1. The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural, social and artistic movement that took place in Harlem starting in the 1920s. During this African-American cultural movement, coloured people started embracing and celebrating their traditions. This period was also the turning point in the fight against segregation and racism. It was the spark which ignited the well known Civil Rights movement.
On December 1st 1955, a black woman by the name of Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. At that time, the Jim Crow law forced black people to give up their seats in the “black section” to whites, when all the white seats were taken. During the 1960s, African Americans, from every level of the society, fought hard against racial segregation and discrimination. At that time, there was a huge separation between human race and simply because of a difference in their skin colour, negroes were considered inferior. They had to obey by different rules than white people. Negroes started fighting for equal education and equal life conditions as the white society. They fought not to be seen as black people, but rather as human beings. This paper will discuss the impact that various civil right activists had on our society.
We have seen a number of social and political changes happen in the last 100 years in America and around the world. These changes are attributed to the relentless work made by these activists who believed in justice and equality amongst all human beings. This paper will show how different civil right activists were able to influence public opinion and impact on the social changes we have witnessed. 2. This almost never ending walk travelled by civil rights activists, such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr.
, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X and many more, was in a nutshell, to have equality, justice and basic civil rights. “American civil rights movement, mass protest movement against racial segregation and discrimination in the southern United States that came to national prominence during the mid-1950s.” (Carson, Clayborne. “American Civil Rights Movement.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 22 June 2017.) Civil rights are given to citizens to give them protection and privileges. (SAHO.
“1960s: The Civil Rights and Black Power Movements.” South African History Online, 16 Feb. 2017.
) They are normally given to all citizens of a nation and they give them political rights, social freedom and equality rights. However, African Americans did not have civil rights because they were considered inferior to the white society. Basic civil rights that Negroes had to fight for include, the right to vote, the right to personal freedom, the right to privacy, the right to equality before the law, and many more.3.There are countless people who helped fight for freedom and equality all over the world. They are freedom fighters and they “usually come from oppressed or marginalized groups that have been deprived of something important, such as a homeland, and their struggle is to obtain it or gain it back.
” (Bolt • November 14, 2001, John. “Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: What’s the Difference?” Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: What’s the Difference? | Acton Institute, 14 Nov. 2001.) In this case, there are many influential African American activists that contributed to fight against the struggle for equality. However, the whole black society collectively helped and walked together through their almost never ending road. Some of them had a greater impact on the progress to equality. People such as Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Jesse Owens are example of African Americans that stood for their nation in “their unending quest for full economic, political, and social equality” (Salley, Columbus.
The Black 100: a Ranking of the Most Influential African-Americans, Past and Present. Citadel, 1999.)4. Jackie Robinson: (Salley, Columbus. The Black 100: a Ranking of the Most Influential African-Americans, Past and Present. Citadel, 1999.
)4.1 Jack Roosevelt Robinson known as Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia, on January 31, 1919. Jackie was the youngest of five children of Jerry and Mallie Robinson. His grandfather was a slave and his father a farmer. When Jackie was two years old, his father left the family and Jackie was raised by his mother his whole life.
Jackie’s mother moved the family to Pasadena, California (1937). At school, he was a great athlete and played football, baseball and basketball. On May 1942, Jackie Robinson was drafted in the army where he applied for Officer’s Candidate School, becoming a second lieutenant. It’s in the army, as a black officer, that Robinson realised how blacks were not treated as well as whites. After being exposed to heavy white racism, Jackie Robinson left the army in 1944 and said, “I was naïve about the elaborate lengths to which racists in the armed forces would go to put a vocal black man in his place.” 4.2 In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black player in major league baseball, pushing the limits of what was known possible for a black man. As the first black to integrate baseball, like so many other “black firsts”, he was the main figure and a symbol from the “ongoing struggles of blacks to be free and to be treated justly and equally in America.
” (Salley, Columbus. The Black 100: a Ranking of the Most Influential African-Americans, Past and Present. Citadel, 1999.) The integration and acceptance of Jackie Robinson into major league baseball was an immense and significant step in the evolution of the black struggle toward total justice. Jackie’s outstanding performance had a big impact on the economics of baseball and resulted into greater salaries and benefits for both black and white players. In 1962, Jackie Robinson became the first black man to be ever inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame.
