Freedom Bound: A History of America's Civil Rights Movement

Freedom Bound: A History of America's Civil Rights Movement

Freedom Bound: A History of America's Civil Rights Movement

Freedom Bound: A History of America's Civil Rights Movement

Synopsis

A history of the American civil rights movement. It describes the crusades of leaders like Martin Luther King Jr, Baynard Rustin, Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X as well as the efforts of ordinary people like Fannie Lou Hamer.

Excerpt

The alliance between black and white liberals, which transformed American race relations during the 1960s, was a source of both power and disillusionment to civil rights advocates. Black leaders of the decade's nonviolent protests expressly invoked liberal ideals that centered on greater federal protection of liberty, opportunity, and citizenship rights. Their protest campaigns often seemed designed to spur Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, as well as the Congress, to extend the liberal creed fully to issues of racial justice. This faith in the democratic promise of liberal reform appeared widely vindicated in 1964 and 1965, with the passage of laws banning the caste lines that had long existed in much of the country. Yet the persistence of prejudice, poverty, and ghetto slums, despite these legal changes, exposed deeper barriers to equality that impelled many blacks to question not only the courage and consistency of white liberals but also the core values of liberal belief.

A basic assumption of liberalism in the 1960s was that equal protection of constitutional rights would afford all Americans, regardless of color, an equal chance to amass wealth, influence, and stature. Yet civil rights laws alone could not overcome the effects of past discrimination and lingering prejudice, nor did these laws substantially alter the economic system that had long permitted vast disparities of wealth and privilege, to the disadvantage of most blacks. Leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., therefore sought to stretch the liberal vision beyond endorsement of limited welfare programs, to an insistence on freedom from poverty as a basic civil right that required immediate and unreserved national commitment. Unlike the earlier drive for desegregation and voting rights laws, however, this demand for equality of condition failed to sway most liberal reformers, who held that the social order was already basically sound and that merit, rather than race, class, or other circumstances of birth, chiefly determined one's life chances.

The liberal coalition of the 1960s thus wrought, in effect, a self-limiting revolution that abolished formal barriers to equality while leaving intact the basic features of a system in which blacks had played a subordinate, marginal role. For all these limitations, blacks never wholly rejected the liberal alliance, which provided a mainstream vehicle for advancement that no alternative political course could rival. Ghetto-based separatists offered racial pride and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.