How television influenced national levels of support for the civil rights movements

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How television influenced national levels of support for the civil rights movements

The increase in popularity of the television in the United States was a tech development with a very large influence when it came to the spread of information, public self-perception, the framing of social dialogue and lastly shaping norms and standards. This study is aimed to examine how the role of television had an influence in national levels when it came to the support for the civil rights movements in the United States in the 1960s.

The emergence and growth of the civil right movements had a common origin compared to the rise of the television. Both gained traction in the early 1950s, it then had a significant growth in the 1960s. The study will show the main relationship between the growth of television and all the content that were featured in its programming, with the significant development of the civil right movements. The civil rights movements were one of the most important times in the history of America (Andrews et al 1). Without it, we couldn’t have the America we have now. But all this could not happen without the support of the media, specifically the television which played a good number of roles. Television and cars were the largest industrial changes in the early 50s and its consumer interest was increasing in a very high rate. The American people had the ability to watch news, movies and other TV shows. From my own opinion, all this was what brought America together and made them realize the powers of the civil justice.

In the year 1954, the US government passed a law of separate but equal doctrine, which was invented by Charles Hamilton Houston. This was a pitiful effort to frustrate the wrong Jim Crow laws and the harsh methods of having segregated classrooms and all public places. Apart from all this, separate did not come any closer to equal. Blacks were facing many challenges when it came to black classrooms lacking several supplies and needs like lack of desks and books, the air condition was terrible, and their level of learning was not good compared to that of the whites.

Black segregated class rooms White class rooms

As you can compare the two photos, the blacks were nowhere close to the whites when it came to the standard of education. The black classrooms had no desks or even any necessary materials needed in a classroom and the classrooms where not even conducive for learning.

The black segregation had moved widely, it did not just happen in schools. It had moved to everything, from transport system, hotels, restaurants, launder mats, voting poles and even water fountains. The African Americans had no normal life in the US. Despite all these problems, the blacks had leaders like Malcolm X, MLK, Rosa Parks and others who were working without fear to change all what was happening to the black person (Riches 1). But they could not make it alone because they were few and powerless compared to white man. All this was because the whites were supported by the government and the constitution. In states like Virginia, the constitution discriminated the black man. The laws in Virginia made the blacks to look inferior by not allowing them to have several privileges compared to the white people. According to law (1639/40) the general assembly of Virginia excluded the black people from having the requirement of owning any firearm. Only the white people could own the firearms which made the blacks to look inferior and that made them look easy to enslave them because they had no power. According to law (1642) the black women in Virginia were deemed ‘tithables’ which gave a big difference between the black women and the white women because the black women look inferior. In law (1662) the blacks were subjected to the possibility of life servitude. This said that any black child who could be born by an enslaved woman was going to be a slave. This made all blacks to remain slaves and their children too were born into slavery.

It took the combination of hundreds of people to bring about change; all of them could not have come together if it was not for the television. In the year 1941 the FCC went ahead to release the NTSC requirements for the black and white television in the US. And when it got to 1950 to 1953 the FCC decided to approve the use of the colored Television and that’s when it started hitting most of the homes in America. By coincidence, this is the time when America experienced the massive growth of the civil rights movements. Because the television was a new thing, the media companies were struggling to come up with new ideas to entertain people, but they had only few channels in place, this compelled the Americans to concentrate on watching the news only. The news concentrated on issues that faced the Americans like the ‘Front Royal High School Desegregation’ and ‘the civil rights movements struggle in Virginia and Mississippi’ (Dupont 1). All this involved drama and violence between the black and the white people. This allowed the blacks to see clearly what was happening in the south.

Several events led by the civil rights movements made it to the news and that’s when the black people joined hands in the civil rights fights against the white man. One of the events that made it to the headlines was the Montgomery bus boycott which was a very large social and political protest campaign organized by the African American civil rights movements (Hawley et al 155). The protest was against the social segregation on the public transport system whereby the blacks were not allowed to use the same transport system with the white people. In some cases, the whites could share the same bus with the black people, but the whites had specific seats while the blacks used the seats which were not comfortable. In December 1955 Rosa Parks and other African American women were arrested for refusing to let go the bus seat for a white person. The seats were meant for the white people. Rosa Parks and other women were taken to court and sentenced to prison. All these events were in the news and other people were able to see what had happened to their fellow black people. The blacks then decided to come together in different states to have a bus boycott protest which helped to end the black segregation. All this could not be possible without the help of the television which aired the all events and that brought together the black people to form the civil rights movements and protests the discriminations.

Another event which brought the black people together against the white man discrimination was the ‘Bloody Sunday’ this was a march which was held in Selma, Alabama on March 7th, 1965. This march was triggered by the shooting of Jimmy Lee Jackson who was shooting by a state trooper on 17th February 1965. The incident made it to the headlines and the black people were able to watch it in their television, the blacks were terrified by the killings and they decided to come together to stop such incidents. On March 7th, 1965, they decided to march with the body of Jimmy Lee Jackson to the courts and they placed it in the court house steps so that the government could see what they had caused, and they could know that the black lives matter. This march was also shown in the television and it brought about another new protest in March which the crowd grew to at least 600people who marched to the Alabama River (McCleery 970). This showed that the television had an effect to the growth of the civil rights movements. It means that the television brought together the black people and made them have a common goal which was to fight for their rights against the white man. The blacks came up with a slogan which was ‘black lives matter’, which was a slogan to show the white man that they are other normal human beings and they deserve to have a life just like them. They wanted to stop the killings of the black people and the mistreatment and discrimination. This slogan became common in the civil rights movements; this was because of the television.

Work Cited

Andrews, Kenneth T., and Sarah Gaby. “Local protest and federal policy: The impact of the Civil Rights Movement on the 1964 Civil Rights Act.” Sociological Forum. Vol. 30. No. S1. 2015.

Riches, William. The civil rights movement: Struggle and resistance. Macmillan International Higher Education, 2017.

Dupont, Carolyn Renée. Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975. NYU Press, 2015.

Hawley, Todd S., Andrew L. Hostetler, and Prentice T. Chandler. “TEACHING THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT AS CITIZEN ACTION FOR RACIAL AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE.” Race Lessons: Using Inquiry to Teach About Race in Social Studies (2017): 155.

McCleery, Martin Joseph. “Randall Collins’ forward panic pathway to violence and the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings in Northern Ireland.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 18.4 (2016): 966-980.




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