Civil Rights Movement In America Essay Topics

Essay writing is quite challenging to students. However, following a general format and structure requires an introductory part, the body of the paper and the concluding part.

How to start

Civil rights essays normally have general information about the civil rights, the history and main points that will be discussed in the body. This topic reveals both the physical and the philosophical aspects against discrimination of people based on their color, struggles against fascism equal rights and the culminating events that brought an end to the different injustices infringing the rights of everybody. Therefore, a well-elaborated thesis statement forms the last part of the introduction revealing what the right is about to discuss in the subsequent sections.

Example of introduction for a civil rights essay:

Civil Rights in the USA

“The American civil rights movement is greatly talked about especially the actions taken by the activists in 1960s to ensure that everybody especially the American blacks get equal rights and opportunities in the nation just like their white colleagues. Some of the respected activists who brought about change through the boycotts and struggles include Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X among others. These people ensured that the civil rights movement in America brought about an end to discrimination and that all the African Americans gain equal opportunities and access to economic equality. The climax of the American Civil Rights Movement was the 1963 march on Washington whose aim was to get “Jobs and Freedom” for all. The rate of employment of the Black Americans was wanting with a US Census data at the 1940s indicating that two-to-one ratio gap of employment was the order of the workforce. This was coupled with a 9.9% unemployment rate among the black people compared to 5% unemployment rate among their white colleagues. The climax of Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s improved the living conditions of the African Americans which in turn boosted the economy of the USA besides shunning evils such as discrimination, racism, and segregation in the American society.”

How to write the body

The body elaborates the main points that support the topic explained in sentence form with vivid examples and evidence that are connected to form a meaningful explanation. Each point is explained in its paragraph uniquely though they are joined using transitions and are linked to the main idea as elaborated in the thesis statement regarding the topic.

Example of body paragraphs for a civil rights essay:

“Civil Rights in America led to the economic improvement of the American black people. The civil rights movement led to the development of the black race to the middle class. This is indicated in the 1974 article published in The Time magazine ‘Race: America’s Rising Black Middle Class.’  The magazine reveals that the black Americans have been improving in their economic spheres after the 1960s civil rights movements. This action led to the enforcement and legislation of various laws that changed the perceptions and attitudes of the American public to have a passion for growth. Besides, these laws led to increased job opportunities for the black Americans that were well paid. Some black people began accessing different job positions such as managerial positions. On the same note, employers began changing their attitudes to embrace inclusivity as well as increased access to quality education to the black people. The realization of these activities was evident in the 1970s pegged on the legislation and federal assistance to ensure that the black voices were heard just like their White colleagues.

Secondly, the America as a nation benefitted from the civil rights regarding economic improvement. The movement led to the abandonment of segregation ideas and activities. Therefore, most of the industries such as the textile, mills employed blacks who increased the American workforce. Thus, these industries gained their economic momentum which led to the growth in the economy. Most blacks were now able to send their children to good schools and colleges. South Carolina as a state had its black population joining the job market at 20% in 1970 up from the 5% in the onset of 1963. This led to the inflow of capital, the realization of the creativity among people together with the opening of the new enterprises. Thus, the economy of the USA as a whole began to have a steady rise.

Lastly, Civil Rights Movement in the USA led to the development of a stronger democracy in the American society. The ethnic minority was inspired especially the Indian Americans, Asian Americans as well as the LGBT societies. Most of these people were now free to participate freely in politics, economic and cultural arena. Thus, was able to lay out their grievances in powerful ways.”

How to conclude

The conclusion normally reveals the general idea of the writer regarding the civil rights movement. This is elaborated through a summary of the different points discussed in the body of the essay. This is followed by a brief expression of the writer’s own idea among others.

Example of conclusion for a civil rights essay:

“In conclusion, the Civil Rights Movement in the USA was a right method of expression in particular by the American blacks against oppressions, discrimination, racism, and inequality regarding the job opportunities among others.  This led to equality of opportunity for accessibility of employment, education, industries and having advanced democracy by the blacks as their white colleagues in the USA.”

Always use specific historical examples to support your arguments.

Study Questions

1.

How were the NAACP, the SCLC, and the SNCC different? How were they similar? Which organization had the most success in desegregating the South?

