermining of racist assumptions. These activists, he shows,

organized some of the earliest civil rights demonstrations—sit-ins, marches, and other

efforts to challenge segregation—well before the conventional dates for the beginning of the

movement. Gail O’Brien’s The Color of the Law (1999) examines a 1946 “race riot” in

Columbia, Tennessee, arguing for its importance as a signal of the early growth of African-

American militancy, and the movement of that militancy from the streets into the legal

Other scholars have looked beyond the 1960s and have incorporated events outside the

orbit of the formal “movement” to explain the history of the civil rights struggle. A growing

literature on northern, urban, and relatively radical activists has suggested that focusing too

much on mainstream leaders and the celebrated efforts in the South in the 1960s diverts

our view from the equally important challenges facing northern African Americans and the

very different tactics and strategies that they often chose to pursue their goals. The

enormous attention historians have given to the life and legacy of Malcolm X—among them

Alex Haley’s influential Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965) and Michael Eric Dyson’s Making

Malcolm (1996)—is one example of this, as is the increasing attention scholars have given

to black radicalism in the late 1960s and beyond and to such militant groups as the Black

Panthers. Other recent literature has extended the civil-rights struggle even further, into the

1980s and beyond, and has brought into focus such issues as the highly disproportionate

number of African Americans sentenced to death within the criminal justice system. Randall
Kennedy’s Race, Crime, and the Law (1997) is a particularly important study of this issue.

Even Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the great landmark of the legal challenge to

segregation, has been subject to re-examination. Richard Kluger’s narrative history of the

Brown decision, Simple Justice (1975), is a classic statement of the traditional view of

Brown as a triumph over injustice. But others have been less certain of the dramatic

success of the ruling. James T. Patterson’s Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights

Milestone and its Troubled Legacy (2001) argues that the Brown decision long preceded any

national consensus on the need to end segregation and that its impact was far less decisive

than earlier scholars have suggested. Michael Klarman’s From Jim Crow to Civil Rights

(2004) examines the role of the Supreme Court in advancing civil rights and suggests,

among other things, that the Brown decision may actually have retarded racial progress in

the South for a time because of the enormous backlash it created. Charles Ogletree’s All

Deliberate Speed (2004) and Derrick Bell’s Silent Covenants (2004) both argue that the

court’s decision did not provide an effective enforcement mechanism for desegregation and

in many other ways failed to support measures that would have made school desegregation

a reality. They note as evidence for this view that American public schools are now more
segregated—even it not forcibly by law— than they were at the time of the Brown decision.

As the literature on the African-American freedom struggles of the twentieth century has

grown, historians have begun to speak of civil rights movements, rather than a single,

cohesive movement. In this way, scholars recognize that struggles of this kind take many

more forms, and endure through many more periods of history, than the more traditional

accounts suggest.

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