Describe how civil disobedience was an effective tool for change during the 1950s and 1960s? Which other methods for social change were employed? What impact did the civil rights events of the...

Describe how civil disobedience was an effective tool for change during the 1950s and 1960s? Which other methods for social change were employed? What impact did the civil rights events of the 1950s have upon Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society programs?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Civil disobedience was an important tool for change in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and early 1960s because it helped to do what social scientists call “broadening the scope of conflict.”  By doing this, civil disobedience helped African Americans win their civil rights.  It was more effective than other tactics like law suits and lobbying.

Political scientists argue that groups that are weak have to engage in tactics that will “broaden the scope of conflict.”  If African Americans in the South in the 1950s had simply lobbied Southern whites to end segregation, they would have failed.  If they had tried to support anti-segregation candidates for office in the South, they would have lost.  They had to expand the scope of conflict to bring in more people who might take their side.

When African Americans and others engaged in civil disobedience, Southern whites often reacted violently, doing things like attacking people doing sit-ins or setting police dogs on people marching for the right to vote.  This expanded the scope of conflict by attracting the attention of whites in the North.  They would not have paid any attention to the plight of blacks in the South if the blacks had not engaged in civil disobedience.  If African Americans had stuck with low-profile actions like lobbying, Northern whites would not have noticed.  Instead, Southern blacks engaged in civil disobedience and caught the attention of Northern whites who then put pressure on the government to support civil rights.  In this way, civil disobedience made it possible for African Americans to get the government to pass legislation guaranteeing them equal rights.

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