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Civil Rights Movement

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Beginning in the 1950's, the Civil Rights Movement was a prime issue during it's time. The Civil Rights Movement lasted, mainly, from 1955 through 1968, and was a nonviolent movement. Was America ready for equal liberties and freedom? It took thirteen long, hard years to find out.

Even though the years 1955 through 1968 are given as the dates of the movement, the fight for civil rights started before then and continues today. The dates are simply when the movement became mainstream and was brought to the forefront as one of America's main issues. The fight for civil rights has been going on since the beginning of America, when Africans were transported to the "New World" to be enslaved. After slavery was abolished, people still treated blacks inferior to whites, not allowing them to vote and taking away various other rights that each American citizen should have.

The "mainstream" Civil Rights Movement began in 1955, when Emmett Till's brutal murder in Money, Mississippi. He was accused of whistling at a white woman in the store and later on, two men showed up at his uncle's house and kidnapped him. They brutally beat him, put a bullet through his skull, and disposed of the body in the Tallahatchie River late at night on August 28, 1955.

The two men were arrested the day after Till's Disappearance, but were acquitted a month later by an all-white jury. Emmett Till's mother chose to have an open casket funeral to show the world the horrible and sadistic way her son was killed.

The event that followed shortly after in Montgomery, Alabama was another act that helped trigger the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks, a black woman, was told to move from her seat on the bus after a white passenger got on the bus, but she refused. She was arrested, tried, and convicted of disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. When people found out about this there was a gathering of fifty black residents and they started to Montgomery Bus Boycott to protest segregation on public buses. Lasting 382 days, the city finally caved in to the boycott and the local law that whites got seats before blacks on buses was revoked. This ended the boycott and pushed the movement into full swing.

Until 1955, civil rights took place in courtrooms or as unorganized movements. The local police of an area could handle anything that protestors could put out, mainly because the movements were uncoordinated. However, after the bus boycott and the murder of Emmett Till, the strategy became more direct. Using boycotts, sit-ins , and freedom rides, the supporters of the movement began to use mass mobilization and nonviolent resistance to push the envelope.

The NAACP was barred from operation in Alabama during 1956, after the state required the organization to give a list of member s. When the failed to do so, they were banned. So, they were forced to operate underground, rather than out in the open. However, many local churches and other groups stepped un to help out while the NAACP was banned. They brought more energy and charisma to the movement, which got more people involved, because it was more of proactive way to fight.

Perhaps, one of the most important actions of the early movement was when Edgar Nixon and Rosa Parks called upon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. top head the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955-1956. He had a knack for giving great speeches and getting the best out of a crowd. Dr. King brought the movement to the mainstream faster and stronger than ever before.

King, who became very respected throughout the Civil Rights Movement, is a name that many people think of when they think about Civil Rights. King headed dozens, maybe hundreds, of boycotts, demonstrations, and gave equally as many inspirational speeches to crows of up to thousands.

In 1957, the Little Rock, Arkansas school board voted to integrate the school system. The NAACP pressed this issue because of Arkansas seemingly progressive nature. However, on the day that blacks were supposed to start school, a crisis began. The Governor, Orval Faubus, called on the National Guard to keep the nine black students from entering the school on September 4. Faubus has been pressured by the conservative wing of the Democratic Party, which controlled the politics in that state, to step in and stop integration. So, wanting to be reelected, Faubus stepped in and took a stand against integration. Shortly after the deployment of the National Guard, President Eisenhower, intent on enforcing integration, sent the 101st Airborne Division to protect the students while they attended school.

Shortly after, Greensboro, North Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia started to take part in the movement. Blacks began to protest at local establishments due to their refusal to desegregate. Protestors were encouraged to dress-up, sit quietly, and occupy every other seat so that white protestors could join in. Often, local police or other authorities forcefully removed protestors from the stores.

These demonstrations were not a new idea. They were used in the 1940's by the Congress of Racial Equality to protest segregation during that time period. The forms of protest were done in public places such as parks, movie theaters, and lunch counters. They proved to be successful when they gained a following and were done with force.

These new techniques of demonstrations included freedom rides. Freedom rides were thought to be very helpful, but, in the end, turned out to be very dangerous. Riders in Alabama were attacked with firebombs, and in Birmingham were attacked by the Ku Klux Klan and severely beaten. While in jail, the riders were treated very poorly. Given very little food, beaten routinely, and crowed into tiny cells with many other people.

Robert Moses formed the Council of Federated Organizations out of the SNCC, NAACP, and CORE, in 1962. The organization was formed in Mississippi, the most dangerous, racist state. Many activists, including Moses and Medgar Evers, went door-to-door trying to get people to join in and fight for the cause. Proving how dangerous Mississippi was during the movement, Evers was murdered under a year later.

The purpose of the COFO was to provide help for blacks living in the state at that time. The first successful showing of the COFO was when James Meredith sued for admittance to the University of Mississippi and won. However, like Little Rock, when he tried to attended school on September 20, 25, and 26, he was blocked by the Governor Ross R. Barnett. However, the governor and his lieutenant were held in contempt with fines exceeding $10,000 for each day they didn't let Meredith enter the school. Meredith finally entered the school, after many riots and injuries to U.S. Marshall's, on September 20, 1962. He was escorted

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