The Civil Rights Movement: A Cultural Revolution


America’s civil rights movement ushered in an era of a cultural revolution in the United States. It was a great
unifying time and I’ll fight for freedom, justice and equality that brought
together young white people and older whites and African Americans that was
for freedom. We got involved because we knew that right is might and wrong is
very strong. The legacy of slavery continued to define the collective
consciousness of blacks and whites. Jim Crow laws and customs outraged many who
demanded that the United States live up to the ideals established in its
constitution. Action they believed was necessary to correct these wrongs. Well
you know we were always stereotyped you know we’re less intelligent we’re not as
smart our black rubs off we stick. They call the slaves we went really slaves
from Africa maintenance of slaves they called us Negroes they call it’s black
they call us Coon boot and shoe and a lot of the names. From the abyss of
southern plantations, the slaves Weldon shouted songs it made bearable the sweat
from their Brown the cut of the lash as they laboured from sunup to sundown
rooted and Biblical Testament the lyrics and rhythm of early spiritual and gospel
songs changed over time but their essence remained the same to express the
changing needs and hardships of the black experience. See the church played
such a dominant role within civil rights the church back in the civil rights
movement and that error back in the 50s and 60s during the movement that was the
plate that was the only secured place that african-americans had this
little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine yes the light of mine I’m gonna
let it shine all in my home I’m gonna let it shine let it shine let it shine
let it shine so that was the only hope that we had was this light during the
1900s many religious songs were modified and adapted to the changing conditions
in America among these were Charles Albert Tinley song I’ll overcome someday
which has been credited by some as shaping the civil rights movements
anthem we shall overcome. Pete Seeger died Kara won and some others got
together and recomposed I’ll overcome someday which probably was
already in the public domain by that time and they published it popularized
it within the civil rights movement as we shall overcome and of course with
direct pertinence to the movement not overcoming sin but overcoming
segregation. Pete Seeger believed the conditions of
poor whites and segregated black sprang from common roots like the spiritual and
gospel songs that sustain blacks through slavery and Jim Crow we shall overcome
served as both the food and armor of the movement Bob Dylan was the troubadour
for these college students from the north that would come down to the south
for the Freedom Rides the sit-ins and different things many songs that the
young White’s Bob Dylan and others began to create songs related to freedom and
justice and equality. Bob Dylan’s 1964 song the Lonesome death of Hattie
Carroll told the story of William Billy zette singer a white man and son of a
wealthy Baltimore farmer who on February 9th 1963 killed Hattie Carol a black
woman who was working as a barmaid at Baltimore hotel that singer six-month
sentence for killing Carol enraged communities throughout the nation this
injustice found its way into Dylan’s music.The folk music was an important
soundtrack you might say to the civil rights movement especially in the 1950s
and 1960s. Dr. Martin Luther King jr. recognized a central role music played
in the movement in 1967 King praised those who used R&B music as a cross over
bridge to support strengthen and give expression to the movements ideals of
non-violent social action. The songs I just stood out especially during the
movement would be Sam Cooke in 1963 had written a song a change is gonna come he
gave us that hope you know that a change is gonna come up born by the river in a
little tent so they talked about all of the everybody’s experience hard rocking
and hard talking James Brown knits no words when in 1968 he told African
Americans to take pride in their racial identity I’m black and I’m proud
that that was huge for me just to be able to hear those words being spoken
with such conviction made me myself growing up in the 70s and 80s black and
proud James Brown made clear that racial equality meant giving blacks access to
education and jobs which would empower them he’s saying I don’t want to know
about it it gives me nothing open up the door
but this point was all I need is the door to be open you’ll have to give it
to me I’ll get it. Jazz and classical pianist Nina Simone proclaimed her
opposition to white supremacy with the release of her 1964 album Nina Simone
and concert that album contained the song Mississippi goddamn which Simone
wrote to condemn the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers and the
Birmingham church bombing Nina Simone and a lot of her songs little girl blue
four women she really talked about the strength of African Americans
she did not victimize african-americans who were either oppressed a repressed or
depressed she really said despite our struggles and hardships we are strong. In
1967 when Aretha Franklin released her song respect her rendition of Otis
Redding’s original recording was seen by some as an anthem for the movement RESPECT and that was not only for just a female but to respect female but to
respect us as people fashion became emblematic of the pride
and aspirations of civil rights activists the press suits colorful
dresses and polished shoes were worn not for entertainment but as a means of
combating damaging racial stereotypes. People who were involved in the movement
wanted to make sure that they represented and the way in which they
represented was to dress in suits with ties Sunday dresses John Lewis made the
point to me once that Beverly the reason we wore suits is because we didn’t want
them to disrespect and treat us like second-class citizens. As the movement
progressed so did cultural awareness blacks adopted African dress and
embraced natural hairstyles as an outward expression of their shared
