The civil rights movement in the United States has a long official storyline that runs from Montgomery to Memphis, from the bus boycott in 1955 all the way to the final struggle and assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. The shock, rage, and grief that ensued thereafter laid the foundation of a more aggressive and robust civil rights movement in the United States.
Weeks following the death of Martin Luther, the Memphis sanitation workers achieved a landmark victory and vindicated Martin Luther and the cause he was championing.
The Mid-1960s Civil Rights Legislation
With the benefit of hindsight, we now have a clear picture of when the real struggle to win equal treatment started. After the legislative victories, most notably the Civil Rights Act of 1964, public accommodations including bus stations and lunch counters were opened and job segregations were progressively broken down.
The Act also outlawed discrimination in employment opportunities and this resulted in workers being included in higher paying jobs and being considered for promotions. Hundreds of black workers took it upon themselves to improve conditions within their existing jobs. For instance, hospital workers revolutionized the public sector and created more opportunities for African American men and women.
As the blacks were gaining new access to previously white dominated institutions, the struggle for freedom moved from the streets into institutions. In college campuses for instance, African American students fought for programs and financial aid policies that opened up educational possibilities for children of lower-income families.
Confrontation of New Issues and Forging of Alliances
Realizing the formidable force brought about by unity and togetherness, the 1960s civil rights movements embarked on coalition building with similar groups that were victims of inequality and discrimination.
Blacks, Asian Americans and Latinos joined hands and took part in campaigns to promote substantive equal treatment and chances in life. In the 1970s, Third World Coalitions started emerging pushing for ethnic studies programs, open admissions, and affirmative action.
Inequality Hurdles despite Legislative Victories
Even with the relevant laws in place, the efforts to promote inclusion and equity in the American society still faced enormous obstacles. The slavery which lasted over two and a half centuries as well as the more than a hundred years of discrimination had left deep cracks and imprints on virtually every American institution.
Every industry where African American worked had its own deep-seated occupational segregation mechanisms that created a disadvantaged black workforce. The housing market was no exception with remnants of restrictive covenants barring the people of color from accessing them.
The Cultural Impact of the Civil Rights Movement
Tremendous intellectual and cultural creativity was sparked by the 1960s legislative victories. The Black Arts movement created a literature renaissance particularly in art, theater, dance, and music. Led by scholars including John Hope Franklin, the black history became a dynamic field that attracted lots of intellectuals.
It is these post-1960s efforts that ultimately opened a pathway for Barrack Obama to ascend to power in 2008 amidst disbelief from the wider American and global society.