CIVIL AND Voting Rights IN USA
Program Factors and Program Accountability
In US history, the struggle for voting rights for the African American community is part of a century-old effort to ensure that under the US Constitution, all citizens received equal rights to vote It took years of campaigning, struggle and activism, where many stakeholders were involved who joined the voice of the advocates that led the cause and countered criticism and reluctance of a few stakeholders who wished to preserve the status quo. It undoubtedly left a great impact on American society and the world. The paper will study these factors along with the movement’s performance as well as the funding it received and discuss how effective were its strategies in ensuring that the voting rights and civil rights of African-Americans as well as other communities remain protected.
The main stakeholders of the civil rights movement and in particular the voting rights act of 1965 were the African American communities, who were facing racial discrimination as well as a systemic discrimination even after the Fifth Amendment. Despite protections offered by the Fifth Amendment, racial equality was still opposed by many southern states who circumvented the law by introducing different tests that served as a barrier to prevent Black citizens to register and take part in the election process. One of the primary goals of the civil rights movement was to register Southern voters for African- Americans to gain political power there. Systemic racial discrimination, however, continued until the mid-20th century such as in 1951, where there was a boycott of the buses. There was a separation between white passengers who sat in front seats of the bus and the black passengers who were made to sit in the back seats; front seats were kept segregated for the White American. 40,000 blacks joined a bus boycott movement, and largely agreed to not use the bus until they changed the racial profiling systems in the busses until finally it was abolished. The 1964 Civil Rights Act had provisions that barred segregation and discrimination in jobs, education, public facilities, and housing. An ‘Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’ was formed to ensure that hiring practices remained fair, and a ‘Federal Community Relations Service’ was established to aid local communities regarding issues related to civil rights. The ‘US Office of Education’ was authorized to deliver financial aid to public schools in communities that were still struggling with segregation. There were a coalition of labor unions, religious groups, and civil rights organizations that exerted pressure from the grassroots level to lobby support for the bills. It was finally passed on 11th June 1964 in Congress with votes of 73 against 27.
The 1964 ‘Civil Rights Act’ was approved after years of activist lobbying that sought a comprehensive civil rights legislation where everyone will be guaranteed with equal civil rights. President Lyndon Baines, after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, gave top priority to Bill’s passage. President John F. Kennedy originally endorsed the law while his successors sustained his decisions and supported the change. The Senate finally approved the Act. In 1965, the ‘Voting Rights Act’ was endorsed by Martin Luther King Jr. who was linked to the ‘Civil Rights Act’ of 1964. Civil rights workers underwent vicious murders and beatings for the passage of the ‘Civil rights Act’ that led to some black activists becoming radicalized, who became doubtful of the integrationist, nonviolent tactics and instead sought a more radical approach. Six hundred activists set out on a march on March 7, 1965, from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, in an event that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday”. The activists organized a peaceful protest due to continued violations of African American civil rights, but state enforcers descended upon them in an unprovoked attack, leading to the outbreak of violence and many deaths. This convinced President Johnson at the time that additional civil rights legislation was required to address the situation (Berman, 2015). Malcolm X’s activism also left a lasting effect on the civil rights movement. His ideas had an influence in shaping and reinforcing the South’s tradition of self-reliance, which demonstrated itself in the movement.
The movement had its share of resistance. Despite the fact that President Kennedy had sent the bill to Congress in 1963 before the March, the Judiciary Committee had blocked the passage due to delay tactics used by some Southerner senators who held segregationist views, such as James Eastland, who was a Democrat from Mississippi. Due to these measures, there was still resistance even following Bill’s enactment. Another segregationist was George Wallace, a governor of Alabama, who was also a vocal critic of the movement and his campaigns involved heavy anti-integration rhetoric that related the movement to loss of traditional American values. This rhetoric later led to the rise of social conservatism in many parts of the US (Carter, 2000). Following the legislation, some venue that was public tried to convert themselves into private clubs rather than implement the new desegregation rules and let African Americans become members. This was subsequently declared illegal by the Supreme Court (John Hope Franklin, 2011).
The impact left by the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was one that still greatly affects the society today, despite recent controversies. The bill had made literacy tests, poll taxes and other practices to be illegal, some methods used to prevent southern black Americans from casting their votes. The US attorney general was authorized to ensure compliance by local registrars by dispatching federal officials, in case there were problems and to conduct supervision in districts where disfranchised African Americans had been more prominent. In the South, the patterns of political power were transformed by the voting rights Act (Risen, 2014). The results led to half a million African Americans to register themselves to vote by 1966 and four hundred Blacks had been elected to office by 1968. Many Southern Democrats began to leave the party as African Americans joined the Democrats. Some congressmen began to leave their old rhetoric behind and started campaigns to appeal to the black community for votes, for example, George Wallace (May 2014). The Act not only expanded the scope of the federal civil rights laws of the time but completely transformed voter dynamics in local and state governments. The results and impact are indisputable that led to far less discrimination today in voting than what used to be 60 years ago. Racial degradation, however, did not end completely in society as even today black people continue to be a victim of racist behavior and bias. The Black Lives Matter demonstrations led to widespread criticism of police action and reform policies within the civil rights framework were discussed as a result (Harris, 2015).