Though the NAACP, SCLC, and SNCC were all committed to nonviolence and peaceful means of protesting racial inequality, they used different strategies to desegregate the South. Despite the fact that the SCLC and SNCC received more media attention in the 1950s and 1960s, it was the NAACP’s legal victories that were most successful in fundamentally overturning the South’s system of Jim Crow laws.

In 1957, Martin Luther King Jr. formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to coordinate peaceful protests—akin to the Montgomery bus boycott that had taken place two years earlier—against southern Jim Crow laws. He hoped that the peaceful-protest movement would gather momentum and that he would be able to rally the support of black churches—a tactic that worked well, because of the central role that the church played in the southern black community. King found his inspiration in the nonviolent protest tactics of Mohandas Gandhi and hoped, ironically, that “passive resistance” would provoke segregationists to attack his peaceful protests, attracting media attention. He knew that the movement would need media-generated sympathy from moderate whites in order to have any lasting effect.

Whereas King organized southern black churches, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) brought together like-minded students. Ella Baker, an SCLC director, formed the SNCC along with a group of activist students after the highly successful Greensboro sit-in in 1960. The SNCC worked diligently to mobilize black and white students in the North and South to work and protest for the civil rights cause. The SNCC organized hundreds of sit-ins, boycotts, and other peaceful protests across the country to end segregation in restaurants, stores, public transportation, and other common areas. The SNCC’s tactics were highly successful and gave the movement a badly needed boost after the SCLC failed to draw enough media attention. The SNCC organized or participated in nearly every major civil rights campaign of the 1960s.

Even though the SCLC and SNCC led highly successful campaigns, the courtroom victories of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had the most lasting effect on the movement’s goal to desegregate the South. Had the NAACP not won these victories, it is doubtful that the movement would ever have gained as much momentum as it did. Thurgood Marshall, a brilliant lawyer working for the NAACP, attacked the “separate but equal” doctrine that justified segregation, winning a number of significant cases, including Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938), Morgan v. Virginia (1946), and Sweatt v. Painter (1950). Marshall finally scored a direct hit on the “separate but equal” doctrine in 1954 with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision. Marshall won a unanimous verdict with the help of Chief Justice Earl Warren, a conservative appointee who proved more sympathetic to the civil rights movement than expected. The Brown v. Board of Education ruling stated that segregated public schools were inherently unequal and should be integrated as soon as possible—effectively reversing the 1896Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which had made and kept “separate but equal” law. This legal victory sent a message to activists throughout the country that sweeping civil rights reform was possible and imminent, prompting both black and white activists such as King, Rosa Parks, James Meredith, and student volunteers in the SNCC to take a stand and fight for integration. Without the NAACP and the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the SCLC and SNCC arguably would have never even formed.

Though the SCLC, SNCC, and NAACP had the uniform goal of integrating the United States, the formation of the NAACP and its legal victories in the 1940s and 1950s were the most effective steps toward concrete desegregation of the South in the mid-twentieth century. The NAACP’s victories laid the foundation for the civil rights movement and empowered blacks everywhere to organize and fight for equal social, political, and economic rights.

2.

Why did the civil rights movement gain momentum in the 1950s and 1960s?

Although blacks had been struggling for equal rights since the end of Reconstruction, their fight for civil rights picked up speed in the 1950s and 1960s because of the Great Migration, World War II, and the NAACP’s legal victory in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.

Unemployment and poverty in the South prompted as many as 2 million blacks to leave their homes in search of jobs in northern cities in the years after World War I. The Great Depression and the invention of the mechanical cotton picker in the 1940s exacerbated these job shortages in the South by eliminating white planters’ need for sharecroppers and field hands. Additionally, as more and more blacks migrated north to the cities, more and more white northerners left the cities for the suburbs, thus transforming inner cities into predominantly black neighborhoods. Nonetheless, exposure to the much higher standard of living in northern cities also made blacks aware of the degree of income inequality that existed between North and South, black and white. As a result, more and more northern blacks began clamoring for jobs, education, and social services—a cry that helped launch the modern civil rights movement as well as the Great Society.

