Unity Amid Diversity
The 1950’s and 1960’s was a dawning of a new age. Many changes were occurring within America’s society. Segregation was prominent with the passing of Plessy vs. Ferguson, however, the Jim Crow laws of the south were being challenged. Negroes in the south wanted equality and justice. The nation was in need of an ethic of caring and a solid identity of what it meant to be an “American.” With the war in Vietnam and the war for equality, people were fed up with all of the hate. The public cried, “Make love, not war (Tallulah).” During this time of hardship, the Civil Rights Movement introduced us to many influential Americans that helped make equality possible and also made everyone proud to be American. From the famous court case of Brown vs. Board of Education and the refusal of Rosa Parks to the ideas and actions of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Anne Moody, equality emerged in the United States and a positive, patriotic and respectful outlook was placed on what it is to be an “American.”
The Civil Rights Movement was like a time bomb waiting to go off. African-Americans throughout the south looked at each other as if saying, “wait, just wait.” Surprisingly, the initiation came from a young, black girl who had to travel several miles to attend a segregated school even though she lived right next door to a white elementary school. This famous court case, known as Brown vs. Board of Education, determined that segregation in public schools based on race was unconstitutional. This decision was the result of decades of efforts by black segregationist opponents. With black and white children attending the same schools, having equal opportunities elsewhere became increasingly desirable.
It was during this period of waiting that a petite, middle-aged woman named Rosa Parks was the person to officially begin the fight for racial equality in America. On the afternoon of Thursday, December 1, 1995, Mrs. Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man and was arrested. This simple action of dominance and defiance began one of the most important struggles in American history. As the small yet strong-willed woman was hauled off to jail, word of her refusal spread throughout the country. People of all races and ages were inspired by her actions and the news traveled through telephone lines and word of mouth like rapid fire. Little did Mrs. Parks know that she had just officially started the Civil Rights Movement.
Rosa Parks was a very prominent figure in the fight for civil rights along with many other respectable African-American men and women. One of the most influential leaders of the movement was none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. King was a nonviolent protester, preacher and organizer of the Civil Rights Movement. He believed in nonviolent resistance to oppression and led many protests against racism. He challenged the nation’s fundamental priorities and emphasized the fact that the civil rights laws were empty without “human rights (Cohen, Solomon).” The laws were hollow toward those who were too poor to eat at a nice restaurant or afford a decent home. Instead of focusing on the racial issue, King Jr. focused on bringing blacks and whites together by fighting the gaps between rich and poor. He called for radical changes in our society to redistribute the wealth and power. King’s main point in his campaign was that “true compassion” is what this country needed and is what he fought for.
Another immensely influential figure in the Civil Rights Movement was Malcolm X. Although his approach was completely opposite that from Martin Luther King, Jr., the two dignified and determined men helped each other in fighting for equality. Malcolm X had a rough life as a child. His father was beaten and killed when he was only six years old and his mother was put into an institution shortly there after. He dropped out of school, got into trouble frequently and ended up as a “hustler” on the streets of Boston and New York. In 1946, he went to jail for eight years because he slept with a white woman. It was in jail where