Civil Rights Movements
Civil Rights Movements: From 19th to 21st Century
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Throughout its history, civil rights have been a capital theme in the country’s history. From the arrival of the first slave ship to Jamestown in 1607; the annexation of Texas in 1845 and to the Chicano and African American civil rights movement in the 20th century, the country has passed through a handful of moments that defined and asserted its identity as a pluricultural nation.
In this essay, we shall trace the historical development of the civil rights movements from the 19th to 21st century, focusing on the Chicano and African American narratives.
Historical Development of the Civil Rights Movement
During the 19th century, African American religious movements and communities contributed significantly to the creation of an identity to the freed slaves. Communities revolved around churches and the religion supplied them with a newfound sense of morals, and political purpose (Battle, 2008). Strictly speaking, for many African Americans, religion offered solace and hope, as well as a series of rules that would help them carve their identity. That way, we can say that Christian denominations and churches proved vital in the creation of the civil rights movement.
To properly speak about the civil rights movement in the 20th century, we have to separate the Chicano movement from the African American civil rights movement. The first refers to the struggles of the Mexican American population to gain recognition by the central government. Chicano leaders considered the country did address the issues related to the African Americans civil rights movement, yet failed to solve the rampant inequity Mexican Americans faced. Chicano manifests felt they did not belong; they considered themselves a third party that was neither white nor black, yet it suffered from discrimination (Ontiveros, 2010). Chicano movement aimed to assert the cultural identity of Mexican Americans by linking them to the past as a way of remembering them where they came from.
In the same way, African American civil rights movement intended to remove the segregation laws existent in the country, and put an end to the legal racial discrimination in the country. Jim Crow’s laws made effective the separation between White Americans and African Americans. That is why, over three decades; activists such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks reshaped the racial conflicts from a violent confrontation to the assertion of righteous laws that allowed African American citizens complete participation in the country’s politic life; as well as fair treatment in all the spheres of life (Taylor, 2009). In the same way, it was Martin Luther King religious charisma what made possible to unite all the different perspectives of the racial struggle under one flag, as a way to create a difference.
Although the primary goals of the civil rights movements were completed during the 20th century, there are still a series of issues that must be handled before they become full-blown conflicts. From the Alabama immigration laws in 2011 to the shooting of Walter Scott in 2015, racism is still a sensitive issue in the minds of many Americans. In this century, the civil rights movements have many advocates, and the issue of racism is regarded mostly as an attitude held by a few loose cannons instead of a situation upheld by the public opinion. In the 21st century, segregation does not take the form of a series of laws, but of an attitude. For instance, schools where the students are mostly non-white receive less funding that white districts (Orfield, 2009). This shows how inequity, although not sanctioned by the state can still exist in a country that is technically free of racism and segregation.
Throughout its history, the country has changed to address the new realities it faces. This has places America the so-called land of opportunities. However, are those opportunities real? For non-white citizens, it does not seem so. The civil rights movement has shaped the country, allowing many different cultures live together in the same land; yet the main hurdles are difficult to overcome. Although the state considered discrimination and racism a crime, many people still believe themselves entitled to prosecute; harm and disrespect people for their ethnicity, or racial extraction. They choose to disregard the labor of all those men and women who devoted their lives to make this country the land of the free; to pursue a vision of life that does not have a thing to do with how we live today.
Nevertheless, what it is true is that the United States has come a long way in becoming what it is today, and it is likely that one day it becomes in the reality what it has been on paper for centuries.
Battle, M. (2008). Free at Last: The U.S. Civil Rights Movement. U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs.
Ontiveros, R. (2010). No Golden Age: Television News and the Chicano Civil Rights Movement. American Quarterly, 62(4), 897-923. Retrieved from http://drum.lib.umd.edu/bitstream/1903/11397/1/nogoldenage_ontiveros.pdf
Orfield, G. (2009). Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge. The Civil Rights Project. Retrieved August 8, 2015, from HYPERLINK “http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/integration-and-” http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/integration-and-diversity/reviving-the-goal-of-an-integrated-society-a-21st-century-challenge/orfield-reviving-the-goal-mlk-2009.pdf
Taylor, C. (2009). African American Religious Leadership and the Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from HYPERLINK “http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/civil-rights-” http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/civil-rights-movement/essays/african-american-religious-leadership-and-civil-rights-m
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