The civil rights movement is the title given to the concerted effort to gain greater social, political and economic equality for black Americans, which seemed to have emerged in its most recognisable form during the 1950s. The most important reasons behind the emergence of the modern civil rights movement in the 1950s have continued to be a subject of debate throughout the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond.
The impacts of WW1, WW2 and the Cold War were all one of the first triggers to the emergence of the civil rights movement in the 1950s. The wars highlighted many existing problems that the African American had to face and as such there was a realization that the war provided a crisis in which civil rights could be fought for. There was an underlying ideology on behalf of the African American that if they fought for their country then their efforts should be, and more importantly would be, justly rewarded. However it soon became apparent with the outbreak of war that the government had little progress in mind. Whilst fighting for their country in Europe the African Americans gained a greater view of racial equality that then became inspiring.
During the war the US were supposed to be fighting for democracy against the Nazis but had yet to implement it at home and this hypocrisy opened up some truths for the African Americans who from this began to campaign for equality.
The industrial output in the US was increased after WW2 which resulted in many blacks moving to the North in search of work due to the demand for labour, enabling them to have more bargaining power. This migration created tension and resulted in increasing black consciousness, which sore new civil rights organisations emerge.
The change in the American economy or the economic boom as you may call it was the next important trigger for the emergence of the civil rights movement in the 1950s. Due to WW2 the industrial output was increased meaning there was a higher demand for labour, which gave them this bargaining power. It was from this bargaining power that blacks began to have a growth in their prosperity and their motivation to make a change increased. With this greater prosperity African Americans began to expect and want more and with the greater demand for jobs there became more jobs leading to more money. More money can be seen as very crucial to the civil rights movement as it enabled more education opportunities which gave the blacks confidence to challenge their positions. More money also meant they could also, because of having more power and status in a more central part of the economy, pressure the government and businesses for change, enabling protests.
The results from the US economic boom encouraged the great migration
The demand for labour was higher in the North and therefore many blacks moved to there in search of work. This increased urbanisation meant more competition for jobs and housing, which increased tension between whites and blacks. Yet it also gave them a sense of discrimination and community and allowed them share experiences. The greater realisation of discrimination therefore gave blacks an increased willingness to fight using direct action, which was beginning to produce results for them. The willingness became an important factor to the emergence of the civil rights movements as it added to the increased political power, along with the economical power, and led to the enabled right for blacks to vote in the North.
The outcomes of this great migration saw the growth in civil rights groups
This growth in civil rights organisations, such as the NAACP, would not have been possible without the economic boom, which gave blacks prosperity and led to higher economic positions meaning more funding. Due to the affluent society, money and donations were enabled to pour into groups and organisations and money meant action! The growth also gave a sense of belonging to the African Americans and this new status and the increased funding enabled the beginning of organised protests and legal cases through direct action. This was first seen 1954 where Brown decided to challenge segregation in schools, this was significant to the emergence in civil rights movement as it firstly led to big early success in desegregation and secondly, it resulted in publicity due to its capture by the media. The second important example of direct action was in 1955/56, the Montgomery Bus Boycott. As a result of the boycott the civil rights movement gained a leader, King, and due to its publicity through the media it also gained global and international awareness resulting in inspiring other movements and victory in desegregation. The third important example of direct action, Little Rock, occurred in 1957. The hypocrisy of the cold war played a huge part in this case as Eisenhower was forced to take action in order to remain looking good and to avoid feeling and looking extremely embarrassed and civil rights used the sensitivity of the war to pressure the government. This case is significant as blacks realised that they needed to take act and did this through great propaganda, moral high grounds and direct action, which gained them even more global awareness.
Global awareness was a key part to the emergence in the civil rights movement and without the media it would not have been possible
It became a national issue through global awareness which was possible as the media was central to publicity through spreading images of racism and protest and nationalised the civil rights movements. There is evidence of this through the national awareness that was centrally gained after the event Little Rock occurred. The media can be seen to of been very crucially linked to the Cold War and as it also covered national events such as the boycotts, it brought the issue of racism to the fore.
However, the boost of the emergence of the civil rights movements in the 1950s, through the media, would not have been possible without the economic boom as an impact of WW2 which without the media would not have been capable of addressing the public and its audience.
In my opinion I feel that the impact of the wars can be identified as the most important cause of the emergence of the civil rights movements. I feel that without the implications on the USA after the wars that the civil rights movement would not have been possible. I believe this as there would not have been an economic boom if the wars had not taken place and therefore no other cause, such as the great migration, the direct action from organisations and the media, would have been able to take place due to lack of funding, lack of prosperity and lack of economical status for African Americans.