Discuss how McCarthyism differs from the civil right movement.

McCarthyism and the civil right movement are vastly different, for McCarthyism refers to the attempts by Senator Joseph McCarthy to discover communist spies in America through intrusive and unconstitutional investigations while the civil right movement refers to the efforts of African Americans to attain equal rights in the law and society.

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McCarthyism and the civil right movement could not be more different. To understand why, let's look at the goals and progress of each of them.

In the early 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy got the notion that communist spies had permeated American society. He saw communists everywhere, in the government, the military, Hollywood, all kinds of professions, and even normal, everyday people. After addressing the Senate and accusing over eighty people initially, McCarthy began to call communist “suspects” before a congressional panel for questioning. McCarthy drilled his victims with his infamous question, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the communist party?” These investigations meant the loss of constitutional rights for many of the accused, as well as the loss of their jobs and reputations all on scant or even nonexistent evidence. When McCarthy started interrogating war heroes, however, he made a major mistake, and the country turned against him. The Senate finally censured McCarthy, and his reign of terror ended.

In sharp contrast, the civil right movement, led by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., sought legal and social equality for African Americans. Through mostly non-violent campaigns, African Americans and their supporters fought to end Jim Crow laws and other forms of discrimination and segregation that robbed them of their Constitutional rights and kept them firmly in the role of second class citizens. Rosa Parks, for instance, refused to sit in the back of the bus. The Little Rock Nine attempted to attend class at a white high school only to be met with violence and harassment, yet they persevered. The Freedom Riders protested segregated busing. Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington in 1963. In response, the government passed laws assuring equal employment, integration, and voting rights. Of course, the struggle continued, and King lost his life to assassination, but the civil right movement led to improvements in the lives of many African Americans.

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