Another Night in the Ruins Historical Context

Galway Kinnell

Historical Context

Civil Rights Movement

Kinnell was involved with the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s, when “Another Night in the Ruins” was first written and published. The civil rights movement lasted from approximately the mid-1950s until the end of the 1960s and was characterized by protest, civil disobedience, litigation, and other forms of social unrest that pushed for people to have equal standing under the law regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. At this time, throughout the United States, blacks and whites were segregated in many schools, jobs, and businesses. Although black people were emancipated from slavery following the end of the U.S. Civil War in 1865, many were so impoverished and still ill-regarded by white people that they were systematically treated as second-class citizens. In May 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. This crucial decision had a huge impact because many school districts across the country were not integrated. When Little Rock, Arkansas was pressed to integrate in 1957, the governor, Orval Faubus, called in the National Guard to prevent nine black students from entering a white school that they had sued for the right to attend. President Eisenhower intervened by dismissing the National Guard and bringing in U.S. Army soldiers to escort these nine black students to and from school and between classes.

Events escalated quickly after this Supreme Court ruling as high emotions erupted into action and reaction. A young black teenager, Emmett Till, was beaten and shot to death in Mississippi in August 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white passenger in December 1955, leading to a two-week bus boycott and the U.S. Supreme Court decision that segregated buses were unconstitutional. Following the successful Montgomery bus boycott, many civil rights protestors adhered to the strategy of non-violent protest. Sit-ins were frequent in the 1960s. Black people sat at lunch counters, in museums, in libraries, and other segregated public places, and when they were forcibly removed and arrested, they brought public attention to their cause. Many sit-in protestors asked judges for jail and...

(The entire section is 969 words.)