Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

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Evaluate the overall impact of the Civil Rights Movement.

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The Civil Rights Movement had at least two very important main impacts.

First, there is the obvious impact on the rights of African Americans and others.  The Civil Rights Movement is perhaps most important for having corrected one of the major injustices of 20th century America.  Before the movement, African Americans were second-class citizens in many parts of the United States.  The movement did not solve all of their problems, but it did bring them legal equality, which is important in its own right.  It also helped inspire rights movements by many other groups.

Second, there is the less obvious impact on our political system.  One major legacy of the movement is our current situation in which the country is strongly divided politically along racial lines.  African Americans almost invariably vote Democratic.  Democratic candidates rarely win the majority of the white male vote.  This has come about in large part because of the positions on racial issues taken by the two parties during and since the Civil Rights Movement.

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Assess the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on American Society.

The idea of a grassroots movement driven to establish social change in all aspects of American Society is probably one of the greatest impacts of the Civil Rights Movement.  It sought to create change in as many levels possible, working from the outside and moving in.  One of the greatest and most profound impacts of the movement was that it created the belief in modern America that individuals can possess the power to initiate long lasting change.  The figures in the Civil Rights Movement were real and their followers were real.  The ability to initiate change through protests, marches, boycotts, and collectivizing the spirit of change is something that lives on in America today.  While social networking and information technology have transformed mobilization, the element of social activism being something that anyone and everyone can embrace is something that is directly attributable to the Civil Rights Movement.  The notion of change as being something that individual people- real people- can strive towards is the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.  People demanded change.  They acted in a manner that brought the need for change to the forefront.  They suffered greatly for this change, but acted in a manner determined the bring it about "by any means necessary."  The spirit of dissent and the idea that through dissent, the greatest display of patriotism is evident becomes one of the ways that the Civil Rights Movement impacted American society.

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