Ever time immemorial, man has enslaved his fellow man due to the feelings of being superior or more important than the other. All this time what varied were conditions of servitude or slavery. Throughout history, inequality has existed: it was employed by the ancient Mesopotamian, Indian, and Chinese civilizations, in classical Greece and Rome, and in pre- Colombian America by the native Aztec, Inca, and Mayan empires even in the bible it is quoted with the slavery of Israelites in Egypt, (Friedman, 2008).
The United States of America for a long period was characterized by racism and favoritism among people of different skin colors who lived in that country. In fact it was just in the 19th and the early 20th centuries which marked increased efforts among the Americans of all states and walks by trying to apply all strategies that could end slavery and secure legal equality across all Americans regardless of their color, gender or race.
Among the most oppressed and discriminated races in America were the Americans of African origin in most of places they were seen as servant by the whites and most of them used to work in the plantations of white Americans. The process of achieving or attaining equal civil rights among the African-Americans has been slow but there have been quite a number of gains that have been achieved in the struggle against oppression (Friedman, 2008).
The process for fighting for equal rights among the African-Americans was a long (bearing in mind their originality was associated with slavery) one and they had to undergo many problems before they could be recognized as equal citizens by the other Americans. To succeed in achieving equal rights among the African-Americans and other citizens, the African-Americans used different strategies which were organized and managed through the African-American movement rights.
These movements gained fame and are most of the time recognized for their efforts in the period between 1950-1970 which led to recognition of African-American citizens as equal citizens enjoying the same rights and privileges just like the other citizens. What will follow here below is a summary of the activities which the African American movements engaged in to advance their pleas that there was a need for them to be recognized as equal citizens.
African Americans had been facing segregation almost in every sector whether in the voting rights, education, and transport system among other places. As the fight for equal opportunities in the education system continued, it was not until 1954, in a case between Brown and Board of Education, in Topeka Kansas, that the Supreme Court made a land marking ruling against the education system. During the earlier years, black students were never allowed to mix or could not be enrolled in the same class with white students.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court declared segregation of white children and colored citizens unconstitutional and also inhuman since it had a negative upon the children especially because most instances of segregation wanted to prove the African American citizens as inferior when compared to the white Americans. As time progressed, these segregation practices were phased out in the different American stats slowly by slowly (Hinton, 2009).
In the following year, 1955, the murder of a black boy by the name of Emmett Till who had been visiting his relatives when he was beaten, shot and dumped by two white for the simple reason that he had whistled to a white lady also led to mass riots and demonstration against segregation in the US. At the funeral of the young boy, the mother decided to keep the coffin open for the people who had attended the funeral to view displaying the torture and the beatings her son had gone through in the hand of the brutal murders before he died (Aretha, 2007).
As a result, these sparked protests as people who had attended the funeral saw the corpse and the anguish which the boy had gone through before his death; the matter was made worse when the young boy’s photo was published in the newspapers.
His killers had been arrested after the boy was murdered but a month later, they were acquitted of the killings by a jury which was composed of whites only. After their release, the two men went further and declared they were indeed guilty but since they could not be rearrested and charged afresh as it would be double jeopardy, the men survived and the African-Americans went on suffering and being discriminated by a white dominated country.
In the same year but in another State, the boycott of the city buses in Montgomery and Alabama is another event which contributed to the recognition of African-American citizens as equal citizens.
The boycott of the city buses in Montgomery was a political social protest which started in the year 1955 in Montgomery which the African-Americans intended to use as a sign of their opposition to the racial discrimination and segregation which had been going on for quite a long period in the transport system. Among the recognized leaders which this movement had was Martin Luther.
The protests which took place for some months almost crippled the transport system of the Alabama State, since the blacks who were protesting against the racial segregation rules formed the bulk of the customers who used the Montgomery transport system. The boycotting process was ignited by a racial segregation case where in that state, African -Americans were expected to wake up from their seats whenever a white person entered the vehicle.
On the fateful day of December 1955 an African-American woman was arrested by the authorities after she refused to surrender her seat to a white person. This led to mass boycotts of the transport system for over a whole year until December 1956 when the Supreme Court declared that the Alabama and the Montgomery laws were discriminatory and based on social segregation and they had to be abandoned for the African-Americans to enjoy life like fellow Americans.
After the ruling of the case between Brown and the Board of Education, people started shifting from addressing their grievances through the court systems and instead, they turned to direct action which included mass action, bus boycotts as we have seen above, and all the tactics which were available to mobilize people and urge them to hold non violent mass actions as well as disobey any existing civil rules which were discriminatory against them.
In the 10 years which followed (1955-1965), some Southern States attempted to outlaw these movements. For example in Alabama, the NAACP was banned from its boundaries until the authorities could get a list of all those people who were members of the movement. Religious movements were not also left behind in mobilizing their followers in fighting for equal rights. The used the bible teachings to fight against equality and racial desegregation. Their followers were really energetic and believed on the course.
The leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) movement, Parks and Nixon convinced Martin Luther to lead the bus boycott at Montgomery. As a result of the boycott, the Montgomery Improvement Association was born to keep the boycotts within the state ongoing.
