Essay: All men are equal – The Civil Rights Movement

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  • Subject area(s): Human rights essays
  • Reading time: 5 minutes
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  • Published on: January 22, 2019
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  • Number of pages: 2
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First used in the United States Declaration of Independence, the phrase “…all men are created equal” clearly described the intention of our new country to be a land built on freedom; free of the prejudices constraining people of other nations. The United States, considered by many in the world as a sanctuary where differences converge and from where new ideas spring, requires an environment that accepts people from across an entire spectrum. Becoming that nation of acceptance has had a rocky journey and to this day, groups of people in this country continue to fight for equality, whether through institutionalized injustices or social injustices, despite what our Constitution prohibits. To a degree, the Civil Rights movement in our country is responsible for moving America closer to the ideal of equality for not just those of other races but for other movements including the fight for more equitable conditions for women and for the mentally and physically handicapped.
One of the first pivotal moments in U.S. history in its struggle for the civil rights of African-Americans was the decision made in Brown vs. Board of Education. In this case, the court decided that the idea of “separate but equal” is inherently unequal, thus ending Jim Crowe laws (Doc 5). Although law in America abolished the segregation of blacks and whites, a form of social segregation lingers. The civil rights movement may have changed laws and some attitudes, but the roots of racial prejudices run deep in our society.

As discussed in class, racial inequality effected many aspects of life in America including whom we ate next to in restaurants, sat next to on a public bus, or with whom we shared a restroom or even a drinking fountain. The housing market, as a further example, was not exempt from prejudice. Desirability of home locations and home values were effected by proximity to African-American or immigrant neighborhoods and schools. Housing was considerably cheaper and rated less desirable when located in or near areas populated by African-Americans or immigrant families, or even if there was a nearby school that was predominately non-white (Doc 4). This inequality and systematic segregation kept groups of people apart. After the eradication of laws that allowed these behaviors to occur, African-Americans still pushed towards areas that were less than ideal and where they have largely stayed. Escaping the grip of racial prejudices is nearly impossible when continually and culturally enforced for generations.

Fortunately, this country has had strong individuals throughout our history who have been effective in driving the American civil rights movement forward. At times, the fight has been a dangerous one and it has only been through brave leadership that systematic changes have been made. One such figure was Fannie Lou Hamer. Fanny Lou Hamer not only fought for the rights of African-Americans, but she also fought for the rights of women, specifically, she fought for voting rights and a political presence for African-Americans. She became the first African- American to take a seat as an official delegate at a national-party convention, and was the first woman to do so in Mississippi. Subjected at times to torture tactics and discrimination, she succeeded through her strength and courage (Doc 8). Hamer embodies what it means to be an American who stands for what is right even in a time when it was dangerous to do so. As a role model, she has undoubtedly inspired future women to be courageous and persevere in their fight for positive societal changes.

As in the case of racial prejudices, there is no doubt that women in this country have been the victims of unfair and unequal treatment, as well. Until fairly recently in American history, women were not even viewed as citizens of this country. This largely meant they were treated unfairly under existing laws and had no say in the democratic system of government making laws that should have been made for the people and by the people, regardless of gender and race. This disparity overlooked more than half of the country’s inhabitants and the unequal treatment of women continues to be felt to this day. The fight for equal treatment of women has been largely influenced by the civil rights movement, after all, equality for race and sex have been linked throughout all of history. Women fought for the rights of African-Americans and vice versa. Figures like Crystal Eastman and Eleanor Roosevelt defined the emerging role of women, even before the time of the civil rights movement. Eastman spoke of women’s autonomy and what was necessary to achieve it (Doc 1), and Roosevelt spoke of the political presence of women and outlined what the government should do for women to make it easier for them to carry out their everyday tasks (Doc 3). It is clear to me that Eastman fought for what modern women today continue to focus on while Roosevelt, even though she talked of feminine political powers, intended for women to continue in a submissive role. Women today continue the fight to break the chains of a patriarchal society in order to achieve autonomy and fairness under the law. Today, women’s peaceful protests and marches continue, much like the early twentieth century civil rights movement, fighting for such things as equal pay for equal work and reproductive rights.

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