To What Extent Did The Aims Of The Campaigners For African American Civil Rights Remain The Same Between 1865 and The 1970s?
There were many people who believed strongly about how things should change for the better regarding the position of African Americans within the period of 1865-1970. Even though Radical Republicans had attempted to improve the quality of life for blacks by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and 1875, the Ku Klux Klan Act, as well as the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, whites in the South refused to have it any other way than that blacks remained second class citizens and to be kept in their place. The black codes as well as literacy tests, poll taxes, and violence means that blacks weren’t able to vote, and any chances for social equality were completely reduced due to several decisions made by the Supreme Court.
In 1896, Plessey v Ferguson upheld a decision by the Supreme Court to refrain blacks from gaining equality, with the principle of “separate but equal” facilities, yet campaigners such as William Du Bois and Booker T Washington persisted and both promoted the idea that the African Americans should seek economic and social equality, regardless of whether they wanted them to be pushed forward all at once. Marcus Garvey was also another campaigner who aimed to emphasise economic success, as well as Malcolm X who reflected the ideas of Marcus Garvey decades later.
All of these campaigners supported each other in a sense, seeing as they all aimed for equality and success in the economic and social aspects of these times. After the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, blacks throughout the city joined together to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak out against segregation and the laws that Rosa Parks had violated under Jim Crow. In 1957, King formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to help gain support from the churches, and to promote a non-violent approach to tackle segregation.
Ella Baker and other students formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960.The SNCC members organized hundreds of protests throughout the South in the 1960s and participated in every major campaign. Although not many other campaigners followed the same ideas as Martin Luther King Jr. to promote non-violence, many other ideas such as aiming for equality and respect from all other races in the United States, especially the whites.
The idea of violent, or forceful protest was supported by many such as Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Stokely Carmichael who condones the use of violence for redemption. Many of these campaigners did not suggest violence, but they supported the use of it had it been necessary. For example, Malcolm X did not propose violence, but deemed it necessary to protect women as they weren’t seen as successful or dominant enough to protect themselves within the Nation of Islam which he supported. The Black Panthers were formed in 1966 and were another form of campaigners who felt that non-violent campaigns had failed. The Black Panthers had a particularly clear view that they would use violence to get what they wanted.
They had four desires which were equality in housing, education, employment and civil rights. Independent countries or states for blacks and whites was an idea that was proposed and explored by several campaigners. Their beliefs were that white people would never be able to fully accept the African Americans, and that they would never be truly equal regardless of whichever laws were laid down. Marcus Garvey felt it was best that African Americans went back to Africa, each and every one of them because they were not American, they were purely African. He felt that it would be a better situation had they all fled to another country because there would not be such an issue of segregation. Although Malcolm X supported the ideas of Marcus Garvey and was influenced by his aims, he did not think they should leave back to Africa, just that blacks and whites should be kept completely separate. Malcolm X believed that white people were never going to truly see the damage they were causing and so therefore there would never be a true equality between the two races.
As a result of this, Malcolm X wanted African Americans and whites to be completely separate, where there would be no issue of racism because it wouldn’t be an interracial area. Stokely Carmichael also pushed forward the idea that the black people of America should promote independence, and stand up for the fact that they would not be pushed around by white people and that they were their own race who should have as much respect as any other. Black Power was a term that spurred from former SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael. The black power movement reflected the idea of militancy, independence, and nationalism within the black community in the late 1960s and early 1970s.The idea of black power was that “black was beautiful” and it promoted black pride and rejection of the traditional white views, while creating a strong racial identity for the African Americans.
The endlessly reoccurring idea that reflects in every speaker such as Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, or the groups formed all across the years such as the SNCC or the Black Panthers, is equality. In one way or another, equality was exactly what they all wanted. The idea of being respected, treated similarly and having living conditions and economic statuses that were the same was what they were all after. Their aims bounce off each other’s, as seen with Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X where ideas run through different campaigners.
Although there were differences in their methods of protest and their backgrounds, each campaign led to the underlying cause of need for equality. There were of course changes between the different speakers as seen with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. where one of them wanted to work with the white man, and the other wanted complete segregation, but this did not change the fact that both of these men wanted people to be respected regardless of their race and for blacks and whites to share the same quality of life.
Equality was key, it was the essential desire for all of the campaigners throughout the civil rights movements between 1865 and the 1970s, and despite the methodological differences and the idea of segregation and integration, everybody just wanted to be the same.