Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

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What were the major causes that led to the civil rights movement?

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There were many factors that led to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and most of them are related to the trend of globalization after World War II. Many people in the 1950s had come back from World War II and seen a much different world—for one, both Northern and Southern demographics had shifted greatly during the Great Migration. For another, military men had traveled through European nations with a longer history without slavery and with greater civil equality.

The fact that black soldiers came back from World War II and saw their white compatriots begin to amass wealth and make their lives better thanks to VA and GI bills, home loans, and better job opportunities—all in spite of the fact that both groups had served the country equally—contributed to the attitude that there should be greater civil equality. In addition, an increase in media coverage led to racial issues being widely publicized, and the American attempt to present themselves as a land of opportunity and equality was threatened during the Cold War by the existence of segregation and Jim Crow laws. Because of this and many other factors, the civil rights movement developed and grew rapidly.

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The major cause of the Civil Rights Movement was the disparity in what rights African Americans felt they should have and could get and the rights that they actually had.  By the mid-1950s, African Americans thought they should have more rights than they had and they thought that the time was ripe for them to get those rights.

People often think that social movements happen because the people are oppressed.  But African Americans were much more oppressed in the 1920s, for instance.  The Civil Rights Movement did not start then.  This was because African Americans did not think they could get more rights.

After WWII, a variety of factors made it so African Americans felt they could get more rights.  These included:

  • anti-racist rhetoric of WWII
  • need for the US to look good to people of color around the world in the Cold War.
  • increased numbers of African Americans in the North who could vote.

In the 1950s, these factors helped convince African Americans that they could win more rights.  This led to the Civil Rights Movement.

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