African ancestry we hadn’t wanted to identify with a movement and we had to
dress the pot we want to go back to Africa and we want to put our dashikis
on our khufu kind of hat that I have on now fashion became a tool for visual
communication whether it’s the afros that spoke to black power and black
pride a sense of black self-consciousness or the Kente cloth
that people would wear was also a statement of the fact that I’m conscious
of who I am and and what I am and what I believe
kente cloth is a cloth that developed in Africa and Ghana and Senegal symbolized
all of brilliant colors in Africa. During the mid-1960s the power of dress to
affirm racial identity and pride moved into the urban black communities of more
overtly political overtones. In Oakland California, the Black Panther Party was
formed after the assassination of Malcolm X in February 21st 1965.
The BlackBerry’s the black leather jackets and the black pants of the Black
Panthers epitomize strength. While many rejected the Black Panther party’s
platform, the impact of their dress resonated in the hearts and minds of
many african-americans. We had on the black teams the black leather jackets
and as a symbol of a panther a slick strong animal not a lion but a panther
so it was black black symbolizing power. Born in Birmingham Alabama in 1944
Angela Davis joined several radical groups including the Communist Party and
the Black Panthers. The natural afro hairstyle worn by Davis was seen by some
as a fashion statement and by others as an act of rebellion. Just the image of
Angela was recognized worldwide as a rebellious and a stance for freedom and
her hair was was part of that statement. During the 1960’s the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNICK) organized the famous Freedom Rides
throughout the south to challenge legal segregation but some members of SNICK
became increasingly disenchanted with Dr. King’s philosophy of non-violent
action. Well Stokely Carmichael the leader of
snick conducted a movement among young people and he wasn’t really opposed to
Dr. King but he felt Dr. King’s nonviolent movement was too gradual too
slow using moral suasion and he came up with the concept of black power instead
of soul power said black power and he he balled fist up and he held that fists up
as a symbol of power what has scared white people of death
because they thought was getting ready to just attack them but it really wasn’t
about them it was about a clenched fist symbolized power and it was solid black
and strong and we were strong black people.
After Malcolm X’s release from prison and his ascension through the ranks of
the Nation of Islam he became a controversial advocate for black rights
known for his forceful rhetoric Malcolm X was also known for his sense of style
wearing either a traditional black suit and tie while at other times at Kris
bowtie Malcolm X’s persona became one of the prominent images of the Nation of
Islam while I’m not a Muslim I’m not a member of the Nation of Islam there’s
still something in the bowtie there’s still something in that conservative
dress that nice clean shirt not bold lines and so on and so forth that
affects me today just seeing that is what a strong black man looks like and
he wore demonstrators protest u.s. involvement in the Vietnam War in the
late 1960s the strategies of the movement spilled over into the
anti-vietnam War protests these young men and women acquired many of their
tactics from their observations of our involvement in the civil rights movement
the flower children is for speaking of the beatniks they call them and young
European people young Lacock said European white people always want to be
in the movement and they would come to our meetings and when we’ve allowed them
to be involved and they wanted to integrate also so they wore blue jeans
and different things and and met with African Americans and it was a love
children you call it we was pressing that black and white can get together
and wasn’t afraid to show it. Dr. King openly opposed the Vietnam War many
civil rights activists believe that Dr. King’s opposition to the war with
alienate president Lyndon B Johnson who had aggressively push for the passage of
the landmark civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965
Dr. King was a little disgusted of course with the war and he called
Stokely Carmichael and all the civil rights
movers together for his sermon at his church to denounced the war in Vietnam
in essence he said that there’s a war on poverty that need to be fought here. This
was one instance where a large majority of vast majority of people in American
society was against the war and so clothing became a symbol of that what we
wore spoke to that we had blue jeans that had peace signs on on the back of
them. We thought we were changing the world that was our goal was to change
the way human beings treated each other in the way government’s treated their
citizens. He estimated 125,000 Manhattan marchers includes students pass wires
beatnik poets doctors businessmen teachers priests and nuns makeup and
costumes were bizarre. Similar to the songs that captured the spirit of those
seeking racial equality many popular musicians wrote songs in opposition to
the Vietnam War in 1971 Marvin Gaye released what’s going on I
think those songs gave me a sense of strength and a sense of pride and it
also showed me how the arts in any genre from music to fine art to theater can be
used as a megaphone. The struggle for civil rights transformed America this
transformation took place alongside fundamental political social and
cultural changes while advocates for racial equality had divergent
philosophies on how to achieve their goals their voices were united in the
belief that two nations when suffering under the vestiges of slavery inequality
the other free could no longer coexist in spite of the dangers in spite of the
threats to their physical body or to their lives they move forward because
they knew that they were all unified for the same cause and that was the cause of
freedom justice and equality

Dereck Turner

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