This was a major positive change helping the acceptance of black people into baseball and the all mighty white American culture.5. Muhammad Ali: (Salley, Columbus. The Black 100: a Ranking of the Most Influential African-Americans, Past and Present. Citadel, 1999.)5.
1 Muhammad Ali was born with the name Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in Louisville, Kentucky, on July 17, 1942. He attended segregated school in his hometown and graduated on June, 1960. He started boxing at the age of twelve after someone stole his bike in order to “whup” whoever had stolen his bike. He guaranteed his spot on the American team going to the 1960 Olympics where he won the gold medal.
On February 1964, Muhammad Ali shook the world by beating, by knock out, the then unbeatable champion, Sonny Liston. That same day, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., announced that he had joined the Black Muslims and had taken the name of Muhammad Ali.5.2 Muhammad Ali not only fought on the ring, but also fought outside the ring; thus, fighting for the social equality of the Negro society in America. In 1967, he refused to fight for America in the Vietnam War. He explained his refusal by saying, “I’m not going to help nobody against something Negroes don’t have. If I’m going to die, I’ll die right here fighting you.
If I’m going to die, you’re my enemy. My enemy is the white people, not Viet Congs or Chinese or Japanese. You’re my foes when I want equality. You won’t even stand up for me in America for my religious beliefs and you want me to go somewhere and fight, while you won’t even stand up for me here at home.” He was than put in jail. Muhammad Ali shaped the social and political currents of his age.
He stood and made a huge impact that equality and justice among people was important. He proved that the Vietnam War was wrong. And like Thomas Hauser said on Muhammad Ali, “He is today a deeply religious man who evokes feelings of respect and love wherever he travels throughout the world.”6. Jesse Owens: (Salley, Columbus. The Black 100: a Ranking of the Most Influential African-Americans, Past and Present. Citadel, 1999.)6.
1 Jesse Owens was born with the name of James Cleveland (J.C.) Owens on September 12, 1913, in Oakville, Alabama. He was later given the name Jesse when his teacher mispronounced his initials, J.
C.. Jesse Owens went to school in Cleveland, Ohio, where he started his track and field career under the guidance of the famous Larry Snyder. 6.
2 At the 1936, Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens defied the very idea of the Aryan Supremacy; the ideology stating that the pure white race (preferably german) is superior to other races. He achieved this history marking task by winning four Olympic gold medals, as well as setting a world record for the hundred-yard dash, all of this in front of the Fuehrer himself. More important than challenging Hitler’s political ideology, Jesse was on a mission to contradict the very meaning of being “all-American,” when it served the purpose of empowering “white” America. By doing so, he helped the African-American community fight for their constitutional rights. After coming back from the Olympics with four gold medals, he experienced the American lie himself.
He said, “It became increasingly apparent that everyone was going to slap me on the back, want to shake my hand, or have me up to their suite. But no one was going to offer me a job.” Therefore, after his Olympic triumph, Jesse Owens was forced to race against horses and cars in order to make money.
(Jesse Owens.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 15 Dec. 2017.) He finally secured a job as a janitor in a school. Because of this, Owen became a symbol of racial equality throughout the world. 6.
3 While writing this research paper, I decided to watch the movie “Race” depicting the life of Jesse Owens. I was really touched by all the injustices that the black and Jewish people had to endure in the early 1900. It was clear that they were all desperate for a better future. During the movie, there was a scene where Jesse Owens was sitting around with his family, excited to be able to go to the Olympics. A black man, which was a member of the Negro community, stepped into the room and asked Jesse not to go to the Olympics because of the racism surrounding America and most importantly Germany.
Jesse’s response to the man still resonates in my head: “When I race, during the 10 seconds it takes me to run 100 yards, there ain’t no black or whites. There’s only fast and slow. For those ten seconds you are completely free.
” Jesse decided to go to the Olympics because he felt that he could show the world that every human being is equal to another and a difference in colour does not change anything. The movie was also able to expose the American hypocrisy of that time where Americans embraced Jesse for winning in the name of America against Fascism, but at the same time continued to deny the rights of African American people. I was really touched by this movie and would strongly recommend it to everyone.7. The quest for racial equality was anchored in the mind of a number of civil rights activists which have become a symbol of courage and freedom. Social, political or even personal change always requires an initiating factor or a strong belief that the change will benefit the mass.
