Regarding the Civil Rights Movement, if nonviolence proved to be a successful strategy for confronting segregation, why had most of the advances in Civil Rights come through the federal courts?   

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that the question is asking about how the social realm of the Civil Rights Movement was distinct from the legal and political realms.  In my mind, I guess I see a faulty dualism being raised.  I believe that the realms were not as divergent as much as they were convergent.  The social activism that was a part of the Civil Rights Movement enabled many people across the country and in different capacities to recognize the inherent unfairness in segregation laws and practices.  It is for this reason why the legal system was able to understand the issue of racial inequality being such an affront to the premises of the Constitution.  I don't think that this happens without the civil disobedience that initiated the movement.  Federal courts were the legal and political arena in which the social issues of fairness and opportunity could be addressed and assessed.  I don't think that they could be seen as separate from one another.  When the court of Earl Warren hears the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the court rules in a unanimous fashion and adopts a judicial activist viewpoint towards the case because of the social fabric of the time period.  In my mind, I do not see how the court rules in this manner without the understanding of how the social fabric of American society was questioning the practices of segregation.  In this, I think that the social activist element of the Civil Rights Movement laid the groundwork for the legal and political elements of the movement.

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