Beginning the first non-Native settlements of North America, black Africans and their descendants were relegated to a lower social status by virtue of their race. This pattern of discrimination was most acute under slavery, but it continued in much of the country after 1865 in a deeply rooted system of segregation. In the American South, these patterns of segregation were most visible and known as the “Jim Crow system.” Under Jim Crow, black Americans were required to exist in separate public spheres from their white neighbors. From schools to restaurants to public transportation, blacks were forcibly kept apart from whites, and despite their legal and constitutional rights, most were barred from voting in the South. Although certain activists challenged the orthodoxy of segregation in the early twentieth century and achieved important, if minor, gains in black Americans’ quest for full citizenship, real achievement in civil rights did not emerge until the 1950s. On the heels of the Supreme Court’s 1954 declaration in Brown v. Board of Education that racially segregated education was inherently unequal and thus unconstitutional, a grassroots movement spread, in both the South and the North, to demand an end to segregation and the full rights of citizenship for blacks.
Think about how the civil rights movement took shape in the 1950s. The difficulties of confronting a deeply ingrained social order like segregation were significant, and challenging that order often meant very real risks, including death. Nonetheless, in events like the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, the sit-in wave that began in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960, and uncountable “freedom rides” and public marches, civil rights activists—led mostly by blacks but with substantial help from white allies—successfully challenged the old order. Consider the difficulties civil rights activists faced in organizing at the grassroots and convincing national-level political leaders to support the cause.
Write an essay that explains how civil rights advocates successfully challenged and overthrew the system of segregation. Your essay should discuss the factors that led to increased activism and solidarity at the grassroots level, as well as the role that elected officials within the federal government played in guaranteeing citizenship rights to all Americans.
• Development of Ideas: 50%
• Focus and Coherence: 20%
• Organization: 10%
• Mechanics: 10%
• Voice: 10%