Civil rights activists are the leaders of a social or political movement which is dedicated to securing equal opportunity for each member of minority groups. (“Civil Rights Activist – Dictionary Definition.” Vocabulary.com, 15 Dec. 2017.) In the next few paragraphs, I will discuss the life and influence of several civil rights activists which have shaped the social, political and economical landscape of America and the rest of the world. These activists have dedicated their lives and, in some cases, given it away, in exchange for freedom, justice and equality. 8.
Mahatma Gandhi: (“Mahatma Gandhi.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 4 Aug.
2017.) (Wolpert, Stanley. “Gandhi’s Passion.
” Google Books, Oxford University Press, 2001.)8.1 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2nd, 1869, in Porbandar, India which was then part of the British empire. At the age of eighteen, he sailed to London, England, to study Law. Upon his return to India, he struggled as a lawyer and left to South Africa to perform legal services. He was quickly appalled by the discrimination and racial segregation faced by Indian immigrants at the hands of white British. In June of 1893, during a train trip in South Africa, a white man objected to his presence in the first class railway compartment and had him thrown off the train. This act awoke in Gandhi a deep and relentless devotion to fighting the “deep disease of colour prejudice.
” (Wolpert, Stanley. “Gandhi’s Passion.” Google Books, Oxford University Press, 2001.
) He vowed that day to try, if possible, to root out the disease and suffer a hardship in the process. From that day, Gandhi grew into a giant force for civil rights both in South Africa and India. 8.2 Gandhi became a leading political figure in the Indian struggle to eliminate segregation. He was arrested and sentenced to jail on several occasion because of his involvement in the protest against the British regime.
He once said, “My ambition is no less than to convert the British people through non-violence and thus make them see the wrong they have done to India.” (“Mahatma Gandhi.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 4 Aug. 2017.) In 1942, Gandhi called for the immediate British withdrawal from India. He was immediately arrested along with his wife and other Indian leaders. Gandhi defied the British empire by going on several non-violent fasting protest.
With his health failing, Gandhi was released from jailed 19 months later. At that time, the violence between Hindus and Muslims in India had reach a climax. Gandhi toured various areas of India in an appeal for peace and fasted in an attempt to end the violence. Some Hindus viewed Gandhi as a traitor for expressing sympathy towards Muslims.
He was assassinated in 1948 by an extremist Hindu fanatic. During his life and even more after his death, Gandhi’s commitment to nonviolence and his beliefs in simple living has become an important source of hope for oppressed people around the world. He has become one of the most important civil rights activist and has influenced other leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela due to his non-violence philosophy.
9. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: (Salley, Columbus.
The Black 100: a Ranking of the Most Influential African-Americans, Past and Present. Citadel, 1999.)9.1 Michael (later changed to Martin) Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. Both his father and grandfather were members and leaders of the black church. The church was used as a tool to protest for the equal rights and justices of African Americans. Therefore, Martin Luther King, Jr.
was exposed at a very young age to the ideology of equality and respect to all human beings. He later used his influence and leadership in the black church to establish a vision of “the brotherhood of man,” a movement for freedom and equality for blacks in America.9.
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great orator and was able to manipulate the media in the favor of freedom for blacks. He participated in numerous protest marches in defiance of racism and segregation by the police and firefighters and other municipal leaders. However, the most important event of Martin Luther King, Jr.
influence on the civil right movement and afro americans came during a speech at the march on Washington on August 28, 1963. During this march, more than 250 000 people, both whites and blacks, poor and rich, assembled (with millions watching on television) for the largest civil rights demonstration in the history of America. His epic speech still resonates today amongst all Americans. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech pointed to his long lasting dream of eradicating racism and intolerance. Martin Luther King, Jr.
struggles took him to various places. In March 1958, he arrived to Memphis Tennessee, to support striking sanitation workers. On April 4th, 1968, he was shot down by a white assassin, on the balcony at the Lorraine Motel. His last sermon, was played at his funerals.
The sermon paid justice to the struggles of Americans and human kinds against injustice. “If any of you are around when I have to meet my death, I don’t want a long speech. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell him not to talk long. Every now and then I wonder what I want him to say. Tell him not to mention that I have the Nobel Peace Prize, that isn’t important. ..
. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were imprisoned.” Long after his death, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
, remains a prominent figure in American history and an undisputed champion for the fight for equality for all Americans regardless of their colour, religion or beliefs.10. Nelson Mandela: (“Nelson Mandela.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 6 Sept. 2017.) 10.
1 Nelson Mandela was born on July 18th, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa. At that time, the country was based on white supremacy and the repression of the majority of the population which included blacks and mixed-race Africans and Indians for the benefit of the politically dominant group, the whites. Despite growing up in this system of apartheid, Mandela studied law at the university of Fort Hare, before working as a lawyer in Johannesburg. He became involved in politics and joined the African National Congress (ANC). As president of the ANC, he was repeatedly arrested for anti-apartheid activities. In 1962, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the state.
Mandela served twenty-seven years in prison. He was released in 1990 by president F.W. de Klerk. Mandela and de Klerk negotiated an end to apartheid and organized the 1994 multiracial general election in which Mandela lead the ANC to victory and became president of South Africa. Mandela emphasised reconciliation between the countries racial groups. Mandela’s anti-apartheid beliefs lead him to implement political, social and economical changes in favor of inter racial equality. 11.
Malcolm X: (“Malcolm X.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 8 Aug.
2017.) (Salley, Columbus. The Black 100: a Ranking of the Most Influential African-Americans, Past and Present.
Citadel, 1999.)11.1 Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19th, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. When Malcolm was six years old, his father was murdered by white terrorists and his family migrated to Lansing, Michigan. After eight grade, Malcolm dropped out of school. As a dropout, Malcolm spent his time with street gangs where he got into drugs and burglary. He was arrested and jailed at the age of twenty-one. During his prison years, Malcolm became acquainted with a Muslim leader by the name of Elijah Mohammed who had a tremendous influence on Malcolm and converted him to Islam.
This period of Malcolm’s life allowed him to embrace new ideas, and to join the struggle against the black oppression. Malcolm turned to Islam and used it as a rhetorical tool to influence and empower the black revolution against segregation and oppression.11.
2 In the spring of 1954, Malcolm X renounced to Elijah Muhammad’s teaching and formed his own Muslim Mosque in Harlem. He was extremely effective at manipulating the media in order to shape the thinking of the black people, the black institutions and the black pride and identity in the quest for the eradication of racism. In contrast to Dr. King, Malcolm preached to blacks the use of any necessary means in their fight against white segregation. After a series of threats and attempts on his life, Malcolm was shot and killed on February 21, 1955. At his funerals, Ossie Davis, a renown activist-artist, described Malcolm as “a prince, our own black, shining prince, who did not hesitate to die because he loved us so.
“12. Based on the research that I have done to complete this work, it is clear to me that civil right activists have played a very important role in the social changes that we have witnessed in the last 200 years. Although there are still many injustices creeping in our current society, they are a far cry from those that negroes and other oppressed people endured in the past. Today, justice has been granted to most black people and it is evident in our society that the margin between whites and blacks has faded. Black people have become an important part of our society and their involvement is apparent at all levels.
The best example of this metamorphosis is the past president of the United States of America, Barack Obama. In today’s society, black people live under the same laws as white people and they attend the same school as white people. Even though there has been many changes in order to improve our society, our society is still not perfect. The tough voyage traveled by many people has made a huge difference and positively impacted justice and equality today, but the journey is not over yet. People, such as Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali used their talent and influence in order to bring about changes to the all American white mentality.
Great Civil rights activists and visionaries such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X gave their life away for the name of equality and justice. Today, blacks and whites, Christians, Muslims and Jews, in America, South Africa, India and many other countries, all live by the same rules and under the same civil rights. A black woman can choose to sit wherever she wants on the bus and does not have to give her seat to a white man. Although this research paper does not review all the activists, I know that there are millions of people, black and white, that have contributed directly or indirectly to the changes to the civil rights movement. Today, we still have to confront racism and injustice.
However, our society has become educated and more and more intolerant toward racism and segregation. This is what distinguishes our great Canadian country. A country where inclusion, respect, tolerance and justice are more important than ego and money.