The Act has become a part of America’s national lore. It provided meaningful legal remedies to minority citizens. The two Acts continued to play a part in many social justice movements that ensued in later years. There have been many studies evaluating social dynamics of racism today in order to monitor the performance and effect of the legislation and the movement today. One of the studies conducted in this regard used the hypothetical concept of master narrative to investigate ideological and historical assumptions regarding the Civil Rights Movement according to the interviewed youth in the urban community, the researcher presents four themes existing in the movement’s master narrative to demonstrate how ideologies of white supremacy are reinforced through these functions (Woodson, 2015). The research provides insights into how Master Narratives of the Civil Rights and Voter Rights movement shape perceptions of average black youth and shed lights into racial dynamics still present in society despite the success of the voter rights and civil rights movement in 1964-1965. Similar studies are useful for monitoring the results and implications of the movement and how they are still relevant today.
Another important issue was the US Supreme Court’s verdict in the landmark Shelby County v. Holder case regarding two provision of the Voting Rights Act. The provisions had to do with local governments and certain states to obtain a preclearance from the center if they required to making any changes to the voting practice or laws that were to be determined by their histories of discrimination in voting. The Court decided that the coverage formula in section 4b was unconstitutional because it left a burden on constitutional principles and equal sovereignty of the states, and was no longer responsive to current needs. As a result of the decision, some states implemented voter identification laws and became stricter in expunging voters that were not eligible for the vote according to the new conditions (Overton, 2013). The two studies point towards how the voter’s right act has performed throughout the years, and the contemporary challenges to the legislation faces along. Prevailing social attitudes are also monitored and compared to the time when the act was passed.
The movements that led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act received funding from different quarters, state and non-state, at the time. In 1957 the ‘Southern Christian Leadership Conference’ was formed in an alliance of Chuch leaders that offered leadership assistance and training to complement local efforts in fighting segregation. They raised funds from Northern sources mostly, to support campaigns in the south. They adopted on violence as its primary method and central tenet in challenging racism. In 1962, the SNCC used funds from the ‘Voter Education Project’ in organizing voter registration in Mississippi Delta. A fierce opposition met their efforts. But it showed that organizations and alliances that had believed in racial equality and civil rights began to organize themselves and fund different campaigns that helped strengthen the movement at the grassroots levels, although the funding efforts could hardly be termed sufficient.
From the opposing side, some state-funded organizations attempted to counter the civil rights movement by utilizing state funds to portray segregationist policies in a positive light. They used their own resources to collect information about activists, and legally harassed them, threatening their jobs or using other economic boycotts against them to suppress the movement,
The core strategies used in the movement centered around the theme of nonviolence. Leaders of the Civil Rights movement such as Rev. Martin Luther King endorsed this method in favor of an armed guerilla uprising. The movement was inspired by the nonviolent teachings of the Mahatma Gandhi, the popular Indian leader. Millions of African Americans went out in the streets led by Martin Luther King to participate in peaceful protests, as well as economic boycotts and acts of civil disobedience, with such spirit that man began to term it as America’s second civil war. They also boycotted the buses where segregation was taking place. Students did not leave lunch stores until they were served. The 1963 March towards Washington had hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who demanded equal access to quality education, public facilities, decent housing and adequate employment for African Americans and was a major success. This is when Dr.a Martin Luther King delivered his famous ‘I have a Dream’ speech. They not only led protests but challenged segregation by pursuing legislative reforms through courts, all of which contributed towards the movement. The struggle for equal rights still continue to this day and demands for accountability in racially motivated murders are increasing, that occurred during the Civil Rights Era. Institutions and individuals are still to be held accountable for any racially motivated deaths for victims who were struggling to obtain the right to vote (Johnson, 2015)
The right to vote was a big step not only for the civil rights movement but also for democracy. It can be said without hesitation that the civil rights movement was a great success, and produced a substantial change in the society’s values. Today it is difficult to envision different sections for different persons and races on the bus or the metro. However, there are still many issues related to racial tolerance that continue to haunt the people. The activist movements for the freedom and participation of black people in American society saw a rise in demands of civil liberties that intertwined with voting rights
Berman, A., 2015. Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Carter, D. T., 2000. The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
Harris, F. C., 2015. The Next Civil Rights Movement?. Dissent, pp. 34-39.
John Hope Franklin, E. B. H., 2011. From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans. 9th ed. New York: McGraw Hill.
Johnson, P. C., 2015. Voting Rights And Civil Rights Era Cold Cases: Section Five And The Five Cities Project’. Touro Law Journal Of Race, Gender, & Ethnicity & Berkeley Journal Of African-American Law & Policy, 16(2), pp. 377-390.
May, G., 2014. Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Overton, S., 2013. Voting Rights Disclosure. Harvard Law Review Forum, 127(19), pp. 19-31.
Risen, C., 2014. The Bill of the Century: The Epic Battle for the Civil Rights Act. New York: Bloomsbury Press.
Woodson, A. N., 2015. “There Ain’t No White People Here”: Master Narratives of the Civil Rights Movement in the Stories of Urban Youth. Urban Education, pp. 1-28.