I'm writing a five paragraph essay on how historians consider civil rights movements as "grassroots effort[s] of ordinary citizens determined to end injustice in the United States." Discuss this idea and give evidence of the success or lack of success of the grassroots movements.
Let's start from your last question and move backwards. The Civil Rights Movement in the US was a success. (More on this later.)
In order to understand this, we have to understand the timeline and what happened. When the movement took place in the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans had been systematically segregated from the white population and discriminated against. Your teacher must have mentioned that even at schools, black and white children were segregated. They couldn't use the same bathroom or the same drinking fountain. The same was true for mostly all other institutions of American society. Although the US government took steps to end this unfair treatment of African Americans, society was not changing. After the "separate but equal" policy towards African Americans was legally ended in 1954, people at the state and local level did not implement this change. White populations refused to share schools and services with African Americans. And this began the Civil Rights Movement, a large nationwide and grassroots movement where blacks sought their right for equality.
A grassroots movement is a movement that starts with regular people rather than leadership. Just as the name suggests, this kind of movement starts from the bottom up. So it doesn't start with social or political leaders. It starts with regular people like you and me who get together for a cause. The Civil Rights Movement was a vast movement which entailed different types of activity. But the core of the movement was nonviolent protest and civil disobedience. Martin Luther King Jr. is most well known in this context because he became the leader and the face of this type of protest. There were also many local leaders and just regular people however that carried out their own protests to get their voice heard.
One specific example of the success of the Civil Rights Movement was the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As a result of this act, more African Americans were able to register to vote. This act was the consequence of the protests in Alabama such as the march from Selma to Montgomery.
Let's keep in mind however that when we say that the Civil Rights Movement was successful, it was successful in that it resulted in significant legal and social changes that reduced the discrimination against blacks in the US. This does not mean however that the struggle ended with the movement or that equality was achieved in every aspect of society. In a way, the struggle continues as there are still areas in which African Americans are not given equal opportunity. According to a study that was done in 2014, a black college graduate has the same chances of getting a job as a white high school graduate. This shows that blacks and whites still are not given equal opportunities in every area of American society.