The Civil Rights Movement was impactful during the 1950’s and 1960’s era. Beyond those years minority groups have strived towards equality despite many obstacles ahead of them.
I was just watching a documentary a few days ago highlighting some of the biggest names during that time such as Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Stockley Carmichael, and Black Panther leader Elridge Cleaver. The film also included the bus boycott in the southern state of Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
These leaders, in addition to many others, helped set a foundation on how to fight conflict through acts of nonviolence in order to seek equality for a group of American citizens thirsty to be set free from the bondage of Jim Crow oppression and domestic tyranny.
The Civil Rights Movement was a very personal journey, yet it was an all-inclusive one at the same time considering the massive conflict the world was in, not to mention the race crisis that the United States found itself embroiled with. Land of the free? Black people didn’t have it.
The Supreme Court win by Thurgood Marshall in Brown vs. Board of Education back in 1954 cracked the shield of segregationists. However, it would take a full-throttle movement to deliver justice for Black Americans in the form of having the right to vote and other liberties afforded to white citizens.
With the constant threat of gerrymandering and political redistricting maneuvering at play, the right to vote and the ability to cast ballots for a favorable candidate or measure is still a challenge. If you don’t believe me, pay attention to what’s happening in Alabama today as an example of a deliberate process to rob American citizens of a fundamental right.
The fight continues. Yes, nearly 70 years after the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, democracy is still a fleeting thing for those in this country. As America navigated its way past World War II and somehow got interjected into the Vietnam War, the nation was confronted with another vicious battle, and that would be one of equality for all of its citizens.
Black people didn’t have rights. It is almost hard to fathom that 50, 60, or even 70 years ago, timestamps of another generation, my grandparents were in the mix of trying to fight for freedom. It has not been that long ago that Black people had to abide by the separate and unequal creed.
The Civil Rights Movement was a reflection of Black people as well as other Americans who were fed up with the white superiority doctrine that was ripping apart the fabric of this country. With the Cold War at its peak and the Vietnam War headed in the wrong direction, the Civil Rights Movement was assisted by this world conflict.
The United States at the time was a very powerful evolving country, but minority groups were alienated. Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latino Americans, all had been facing many forms of adversity separately.
As a nation, this country was built upon Liberty and Freedom. These minority groups were being pushed and shoved around in many forms of political injustice, education, employment, immigration, transpiration, voting rights, and overall human decency. The lack of compassion for minorities outside of being white was far beyond egregious.
This remains a work in progress today. That starts with the label treatment. Black people have received so many labels that the stigma itself is racist. The N-word. Negro. Colored. Half-breed. Mulatto. Black. The self-identification crisis was and still is an issue in the Black community today.
One of the main sticking points of the Civil Rights Movement was to give that identity and purpose back to Black Americans. Being labeled colored created a form of separatism of Blacks from European colonists and immigrants who shared the territory together. The separation of individuals and groups in the ethnicity and complexion realm is dangerous.
However, I shall tell you that such views hurt everyone involved. It is hard to believe that these human ideas would bring about hatred, violence, and immoral human behavior because someone else had a different skin color than what you saw in the mirror.
The Civil Rights Movement was necessary for the progress of the nation. Political debates were held. Community activism got stronger and bolder. Voices of dissent became louder. Some laws began to dissipate. But for every victory won, there was sacrifice. Bloody Sunday comes to mind.
Today, the fight still continues. We’ve seen progress in voting equality for men and women, individual political advancement, improved community engagement, public access to education, the creation of public entertainment, and better employment opportunities for minorities.
However, we still have a long way off from where we want to go as a country. The founders and the many who fought alongside them I feel would be proud of the continuous effort of their children and grandchildren, to give hope, inspire, bring love, and uplift an oppressed people seeking change and seeking a moral pursuit for happiness.
Top Photo: President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, and James Farmer. Photo credit: Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.
Dennis Freeman Jr. is a photojournalist and a contributing writer. His portfolio includes shooting images for Sacramento City College and writing sports commentary. Dennis is a native of the Bay Area and resides currently in San Francisco, California.