The success of these boycotts made Martin Luther a national figure and his efforts led to other boycotts such as the Tallahassee boycott in Florida during the year 1956-1957. As a result of success in the boycotts, the different leaders joined and formed the Southern Christian leadership Conference (SCLC) in the year 1957.
Rather than put efforts on creating network of chapters as NAACP had done, the SCLC looked for funds which could assist in fighting racial segregation through education and the enlightening the African-American citizens. They fought for the African-American rights through non violence means and due to this, it was even bashed by some university students as not being aggressive as it was expected.
Later in the year, the movement then joined hands with the Highland Research and Education Center and introduced citizenship schools whose main intention was to educate the African Americans as a result giving them power and the ability to pass the voters eligibility tests a feat which achieved much success with the number of African-American voters increasing gradually.
Fighting for African-Americans rights continued with movements airing their grievances day by day. Sometimes the movements faced many challenges as it was experienced in the case of the Albany movement of 1961. The desegregation campaign of 1961 did not succeed majorly due to the tactics in which the police used at that time. The movement was contained as a result of the police contacting every prison facility which was within 60 miles from Albany.
Most of the demonstrators were arrested and instead of being taken to cells where they could be presented in a court of law, they were taken to the jails in the day. The police had arrested Martin Luther along with the other demonstrators but due to the problems his arrest could spark, Luther was later released. Martin Luther left the movement in 1962 without achieving much from the movement but the movement continued with its activities and it achieved a lot in the years that followed (Eskew, 1997).
After the Albany movement proved to be a difficult mission and with the departure of Martin Luther, several other movements emerged and learning from the mistakes of the Alabama movement, rather than desiring to change the whole system movements which targeted specific structures within the law sprung up.
In response to the negative response of the Birmingham mayor who had lost an election to a less known segregationist candidate but refused to accept the defeat, the Birmingham Movement came along with the advocating for voting rights.
The movement was did not perform as expected and it did not have the power which the previous movements had shown due to the fact most people were afraid in risking their lives to jail as was the order of the day if they joined in peaceful mass action whether peaceful or violent (Rubin, Rudnick& Smith, 2005).
However, the major achievement for the African-American movements was in the year 1965. As African- Americans kept pressing for their voting rights not just in a single state but through out the United States of America. It began in the Selma and the African-American rights achieved the voting rights through a state act in Alabama. In the same year, the American president, Johnson signed the voting rights act which made discrimination of any American citizen (African-Americans included) a crime liable to a jail sentence or a penalty.
With the law in place, all the poll taxes, the literacy tests which the African-Americans had to undergo before receiving a voters card were removed (Conroy, 2006). Within months of its enactment, many African-American almost quarter a million registered as voters and more and more registered for the voter’s card and engaged in the elections.
People who had earlier opposed the rights for the African Americans to have voters’ cards were the first to pay for the price whereby in the region where the minority races were many, they voted for one of their own and this led to several people losing their seats to Americans from the minor societies.
Among the impacts of the struggle for civil rights was that there was change of attitude among the whites and while in the past the whites could not serve the blacks in their stores now it was an easy option without thinking of the skin color (Friedman, 2008).
The African-American people were now recognized as equal citizens among other American citizens of the different races and as a result, this made them very comfortable and they could now associate with the United States of America as a country of their own and a country they were proud to be citizens of.
The struggle for civil rights in America among the blacks also brought along the voting rights for the blacks in that though previously the blacks did not have the power to vote not only did they gain the powers to vote but in populations where the blacks were more than the whites the blacks voted one of their own.
This was a major break through as everybody had a chance to choose the leader of their own and while in the past the whites had no business in dealing with the Africans- American, with them now possessing the voting power, anybody who wanted to win the election surely had to deal with them in order to gain their support.
The improvements of these civil rights have of late seen blacks becoming mayors of major cities for example the New York. America has also had a black secretary of state in the name of Collin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
In the year 2009, Barrack Obama became the first African American president and that shows some of the impacts of civil rights struggles. Not only in the political arena but there has been dominance in other field such as sports and entertainment with Michael Jordan in the basket ball among other sportsmen and Denzel Washington in the entertainment arena among other greats.
Despite all these advances, a quarter of African-American citizens live in abject poverty and discrimination though the authorities may not admit is still rife in many places in the united states of America but nevertheless huge gains have been made since the beginning of the struggle to equal civil rights among the Americans of all states (Anonymous, pg 4)
Achievement of equal rights for the African-American citizens was a long journey which had numerous challenges including the killings, jail sentences, beatings among others but despite these challenges Americans of the African origin fought for their rights through right movements and they now enjoy the same rights as those Americans of other races.
Anonymous. (2010). “African Americans”. Retrieved May 11, 2011, from
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Conroy, T. (2006).The voting rights of 1965: A selected annotated bibliography. The Law library, 98, 663-690.
Eskew, G. (1997). But for Birmingham: the local and national movements in the civil rights struggle. North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press Books.
Friedman, M. (2008). Free at last; the US civil rights movement. Retrieved May 11, 2011, from
Hinton, K. (2009). Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas,1954. Newark, DE:
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Rubin, R., Rudnick, L., & Smith, R. (2005). American identities: An introductory textbook. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.