How united was the civil rights movement

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How united was the Civil Rights movement from 1865 to 1992?

During the years from 1865 to 1992, many groups and individuals worked as part of the Civil Rights Movement. At times, these groups worked successfully together to bring about positive change for African Americans. However, due to the diversity of the different groups involved in the movement, there were also divisions. These divisions were caused by differences in the ideas of leaders of the movement, different techniques used by the Civil Rights groups and opposing aims within the movement.  

The aims of the Civil Rights Movement were important, as it would have been most successful at times when all the groups involved were working towards a clear common aim. The main period of division was the 1960s, and this was largely due to the differing aims of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, two key individuals in the movement. Martin Luther King’s main aim was to bring about desegregation in the South, and for black people to have the same rights as white people. This was a complete contrast the views of Malcolm X, who believed economic change was more important than desegregation, and called for a separate black state, showing that he didn’t feel it was possible for African Americans to gain equality in the same way that Martin Luther King did. While King believed strongly in the importance of non-violent action, partly due to religious reasons, Malcolm X felt that violence used for “self defence” was acceptable. The ideas of these two very different men contradicted each other, which caused tension within the movement and meant there was a lack of unity during the 1960s. However, as both men began to acknowledge each other, their views changed slightly and moved closer towards a kind of middle ground, showing that, although they were divided, there could have been the potential for a much more united movement during the 1960s.

In many ways, Malcolm X’s ideas were similar to those of Marcus Garvey, a Civil Rights activist in the late 19th and early 20th century who believed that social and economic change were the most significant factors in achieving equal rights. Garvey’s “Back to Africa” campaign shows that he felt African Americans would not be able to achieve equality in America, an idea that continued into the 1960s, and clearly influenced Malcolm X. Although Booker T. Washington had also mentioned a return to Africa and in some cases held similar views, he was much less radical and outspoken than Garvey, which could hint at divisions very early on in the Civil Rights Movement.

        It wasn’t just the aims of individuals that were important, as a number of organisations played a very important role in helping to advance the Civil Rights Movement. Despite differences in their methods, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) were both working towards desegregation, showing an element of unity between the two organisations. This is a contrast to the situation in the 1960s, as the aims of Martin Luther King’s SCLC were completely different to those of the Black Power groups, such as the Black Panthers. Like Malcolm X, the Black Panthers believed that economic change was vital, and develop a ten point plan on which their activities were based. Some of these ideas, such as full employment for black people, were beneficial, but the militancy and ideas of black supremacy held by the group contradicted the views of Martin Luther King, and gave the Civil Rights Movement a more negative public image, which lasted into the 1970s.

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        A turning point for the Civil Rights Movement was 1965, as after this point the movement became noticeably more militant. The Selma march in 1965 had caused tension within the movement, as Jamie Lee Jackson was murdered as a result of the SCLC march, and protesters were treated violently. When King agreed to cut short a planned march to the Governor’s office, he was accused of being timid, and even his own supporters started to turn against him. This was the start of serious divisions within the movement. SNNC had started to become slightly more militant, as they became frustrated ...

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