The journey that the fight for our civil rights in the U.S. has traveled tells the story of each of us and our need for freedom and equality. Americans that came before us identified flaws in our system that had to be addressed, and when nothing was done, the fight began. The result is the freedom that we all enjoy today.
Civil rights in the 1960s
The civil rights movement began in earnest in the 1960s. Perhaps people had always fought for themselves before that in other ways, but this was when the plight of anyone became the plight of everyone, gaining definition and purpose. The organization of the movement is known for this period of time. While primarily identified as an African American issue, full equality for every American is an issue that effects everyone.
In 1954, segregation in schools was deemed unconstitutional and this seemed to give those who had been living with inequality for a long time the push to demand more. This led to boycotts, sit ins, the Freedom Riders and countless other demonstrations and protests, demanding desegregation everywhere and equal treatment in all arenas. The election of John F. Kennedy in 1960 and leadership of Martin Luther King were instrumental in the growing success and strength of an ugly battle amongst American citizens.
The 1960s were a tumultuous time, with definitive events happening all the time. Between 1963 and 1965, JFK and Malcolm X were assassinated and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech during the march on Washington. In 1967, Congress enacted the Age Discrimination Act and before 1970, the gay rights movement was underway.
The change in American behaviors and policies
The civil rights movement demanded a change in the way things in our country had been for a long time. As the country began to change, there were both triumphant and terrible results. Doors slowly began opening for African Americans, including those in employment, schooling, law and better treatment in public in general. However, not everyone’s ideas immediately softened, and as a result, there were many deaths and injuries as stubborn races clashed across the country. The South was the most difficult to change.
Civil rights challenges that are seen today
Today, everything has changed and nothing has changed. Obviously, the laws have been corrected, but minds and attitudes are another thing entirely. There are still individuals who believe in discrimination, and while it is illegal to act on it, they can still poison the minds of their families and communities. Individuals of all types of minority statuses still have to fight for equality in certain forums, whether it be a glass ceiling for a female executive or a Hispanic family’s inability to secure housing in a white community. The bias still exists in small pockets where prejudiced individuals are in positions of power and influence.
There is no doubt that America has come a long way in the more than fifty years since the civil rights movement began. Perhaps we still have a long way to go, but as society is constantly changing, perhaps we always will. There is no doubt that the efforts and sacrifice of those who came before us have at the very least built a foundation on which we can stand and enforce the ideas that they began opening eyes to generations ago.