How far was peaceful protest responsible for the success of the civil rights movement in the years 1955-1964?

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How far was peaceful protest responsible for the success of the civil rights movement in the years 1955-1964?

From 1955-1964 the civil rights movement organised a series of campaigns addressing transport, education and the segregation of public places. The civil rights movement rarely called themselves that but simply called themselves ‘the movement’ because it indicated that the goals of the movement were much bigger than civil rights’. Martin Luther King wanted not just the death of legal segregation; he wanted the birth of a ‘beloved community’ in which black and white people were an integral part of one another’s lives. The term implied a journey and a direction and unstoppable momentum. The campaigns included the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956, the Little Rock Campaign of 1957, the Greensboro sit-ins of 1960, the Freedom Rides of 1961, the Albany Movement of 1961-1962 and the James Meredith of the University of Mississippi case of 1962.

The Montgomery bus boycott targeted the segregation on buses in the South. This meant that the front rows of the bus were reserved for white people which meant black people had to sit at the back, if the bus was full however, black people were forced to give up their seat for a white person. In 1955 Claudette Colvin demonstrated that there was wide spread support in Montgomery for challenging bus segregation. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) turned to Rosa Parks, a long-standing member in order to challenge segregation.

On 1st December 1955, Parks refused to leave her seat and allow a white man to take her place and as result was fined $14 and was arrested. Parks’ arrest led to a two-prolonged attack on segregation laws in Alabama. First, the NAACP mounted a legal case to challenge the segregation laws. Secondly, the black people of Montgomery began a campaign of direct action targeting local bus companies. As a result of this, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was established under the leadership of Martin Luther King in order to co-ordinate a boycott of the local buses until segregation was abolished. The MIA worked mainly through black churches and its Christian basis meant that it was committed to non-violent methods. King advocated civil disobedience and direct action, insisting that protest should always be peaceful.

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The campaign lasted for over a year, during which time over 85% of Montgomery’s black community boycotted the buses. The boycott hit the bus companies hard and on 21st December 1956 the Montgomery Bus Company desegregated their buses, allowing black passengers to sit wherever they liked.

By 1957, the de facto desegregation of education in the Southern states had made little progress. The 1957 Little Rock Campaign attempted to speed up school desegregation by enrolling nine black students into Little Rock’s all-white Central High School. Local Governor Orval Faubus opposed the enrolment and ordered the National Guard to ...

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