Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

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Analyze the Civil Rights Movement’s complex relationship with the Democratic Party between 1948 and 1964. How was the party transformed by an association with the movement? What political gains and...

Analyze the Civil Rights Movement’s complex relationship with the Democratic Party between 1948 and 1964. How was the party transformed by an association with the movement? What political gains and losses did that association entail?

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Arguably, the Civil Rights Movement did not really begin to pick up steam until 1955, after the murder of Emmett Till and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by Rosa Parks and Dr. King. However, it is true that some inroads were made in 1948 during the Truman Administration. The efforts of the NAACP at this time, which pushed for full equality, should also not be underestimated.

In 1948, Truman integrated the U.S. Armed Forces. He appointed a committee to study the problems that might ensue if blacks and whites were to serve together. The report was called "Freedom to Serve." The report outlined the steps that would be necessary to integrate the military.

In 1949, all jobs were opened to qualified personnel, regardless of skin color. Later that year, Truman issued an executive order requiring fair employment in federal service jobs. In public housing, too, efforts were made toward integration.

Predictably, Southerners were outraged. Their response was to form a Dixiecrat party -- that is, a Southern party committed to the rights of the common, working white man and segregation. Truman, nevertheless, remained firm in his position on integration. This antagonism from Southerners would foreshadow President Johnson's difficulties with Southern Democrats in the 1960s.

It is important to note that many black people, for many years in the 19th- and 20th-centuries, were Republicans. The Republican Party was the party of Lincoln and, thus, the party for liberty. It was not really until the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Truman's predecessor and the man under whom he served as Vice President, that black people began to be courted by the Democratic Party.

The Election of 1960, famous for being the second-closest in American history, resulted in the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. In the first two years of his presidency, Kennedy mainly concerned himself with foreign affairs, particularly the threat of Communism. It was not until 1963, while watching the violent confrontation between police and black citizens in Birmingham, Alabama, that he realized that the matter of civil...

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