There are some who may argue that immediately after the end of the American Civil War and abolition of slavery, America entered in a new era of modern black slavery. One that did not see the blacks physically restrained in chains, but entangled in an era of segregation, physical and verbal attacks, lynching, and silver tongued political promises of equality. The African American Civil Rights movement has had a long and tumultuous history.
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However today only the Civil Right movements of the 1950’s and 60’s are recognized for positive gains which marked history for black citizens. Many Civil Right leaders and activists such as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Walter Francis White, and Ella Baker put an immense amount of work into improving the lives of the African Americans in post Civil War America, yet they take a back seat to figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who is recognized as the public face of the Civil Rights movement.
In the late 1950’s a shift began . For many years the Civil Right leaders and activists sought to work within black communities and with national politicians to pass laws to ensure that the American blacks were given the same opportunities as the white man. This approach, sometimes called the top down approach, promoted the idea that through legislature and federal enforcement the American Negro could eventually achieve the same rights as his white neighbors. However, for every law passed to ensure equality including the Civil Rights Act of 1957, Voting Rights Act, and Brown vs. Board of Education, there was opposition from white citizens.
Segregation and racial oppression began to rise, especially in the south. Anywhere the Civil Rights movement began to gain momentum so did crimes against blacks with majority of those crimes never investigated or prosecuted. Law makers, specially southern Democrats worked actively to make passing any bills to support the Civil Rights Movement difficult. In April 1918, Leonidas Dyer introduced H.R. 11279, an anti-lynching bill based on a draft by Albert E. Pillsbury that called for prosecution of any lynchers and included monetary restitution for the family of the victim from the county in which the crime occured in. The house bill was filibustered by southern Democrats and defeated in the south. As Civil Right leaders pushed for more federal aid, they ignored the white view of the negro social movements. Whites believed negro leadership demanded the white man’s house, the white man’s job, and a seats for their children in the white man’s schools. The white man did not want integration, he wanted segregation. Effectively the Civil Rights era can be summed up as black progress vs. white backlash.
The Civil Rights movement was pushing for government assistance and social changes that improved the lives of black Americans.
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