With the recent inauguration of our new Commander-In-Chief Barack Obama, it is an amazing time to be alive and witness this contemporary chapter of American history.
It’s also a time to give thanks to both black and white Americans who stood against racism, bigotry, and fought for social equality over the past 200 years. It should also be a time to reflect on the importance of Black History Month and to celebrate the heroes as well as everyday people that shaped our great Nation we live in.
As we look back and assess the changes that occurred in the United States over the past 60 years, it is completely defined as a remarkable era in our short history.
Today’s current political landscape is a reflection of the hearts, minds, and actions of the men and women that stood up and refused oppression by destroying segregation, fighting for equal rights, and abolishing the ignorant Jim Crow laws during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement.
Without the brave men and women who peacefully fought against the “Societal Norm” of our country during the 1950s and 1960s, our new President would not be Barack Obama. During the era of the Civil Rights Movement, the United States was engulfed with racial ignorance and violent bigotry on an accepted and frightening level.
However, during the 1950s and 1960s, when racial tension and ignorance was paramount throughout our country, individuals like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Linda Brown, Thurgood Marshall, Edgar Nixon, and Medgar Evers became icons and leaders for racial equality.
These great men and women, plus countless more, led the Civil Rights Movement in a peaceful manner hand in hand with black and white citizens with no regard of an imminent danger.
Shockingly enough, there were acts of terrorism in our country, like the September 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, where this hideous act killed four young African-American girls attending Sunday school.
The incorrigible Ku Klux Klan and similar white supremacist organizations continued hate crimes on the premise of fear and violent tactics much like Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations do today in Iraq.
The senseless murders, beatings, and torture of men and women during this era were a catalyst of our forefathers, who began leading peaceful demonstrations in Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham, AL while being attacked by club-wielding policemen, dogs, tear gas, and fire hoses.
At this time, our country looked on in a state of fear and embarrassment of the powers that be.
Although hundreds of thousands of lives, possibly more were lost in the battle for civil rights and although heartbreaking in their appearance, a cultural revolution was spawned as a reaction.
With the harrowing numbers of crimes against humanity that were based on race, religion, sex, and ethnicity, those crimes eventually inspired daring leaders who promised the people of the United States that change was forthcoming and prejudicial crimes and discrimination against all minorities would not be tolerated anymore.
You cannot judge a Man by the color of his skin.
The continued courage of African-American activists like Dr. King and his eloquent “I Have a Dream” speech vindicated the Civil Rights movement in the eyes of people who really had no clue or turned the other cheek.
Other activists like Malcolm X, who lived by the mantra “Any means necessary,” and the Black Panther Party had different approaches to obtain equality and civil liberties for African Americans.
Obviously, there is justification in the tactics and philosophies that may have been deemed confrontational and militant, but protests and gatherings of this nature made perfect sense in light of events that were taking place against African-Americans throughout the United States in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Eventually our nation’s key leaders had to take notice of the state of our nation.
Two individuals who played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement were President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. These men pushed through the Civil Rights Bill of 1963, which was proposed by President Kennedy and helped passed into law in 1964 following his assassination by President Johnson.
There are an infinite number of moments that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is one of the most important bills passed in our Nation’s history.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was most recognized for ending racial discrimination in restaurants, hotels, bathrooms, and forced integration of similiar service businesses. It also gave equal opportunity for employment in the workplace, for women as well as racial, religious, and ethnic minorities.
We know that just because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed it did not change the United States overnight, as the struggle for Civil Rights and equality continues to this day. Yet, the changes many of us witnessed and our parents witnessed are a major proponent of our successfully evolving Nation.
The importance of celebrating Black History Month for me is paying homage to all African-Americans who helped shape, mold, and influence our great society that we live in today. Their legacy is echoed by the sacrifices made, and their fight for equality is simply justified by our very own Preamble to the Constitution.
“We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
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