World War II also had a dramatic effect on black Americans, as black civil rights leaders publicized their “Double V” campaign for victory both abroad and at home. After civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph threatened to organize a march on Washington, D.C., to protest racial inequality, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 to desegregate defense industries. This action alone allowed more than 200,000 northern blacks to find jobs in various defense industries, boosting their average income considerably. President Harry S Truman later desegregated the military with Executive Order 9981 and also created the President’s Committee on Civil Rights, one of the first government committees since Reconstruction seriously devoted to tackling racial issues. In the years after World War II, as the Cold War began, activists wondered how the United States could fight for freedom abroad when so many still lacked freedom at home. Foreign dignitaries from the USSR asked this question too and accused the United States of hypocrisy. Growing international pressure helped convince President John F. Kennedy to endorse the civil rights movement fully in the early 1960s.

Despite these factors, the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision was the most important momentum builder for the civil rights movement. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court, with the direct influence of the NAACP’s chief counsel, Thurgood Marshall, finally overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine established by the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling more than a half century earlier. In declaring that segregated schools were inherently unequal, the Brown v. Board of Education decision opened a floodgate for more attacks on southern Jim Crow laws. Empowered by Brown, blacks such as Rosa Parks and James Meredith took bolder steps to end segregation.

3.

How did Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson affect the civil rights movement? Which of these presidents had the most impact and why?

Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson each entered the White House with different perspectives on the civil rights movement: Eisenhower privately opposed it, Kennedy supported it tacitly, and Johnson disagreed with it personally but wanted to assume leadership of his party and put the issue to rest. Although Eisenhower indirectly helped the civil rights movement by appointing Earl Warren to the Supreme Court and taking federal control of the Little Rock crisis, Kennedy had the most direct impact on the movement. His public support for the movement forced his successor, Johnson, to support it as well. Without Kennedy’s backing, blacks might never have won the necessary government protection to fight segregation and racism in the South.

President Eisenhower appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren to the Supreme Court in the middle of the Brown v. Board of Education case and never foresaw the previously conservative Warren supporting a liberal cause such as civil rights. Eisenhower had never been a friend of the civil rights movement and had even opposed Truman’s Executive Order 9981 to integrate the armed forces. He had deep regrets about appointing Warren and refused to comment on the landmark Brown decision publicly, let alone endorse the blossoming civil rights movement. Even though Eisenhower sent army troops to resolve the Little Rock crisis by forcibly integrating Central High School in 1957, he did so only to uphold federal authority, not to promote black civil rights. He later signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 as a political gesture, but only after assuring southern legislators that the act would have no significant impact.

Whereas Eisenhower privately opposed the movement, Kennedy privately supported it and met frequently with civil rights leaders in the SCLC, NAACP, and CORE. Initially, he felt that he could not endorse the movement publicly out of fear of alienating conservative Democrats in Congress. Later, however, mob violence against the Freedom Riders in 1961 and against peaceful protesters in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, prompted Kennedy to back the civil rights movement publicly, even at the risk of his own political future. He supported the March on Washington later that year and planned to push a new, stronger civil rights bill through Congress but was assassinated before any such bill could be passed.

Kennedy’s support for the movement effectively forced his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, to back it as well, even though Johnson had opposed civil rights legislation during his twelve years as Senate majority leader. Johnson realized that he had to honor Kennedy’s commitment to the movement in order to unite the Democratic Party and lead it effectively. He therefore put all his energy into pushing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a tougher civil rights bill than even Kennedy had envisioned. Johnson later followed through with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Even though these acts were landmark achievements and finally gave black Americans equal social and political rights, Johnson likely would not have endorsed them had it not been for Kennedy’s prior commitment. In fact, after Johnson had done what he considered to be his political duty, he ordered the FBI to investigate civil rights activists and organizations for alleged ties to Communism.

Kennedy’s public endorsement of civil rights during his final year in office thus had a greater impact on the movement than any other presidential actions over the movement’s lifespan. Kennedy’s decisions reversed eight years of opposition from Eisenhower and forced Johnson to continue to support the movement after Kennedy’s assassination.

Suggested Essay Topics

1. How did earlier civil rights leaders, such as Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Marcus Garvey, influence the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s?

2. Where did the term and philosophy “black power” come from? Why did black activists turn to violence in the mid- to late 1960s?

3. Why did the civil rights movement fall apart in the late 1960s and early 1970s? Was the movement a success?

4. How did Malcolm X and the Black Panthers affect the goals of the civil rights movement?

5. How was the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s a continuation of the Reconstruction-era struggle for blacks to achieve equality?

6. Were the SCLC’s and the SNCC’s strategies of nonviolence successful?

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