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The Struggle for Freedom and Equality in the 20th Century

Free History Essays The wars of the twentieth century led humanity to reconsideration of the concepts of equality and freedom. People understood that violence can only escalate the turmoil and antagonism and result in many useless deaths and personal tragedies. Thus, military contest is not a way out of a conflict because the price is too high and unreasonable. As a consequence, people looked for other ways of protesting, and the twentieth century witnessed the birth and development of non-violent resistance and fight for civil rights.

Methods of Fighting Segregation at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century

Centuries of slavery and decades of segregation in the South of the United States created a legal system contributing to the white dominance. In fact, the methods of fighting segregation were ineffective at the beginning of the last century. Negroes tried to boycott and protested with military riots. Nevertheless, there were no legal instruments to establish and promote the rights of the black population.

The level of antagonism between the white and black population rose in the years of the World War I. The situation in Europe encouraged people in America to unite into groups and parties in order to protect and promote the common interests. In those years, blacks had to unite in order to protect their lives. However, they were far from showing any initiative in the fight for their freedom and rights. Thus, they applied generally to physical force and consequently were punished and even more abused.

Talking about the methods of the Civil Rights Movement, they were much more effective and helpful in the struggle against the actual injustice against African-Americans than the methods used at the beginning of the twentieth century. The primary two methods were non-violent resistance and legal applications to courts (Ezra, 2009).

The first method was borrowed from the experience of Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for independence of India. The method implied the demolition of social stereotypes and attitudes to abused layers of the population. Activists tried to experience their guarantied rights openly and freely. For example, they started coming into special white sections in social establishments and institutions. As a result, those attempts raised such hatred and revolt in the white citizens that they started to abuse the offenders of the traditional social order openly and sometimes, with exceptional cruelty. Therefore, the activists applied to court where they managed to justify their rights guaranteed by the constitution.

The Catalysts of the Civil Rights Movement

In 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, a black seamstress Rosa Parks was detained and then fined for refusal to give a seat to a white woman in a bus, as it was required by the local law (Wilson, 1980). After the woman’s arrest, the head of the local union called the black community to boycott public transport in protest. A young black priest Martin Luther King soon headed the Bus Boycott in Montgomery. Owing to the efforts of King and members of the Committee, the protest of the Negro population lasted 381 days. The protesters walked to work (part of the black citizens of Montgomery were transported to and from work by black taxi drivers) and local bus companies suffered heavy losses. Boycott leaders filed a lawsuit in a federal district court, which in December 1956, stated that the laws of segregation in city buses were unconstitutional. As a consequence, buses in Montgomery were integrated (Samito, 2009).

Another event which initiated the further development of The Civil Rights Movement took place in February 1960. When black students sat on the seats for white people in a caf? in Greensboro, they were offended and cruelly made to leave. The next day, their example was followed by dozens and hundreds of other Negro students. Thus, it triggered the beginning of a wave of sit-ins. During those demonstrations, activists sat on the white seats and required to serve themselves, refusing to leave. By the end of March 1960, such demonstrations were held in more than 50 cities (Samito, 2009).

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Initially, these actions were carried out spontaneously; however, in April 1960, they formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Protestors elected Martin Luther King to be the leader of the movement. The activists applied to the non-violent methods of Mahatma Gandhi. Moreover, they developed special rules of conduct for participants of demonstrations in diners who urged not to respond to violence with violence, to abstain, not to respond to insults, to be polite and friendly, sit up straight and always face the front. Consequently, more than 150 cities of the Southern states were desegregated during 1960 (Wilson, 1980).

Goals of the Civil Rights Movement

One of the main aims of the Civil Rights Movement was identification and complete removal of segregation in American society. On July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which abolished racial discrimination in the field of trade, services and employment (Wilson, 1980). Moreover, Martin Luther King managed to establish the voting rights of African Americans. Thus, the movement and its outcomes led to the reconsideration of self-esteem of the black population.

At the same time, the movement initiated further riots and revolts. The acquired freedom revealed numerous problems based on income discrimination, especially in the poorest black areas, called ghettoes. According to many American researchers, King and his followers were able for a time to send spontaneous anger and destructive energy of desperate and poor black people into the mainstream of organized non-violent protest to solve specific problems. However, the problem showed its scale with the course of time only. In 1967, King introduced the idea of poor people’s march to Washington, demanding the adoption of the law on economic rights. However, this action did not take place because on April 4, 1968, King was killed (Wilson, 1980).

Another primary goal of the Civil Rights Movement was the promotion of the concept of non-violent struggle for human rights. It was taken from Christian philosophy of love to one’s enemy and Gandhi’s philosophy and theories. Such approach helped to achieve relevant justice in human society without further escalation of the conflict. The leaders of peaceful struggle for the right to live and be happy were mercilessly and cruelly killed; however, their ideas continue to inspire humanism and tolerant attitude to other’s differences all over the world (Bartels, 2008).

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The aims of the activists of the Civil Rights Movement and their primary principles were justified by time. However, life is not fair and despite the constitutional guarantee of equality, there are various kinds of unspoken and non-identified discrimination even in modern society. Thus, violence exists in different spheres of human life, starting from family, professional environment, sexual relations and finally, can result in international military contests and wars. Martin Luther King’s followers believed that any violence cannot lead to any positive result because even common competition implies oppression, comparison and suffering of the minor part (Bartels, 2008). Apparently, social changes can be achieved only through persistent and non-violent faith in the right of every human to live, develop and thrive. Human society is saturated with stereotypes that make one people discriminate others on the basis of some difference. It concerns religious, cultural, and gender types of discrimination. Thus, when people want to prove their right for something, they should better apply to the court than start open antagonism. Talking about non-violent resistance, it implies tolerance and pluralism of the participants.

The twentieth century has shown uselessness of wars and military contests in the struggle for freedom and equality. People managed to reconsider many stereotypes and evil conclusions, which led to discrimination in various spheres of human life. The twelve years of non-violent struggle of the Civil Rights Movement managed to stop racial discrimination in various fields. Moreover, this movement awakened self-esteem, pride and self-confidence in black Americans as well as contributed to mutual understanding between white and black citizens of the United States.

However, the modern world which seeks globalization faces a new problem of total income discrimination. It is a real threat to the principals of human rights and equality. Thus, the problem stated by Martin Luther King in 1967 has not found a resolution till now.

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Equality is a primary principle of democracy. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement managed to change a lot in common approaches to the white and non-white people’s rights. Exclusion and segregation on a racial basis were legally forbidden and criticized. African-American citizens began attending the same educational institutions like the white people and received an opportunity to claim for their career promotion. However, the starting point of the white and non-white people was different. After some centuries of the formal and informal exploitation, black people still had the mentality of servants. They had to start building their households, while white people had to improve theirs. At first, the situation showed a progress; however, Americans should either work to improve the real state of things or reject being called a democratic state.

The example of the Civil Rights Movement showed that the methods of non-violent resistance and legal application to court can lead to a sufficient shift in social standards and can be applied in the struggle against income inequality and discrimination.

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