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To What Extent Can Violence Be Seen As A Catalyst To The Advancement Of African American Civil Rights In The Period 1865 1965

1253 words - 6 pages

In a similar fashion, CORE’s non-violent ‘Freedom Ride’ of May 1961 served to challenge racial segregation in the nations interstate bus system, which the Supreme Court had declared an unconstitutional violation of human rights. By the time they had reached Alabama on the 14th of May, the trip had drawn little national publicity and had achieved little, but on this day the violence directed towards the freedom riders brought the freedom rides to national attention. In Anniston, Alabama, one bus was stopped and set ablaze. As the Freedom Riders ran from the smoke and flames, a mob tried to murder them, while other southerners tried to save them. The other bus reached Birmingham, and the ...view middle of the document...

However, non-violent protests sometimes precipitated violence without the aim to do so, and at times violent acts were committed with little provocation. During the Year of Birmingham 1963, two such events occurred, events that galvanized public opinion behind federal legislation to abolish segregation . The first was the Children’s Crusade, during which over 600 students (some as young as six) marched out of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist church singing ‘we shall overcome’ and headed east toward the city hall. Horrifically, the police used violent dogs and high-powered jets of water to disperse the march, children were literally “sent skittering down gutters” . This was televisions finest hour. Headlines of “Infants sent to jail” and striking photographs of the snarling dogs, and high-pressure hoses appeared globally; among these was the popular picture of two dogs attempting to sink their teeth into activist Henry Lee Shambry. To make matters worse on Sunday, September 15, 1963 a second event shook the structures of the so-called City of Churches. On this day, eighteen days after the March on Washington, four young schoolgirls were killed in the Ku Klux Klan’s bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. It seemed the bombing was the last straw, President John F. Kennedy stated that the events had “made him sick”, and announced that he was sending to congress “a remedy for the events of Birmingham”: The first serious Civil Rights legislation since reconstruction- ultimately the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . The violent events of Birmingham did not just catalyze the civil rights movement, they heralded the end of legalized racism in America, and they led to change.

In conclusion, its evident that violence played an important role in Catalyzing the Civil Rights movement. McGuire’s (2010) hypothesis of how the Civil rights movement really began in protest against the ritualistic rape of black women is groundbreaking and necessary in providing evidence to the different ways in which violence created change. The views of J. Garrow (2004) and McWhorter (2001) on how events such as the freedom rides and the Children’s Crusades precipitated violence and created change also support the idea that Violence was a catalyst. Most of all the admissions of James Farmer and Martin Luther King that the use of non-violent protest was aimed to precipitate violence show that even the leaders of the time understood that violence catalyzed the civil rights struggle.

Works Cited

1. Mumford, K. (7/2/2013). A minute with Kevin Mumford, expert on the histories of race relations and sexuality. Available: http://illinois.edu/lb/article/72/75283. Last accessed 3rd Dec 2013.
2. McWhorter, D (2001). Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the...

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