African Americans

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Changes, in fact, did occur during the 1960s in the goals, strategies, and support of the movement for the African American civil rights. The goals of most African Americans went from voting rights to employment and housing discrimination. Their peaceful sit-ins and freedom rides were followed by violent race riots and violence in desegregating the education system. The support of the movement for the African American civil rights changed from taking dominance in the South to national awareness; also, whites who had supported the African Americans turned their backs on them after the violent race riots in the cities. In the summer of 1964, the goal of African Americans turned to having the right to vote. In March of 1965, Martin Luther King helped organize a demonstration in Selma, Alabama to demand the right of blacks to register to vote. As riots occurred because of this demonstration, Lyndon Johnson proposed and won the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, also known as the Voting Rights Act. This provided federal protection to blacks attempting to exercise their right to vote. (Document G) The focus of the movement now turned to economic issues. As the economic conditions of the American society were improving, the economic conditions of most African Americans worsened. African American leaders believed that employees should not only abandon negative measures to deny jobs to blacks; they should adopt positive measures to recruit minorities. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson supported the concept of “affirmative action.” In the summer of 1966, African Americans turned their attention to housing discrimination in northern cities. The Chicago campaign, as it was called, only evoked violence from white residents of the cities; little was done for housing discrimination among African Americans. In February 1960, black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, staged a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth; and in the following weeks, similar demonstrations spread throughout the South, forcing many merchants to integrate their facilities. In 1960, those students formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1961, an interracial group of students, working with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), began “freedom rides.” They tried to force the desegregation of bus stations. In October 1962, a federal court ordered the University of Mississippi to enroll its first black student, James Meredith; Governor Barnett refused to enforce the order. President Kennedy sent federal troops to the city to restore order and protect Meredith’s rights. In April, Martin Luther King, helped start nonviolent demonstrations in Alabama. Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor supervised the effort to break up the peaceful marches, arresting demonstrators and using attack dogs and tear gases. (Document B,C) In the summer of 1964, race riots began to take place in the cities. These race riots triggered the anger of the African American society. Blacks were fed up with the economy and housing. For the next three years, race riots occurred in Watts, Chicago, Cleveland, Newark, and Detroit. With the rise in the belief of “black power,” the Black Panther Party promised to defend black rights even if that required violence. Black Panthers organized along semimilitary lines. They created an image of militant blacks willing to fight for justice. (Document F) Supporters of the movement of African American civil rights including both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. John F. Kennedy supporting African Americans in the James Meredith case and desegregation (Document D); Lyndon Johnson supporting African Americans with affirmative action

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