African American Civil Rights

 African American Civil Rights -Collective Action for Social Movements

African American Civil Rights civil rights movement was initiated by early African American activists who were opposed to the Jim Crow initiative to restore the old plantation economy. The old economy required the enslavement of African-Americans and thence also meant that they would not enjoy equal rights with the white population.

Jim Crow laws, segregation laws, were put in place throughout South, mandating separate facilities for blacks and whites. To maintain the system of segregation and white supremacy, some white Southerners turned to violence which was epitomized by the formation of the Ku Klux Klan (Jones, 2011). Although the African-American struggle for civil rights became apparent in the 1950s and 1960s when the most dramatic progress in the battle for equality and justice was made the struggle had been on-going for decades.

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African American civil rights movement

This struggle would be traced in the actions of people like Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), an African-American journalist, editor of Memphis Free Speech, who became a brave crusader against lynching. In 1895, Ida wrote “The Red Record” which recorded the number of Africans lynched over a three-year period (Jones, 2011). In her own way, Wells and others who shared her ideas demonstrated resilience in fighting injustice.

Other individuals in the early days included Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), an African American a former slave. he had made an eloquent appeal for the African-American struggle (Jones, 2011). In retro respect, before the mostly proclaimed heroes of the African-American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s there had been other preceding active participants. These prepared ground for future efforts and helped demonstrate the depth of injustice against the African-Americans.

In the 1950s and 1960s the civil rights movement took a more pro-active approach and benefited from more informed and aggressive activist who were able to mobilize the African-Americans and to some extent some whites. These individuals included Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X.

African American Civil Rights civil rights movement
cop and young protester

Even though they provided leadership they could not singlehandedly stem discriminative practices existent at the time. Fortunately, they realized this and focused on ensuring collective effort (Ling, 1998). The primary means of agitation was not through boycotts or public demonstration at lunch counters but through discursive methods. Activists largely utilized the black press to create discursive realm of political action. African Americans were able to develop political capacity and formed crucial protest networks. Though the approaches continually changed they all relied on the power of the people.

It is the people who in initial days spent countless hours writing discursive papers, distributing them and interpreting them. Later on when demonstrations and boycotts were employed, it is the people who shared the views of the mentioned leaders than turned up and actualized the dreams and views of the leaders.

Civil rights movement

The group dynamics ensured that there would always be individuals who understood the essence of the boycotts and who would ensure they were sustained even in the absence of the recognizable leaders (Loeb, 2010). This explains the continuity of the demonstrations even after the death of major figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. In summary, the Civil Rights movement would not have survived if there was no group involvement.


Jones, A. (2011). African American civil rights: Early activism and the Niagara movement. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger.

Ling, P. (1998). Martin Luther King’s half-forgotten dream. History Today, 48(4), 17–22.

Loeb, P. R. (2010). Soul of a citizen: Living with conviction in challenging times (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: St. Martins Griffin.

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