The Civil Rights movement in the United States was a political, legal, and social fight by African Americans to gain full citizenship rights and racial equality. The civil rights movement was a challenge to segregation, the system of laws and customs separating African Americans and Caucasians used to control blacks after slavery was abolished in the 1860 s. During the civil rights movement, in the 1960 s individuals (Many whites along with blacks) and civil rights organizations challenged segregation and discrimination with a variety of activities including protest marches, boycotts, and refusal to abide by segregation laws. There have been an enormous number of books published about the topic of the civil rights. One of the books written about the movement is called Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi written by John Dittmer. Bernadette Pruitt who writes for Peace and Change writes the first review and the second is by Bruce Nelson who is an associate professor of history at Dartmouth University.
By Pruitt and Nelson, reviewing the monograph of the civil rights movement in the United States it can be determined weather or not Dittmer's book stays true to the topic at hand. Pruitt starts off by saying; "Dittmer details the civil rights movement in Mississippi between 1946 and 1968. The movement consisted of both local Mississippians working at grass root levels and non-Mississippians affiliated with national civil rights organization (Pruitt pg. 3)." Throughout the review she talks about some of the events that took place during the civil rights movement, that are mentioned in Dittmer's book.
According to Pruitt, "Dittmer skillfully shows the civil rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 had a tremendous impact on the Mississippi coalition of activists (Pruitt pg. 3)." In 1964 the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) workers organized the Mississippi summer work project to register African Americans to vote in that state and to focus national attention on Mississippi's racism. They recruited Northern college students, teachers, and clergy (both whites and blacks) to work on the project because they believed that the participation of the people would make the country more concerned about discrimination and violence in Mississippi. The project did receive national attention after three participants, two of whom were white and one black disappeared and were later found murdered and buried near Philadelphia, Mississippi. However, the project did help thousands of African Americans to register to vote. In 1965 President Johnson encouraged congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, which suspended the use of, literary and other voter qualification tests, which often prevented blacks from voting.
Pruitt did find fault with the fact that Dittmer did not include the accomplishments of women who took part in the movement. Dittmer introduces leaders such as Medgar Evens and T. R. M.
Howard by providing biographical information on these individuals. Unfortunately the same is not true for Fannie Lou Maker (Pruitt pg. 3). Ms. Pruitt also talks about how the gender of male and female participation changed from predominately male in the 1940 s-1950 s to predominately female in the 1960 s. This shift of genders is due to the fact that the 60 s was the decade of women expressing themselves and coming into their own as women took positions and spoke out politically about cretin issues like the civil rights movement, war, politics, and more women were turning in their aprons for briefcases.
She concludes by saying, "Nevertheless, this work fits well into current historiography of civil rights movement through it analysis of the role of grass-roots organizers. (Pruitt pg. 3)." Bruce Nelson's review mentions Fannie Lou Hamer like Pruitt dose but Nelson mentions that the movement changed her life and Nelson dose not criticize the way the author emphasizes woman's roles during the civil rights movement. He also talks about the different civil rights organizations that helped fight the battle for civil liberties. Nelson goes on to say by giving information about many murders, bombings and beating, until the reader becomes painfully aware of Mississippi's infamous "closed society" was the closet thing to fascism that the United States had had produced (Nelson pg. 2).
Nelson concludes, "Dittmer's book is no mere rehash of material already presented by others (Nelson pg. 3). As he noted, .".. it combines a powerful retelling of the already familiar aspects of the story with a wealth of new information and insights. Local people is the definitive history of the struggle for civil rights in Mississippi and more generally, a model of historical scholarship (Nelson pg.
3). In conclusion, Pruitt and Nelson recommend Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi. The book talks about the civil rights movement from 1946 to 1968 and Dittmer includes the important events that took place and tells about the civil rights leaders like Medgar Evens, T. R.
M. Howard, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dittmer also covers the civil rights organizations like the SNCC and how they helped with labeling the black vote and the passing of the Voting Act of 1965 which revoked the literacy test qualification from being used for admitting black to vote. Dittmer also mentions the violence that took place during the movement and showed that it was not always directed just to blacks but to whites that helped fight the cause for equality for all in the United States. However, racial problems still existed in the United States after King's assassination in 1968.
Urban poverty represented a continuing and worsening problem and remained disproportionately high among African Americans. A major controversy was desegregation of public education, where achieving a racial balance often required busing students outside of their school districts. Another controversy that concerned equal opportunity for blacks was affirmative-action programs. These programs emerged to attempt to support the hiring and promotion of minorities and women. However, today many states banded affirmative action like California. Although full equality has not yet been reached, the civil rights movement did put fundamental reforms in place.
Legal segregation as a system of racial control was dismantled, and blacks were no longer subject to Jim Crow laws. Public institutions were open to all. Blacks achieved the right to vote and the influence that went with that right in democracy. Those were long steps toward racial equality. Bibliography 1. Nelson, Bruce.
America, 2/18/95, Vol. 172 Issue 5, p 26 2. Pruitt, Bernadette. Peace and Change, 4/96, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p 248.