Contribution To The Civil Right Movement

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Muhammad Ali Clay and Malcolm X Contribution to the Civil Right Movement

Muhammad Ali Clay and Malcolm X Contribution to the Civil Right Movement


The Civil Rights Movement is founded on the belief that equality should be available to all Americans regardless of race. While the modern civil rights movement is most closely associated with the 1950s and 1960s, its foundations were laid in the late 17th century. By the 18th century, opposition to slavery was widespread. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he included an antislavery provision but was forced to remove it in order to win southern support for independence. In 1787, during the writing of the Constitution, Gouvenor Morris attempted to constitutionally abolish slavery. Again, the southern states refused to agree (Juan, 1987).

By the 19th century, opponents of slavery banded together in various antislavery societies. William Lloyd Garrison, the founder of the American Antislavery Association, brought national attention to the abolitionist movement in his newspaper, The Liberator. Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, both former slaves, became eloquent spokespersons for abolition. In 1839, the publication of Theodore Weld's American Slavery as It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses brought the horrors of slavery to life as nothing had done before. Inspired by Weld's book, in 1851 Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom's Cabin, a fictional account of slavery, which further galvanized the abolitionist movement (Donald, 1991).

Some slaves turned to the courts for assistance. For instance, a slave named Dred Scott argued that he should be declared legally free because he had traveled to the free state of Illinois with his owner. In 1857, in Dred Scott v. Sanford(60 U.S.393), the Supreme Court held that because Scott was “chattel,” he was not a citizen and had no right to sue. The case was also important because the court determined that the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had sought to maintain a balance between free and slave states, was unconstitutional (Elder, 1988).

Growth of The Civil Rights Movement

News of the Montgomery victory spread throughout the African American community. All across the South, citizens began to act through the courts and then directly to break down the Jim Crow system. In the mid-1950s, courts began to implement the Brown decision, and in 1958, in Little Rock, Arkansas, President Dwight D. Eisenhower eventually called up National Guard troops to protect eleven black students as they entered formerly all-white Central High School. A state of siege continued throughout the year at Central High, with military personnel guarding against violence (Steven, 1991).

On February 1, 1960, students in Greensboro, South Carolina, employed a new tactic to break down Jim Crow barriers, this time in public restaurants. The black students organized sit-ins, in which they took seats at all-white lunch counters and politely demanded service. When refused, they sat quietly until arrested or until the restaurant closed. Other students willingly took their place as police removed those arrested. Sit-ins spread rapidly across parts of the upper South, eventually involving thousands ...
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