Isolation African-American Civil Rights Historically  Research Paper

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Board of Education of Topeka. This case represented a watershed for Civil Rights and helped to signal an end to segregation because it determined that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" (Warren, 1954). It is essential to note that federal support on this particular issue was only earned after African-Americans decided to use the legislative system to their advantage by taking the segregationist school system of Topeka, Kansas to task. This particular court case was a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 13 parents whose children were enrolled in the city's school system. This action was highly influential in the African-American struggle for civil rights and to end discrimination because it demonstrated that they had learned the most effective means of fighting this systemic oppression -- by utilizing the system itself, in this instance, the legislative system that ran the country.

By doing so, African-Americans helped to end the social isolation in which they existed. Warren's decision resumed legislative support for the cause of African-Americans, and helped to foster in a new civil rights era in which legalized segregation based on racism would be openly contested by both African-Americans and those aligned with their cause. By calling for integrationist measures, African-Americans heralded a similar request for civil rights on the part of Chicanos and Native Americans, respectively, during the latter part of the 1950's and during the 1960's. Cesar Chavez's National Farm Worker's Association demanded rights for migrant workers while groups such as the American Indian Movement and the National Indian Youth Council contested the very land upon which America was founded.

Once segregation was officially outlawed in 1954, African-Americans began the arduous task of putting what was largely a theoretical ruling into practice. They did so via three primary means which, although contested on different fronts and utilizing a variety of tactics, were intrinsically related and all assisted in furthering the goal of declining discrimination and accessing full-fledged civil rights. Foremost among these was via political pressure on a largely federal level, which was used to assist at the state and local level. A number of measures were passed by the federal government that disseminated specific rights for African Americas. After President Eisenhower was forced to call in the National Guard to prevent Kansas officials from preventing African-Americans to enter their schools following the Brown Supreme Court decision, Congress created the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (which prohibited interference with African-American voting attempts in the South) (No author, 1957, p. 635). Other federal and legislative measures included the Department of Justice creating a Civil Rights Division and a Civil Rights Commission, as well as a 1964 Supreme Court decision desegregating buses.

One of the most popular methods in which African-Americans struggled for their civil rights was through non-violent protests known as civil disobedience. This tactic was popularized by the presence of Martin Luther King Jr. And the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which led a series of marches, boycotts and protests primarily in the South that utilized non-violent means. What is most significant about the efforts of King and other non-violent protestors was the fact that their efforts were frequently met with violence from local and state authorities which included beatings via batons, water hoses, police dogs, and other measures.

Not surprisingly, another tactic utilized by African-Americans contesting civil rights was the use of the same destructive measures that were inflicted upon them. These more radical groups included the Nation of Islam, largely overseen, at one point, by Malcolm X, as well as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which began advocating civil disobedience and became more radical as the struggle ensued. Paramilitary organizations such as the Black Panthers toted guns in public. Most violent protests, however, were spontaneous affairs erupting in the 1960's in several major urban centers such as Detroit, Newark, Watts, Chicago and New York.

Although African-Americans had to resort to some measures of violence and destruction such as that which was inflicted upon them -- particularly in the wake of the violent deaths of leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., it is notable that the vast majority of the gains they made for their civil rights which ended segregation and greatly reduced social isolation were by utilizing various aspects of the political and judicial system. In this respect, Du Bois' presaging of a talented tenth which would lead African-Americans (Du Bois 1903) was partially correct, as watershed moments such as the Brown v. Board of Education and leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. were able inspire a nation to eventually invoked change. As such, it is fairly evident that these people learned to employ the tools provided by America's political, social and legislative system to end their own social isolation and to help to end that of other minority groups, including Hispanics and Latinos.


Du Bois, W.E.B. DuBois, W.E.B. 1903. "The Talented Tenth." Pp. 31-75 in the Negro Problem: A Series of Articles by Representative American Negroes of to-Day. Contributions by Booker T. Washington, Principal of Tuskegee Institute, W.E. Burghardt DuBois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles W. Chesnutt, and others. (NY: James Pott & Co., 1903

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