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Jacquelyn Sparks

History 566

Dr. Lerner


Was the Civil Rights Movement a Success or a Failure?

The movement for civil rights during the 1950s and 1960s had its share of highs and lows; with internal conflict and external resistance. It had heroes, martyrs, and enemies; pacifists, moderates, and extremists; all of whom worked to somewhat different ends. Most civil rights activists could agree on their goals of ending segregation and bringing equality and justice to all races.

The movement brought about many changes at the national level用articularly in the courts and in the halls of Congress. Pieces of civil rights legislation葉he Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965用rohibited segregation in public facilities and in voting registration practices. Court cases such as Sweatt v. Painter and Brown v. Board of Education had profound implications on schools and desegregation. The federal government, under the Great Society, began funding programs to improve inner cities where there were large African American populations. With these advancements, it seems the Civil Rights movement should have been considered highly successful.

A closer examination at the African American population, in light of these advancements, shows that the Civil Rights movement did not come close to all of its goals of ending racial injustice throughout the nation. Voting rights may have meant little or nothing to the young, angry blacks who rioted in Detroit in the summer of 1967. What they desired was more than just the lofty ideals and rhetoric of the American government葉hey wanted to see an end to racist attitudes, improvement of their economic conditions, and a society that did not treat them differently by virtue of their race. The riots serve as a reminder of the failures of the Civil Rights movement葉he failure to change the hearts and minds of a white-dominated society or to bring dramatic improvement to the economic conditions of African Americans. Without these changes, the movement for civil rights could never be fully successful. .