Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

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Which of the strategies employed by civil rights activists do you think was most effective?

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Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This question has no one right answer, but one of the many reasons that the Civil Rights movement was effective is that Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers practiced non-violence. Even when they were being attacked, they did not strike back. Instead, they were trained in using non-violent means of resistance, such as curling up into a ball or lying down.

These tactics were effective for several reasons. They made the white people attacking the civil rights protestors look like the perpetrators, while the protestors looked like innocent victims. In addition, the violence perpetrated by white citizens and by the police played very badly in the media. Photos and film of the protestors showed the protestors as guiltless while the police attacked people without provocation. These photos were shown around the world, making the US look bad and increasing pressure on the government to aid the Civil Rights movement.

In addition, many of these tactics, while non-violent in nature, were designed to inflict economic damage on white-owned businesses. For example, during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, black riders stayed off buses. As black people were the main riders of the buses in Montgomery at that time, their actions financially crippled the bus lines. Later, in the Civil Rights protests in Birmingham, Alabama, black customers boycotted white-owned businesses in the segregated downtown area. These tactics were designed to harm businesses without using physical violence. They achieved the aims of the Civil Rights movement without inflicting physical harm on others, which made the movement look good to the general public.

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