In 1861, the American Civil War started. One of the biggest reasons that it started was the issue of slavery. Southern states didn’t want to give up their slaves because that would change the entire socioeconomic structure of the South, which could have ultimately led it to its collapse. Most abolitionists came from the northern states because they either viewed it as a sin or as free labor.
Although the civil war and slavery ended in 1865, segregation didn’t. Slaves were free, but they weren’t treated as equal citizens.
Southern states tried to reestablished a society through legislation where there were a separation between whites and blacks and where blacks were barred from voting. The laws, often called Jim Crow laws, separated blacks and whites in the public sector, such as schools and transportation.
Segregation didn’t start ending until the 1960s when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965). The Civil Rights Act made it illegal to discriminate against minorities.
The Voting Rights Act gave minorities the right to vote without being denied the right or have those rights abridged. The act came out of the need for greater success for civil rights and because of the violence against civil right activists. At that time civil right legislation only had overall modest success. In some areas, legislation was almost completely ineffective.
But Congress didn’t enact these acts because they thought it was a good time to do it. It was because people finally got fed up about the way they were treated and stood up against it. They also had a leader who was a powerful speaker and writer and wanted to create equality for everyone, despite any and all differences.
His name? Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t use the normal tactics, which was any means necessary, to stand up against inequality. His used a combination of the ideals of his Christian faith and the operational tactics applied by Mahatma Gandhi to lead a peaceful civil rights movement.
Kings’ first chance to use these tactics was when he was chosen by the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter to lead the Montgomery bus boycott, in which blacks didn’t use the bus system for 381 days. The boycott succeeded and the Supreme Court ordered desegregation of public transportation.
The boycott led to King being elected to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As the president of the SCLC he led and participated in more nonviolent protests, campaigns, and demonstrations all across the USA. They did this until the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were enacted and implemented in 1964 and 1965.
Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t stop at civil rights either. He also did campaigns and demonstrations for economic justice and international peace until his death in 1968.
By leading people through peaceful demonstrations for racial equality, King started desegregation. According to The King Center, blacks “achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced.” He pushed forward what most people didn’t do or couldn’t do on their own.
If Martin Luther King Jr. could lead many people and change how people view equality, so can we lead and change something. It doesn’t have to start big or be seen as a big deal, but it can end up big.
Segregation wasn’t viewed as big deal until people started doing something about it and saying that it wasn’t right. When people don’t stand up to something wrong and do something about it, it’ll keep happening.
Start leading to make the wrong right. Stand up and make a difference.
As Superchick stated in their song It’s On:
You’ve got the will
You’ll find the way
To change the world some day
Grab this moment before it’s gone
Today’s your day
To God be the Glory,