Notions

  • Civil Rights Movements – The Civil Rights Movement encompasses social movements in the United States whose goals were to end racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans and to secure legal recognition and federal protection of the citizenship rights enumerated in the Constitution and federal law. This article covers the phase of the movement between 1954 and 1968, particularly in the South. The leadership was African-American, and much of the political and financial support came from labor unions (led by Walter Reuther), major religious denominations, and prominent white Democratic Party politicians such as Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • Brown vs. Topeka – Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which allowed state-sponsored segregation, insofar as it applied to public education. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Warren Court’s unanimous (9–0) decision stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” This ruling paved the way for integration and was a major victory of the Civil Rights Movement. However, the decision’s fourteen pages did not spell out any sort of method for ending racial segregation in schools, and the Court’s second decision in Brown II only ordered states to desegregate “with all deliberate speed”.
  • Little Rock Nine – The Little Rock Nine was a group of nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Their enrollment was followed by the Little Rock Crisis, in which the students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Orval Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas. They then attended after the intervention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.The U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, 347 U.S. 483, on May 17, 1954. Tied to the 14th Amendment, the decision declared all laws establishing segregated schools to be unconstitutional, and it called for the desegregation of all schools throughout the nation. After the decision, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) attempted to register black students in previously all-white schools in cities throughout the South. In Little Rock, Arkansas, the school board agreed to comply with the high court’s ruling. Virgil Blossom, the Superintendent of Schools, submitted a plan of gradual integration to the school board on May 24, 1955, which the board unanimously approved. The plan would be implemented during the fall of the 1957 school year, which would begin in September 1957.
  • The role of Rosa Parks – Rosa Parks was a political activist and a black woman. One day she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man, a long standing tradition in the south, which triggered huge chain of events that ultimately helped start the civil rights movement. After she was arrested for not giving up the seat a boycott of black people riding buses in Montgommery, Alabama ensued, that lasted for a year and inspired many to rise up and demand equal rights.One of them was Martin Luther King.
  • NAACP, Jim Crow and disenfranchisemen – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is an African-American civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909 by Moorfield Storey, Mary White Ovington and W. E. B. Du Bois. Its mission is “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination”. The group enlarged its mission in the late 20th century by considering such as police misconduct, the status of black foreign refugees, and questions of economic development. Its name, retained in accordance with tradition, uses the once common term colored people. The NAACP bestows annual awards to African Americans in two categories: Image Awards are for achievement in the arts and entertainment, and the Spingarn Medals are for outstanding positive achievement of any kind, frequently political. Its headquarters are now located in Baltimore, Maryland. Disenfranchisement after the Reconstruction Era in the United States of America was based on a series of laws, new constitutions, and practices in the South that were deliberately used to prevent black citizens from registering to vote and voting. These measures were enacted by the former Confederate states at the turn of the 20th century, and by Oklahoma when it gained statehood in 1907, although not by the former border slave states. Their actions were designed to frustrate the objective of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1870, which sought to protect the suffrage of freedmen after the American Civil War.
  • March of Washington, The role of Martin Luther King – The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the March on Washington, or The Great March on Washington, was held in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963. The purpose of the march was to advocate for the civil and economic rights of African Americans. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat.The Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by King, soon followed. The boycott lasted for 385 days, and the situation became so tense that King’s house was bombed. King was arrested during this campaign, which concluded with a United States District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses. King’s role in the bus boycott transformed him into a national figure and the best-known spokesman of the civil rights movement.Among many efforts, King headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors. King was assassinated in April 1968, and continues to be remembered as one of the most lauded African-American leaders in history, often referenced by his 1963 speech, “I Have a Dream.”
  • Loving vs Virginia case – Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which struck down all state laws banning interracial marriage as violations of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The case was brought by Mildred Loving (née Jeter), a woman of color, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which criminalized marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored”.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965 – The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the civil rights movement on August 6, 1965, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand its protections. Designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Act secured the right to vote for racial minorities throughout the country, especially in the South. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Act is considered to be the most effective piece of federal civil rights legislation ever enacted in the country.
  • Black Power movement, Black Panther Party – The Black Power movement emphasized racial pride, economic empowerment, and the creation of political and cultural institutions for African-American people in the United States.The movement grew out of the Civil rights movement, as black activists experimented with forms of self-advocacy ranging from political lobbying to armed struggle. The Black Power movement served as a focal point for the view that reformist and pacifist elements of the Civil Rights Movement were not effective in changing race relations. The Black Panther Party, originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a political organization founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in October 1966 in Oakland, California.

Visual

This picture depicts Martin Luther King Jr. after his speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August, 1963. His speech, known as, “I Have a Dream” – became one of the most famous and influential speeches of all time. It was a cornerstone to the end of racial segregation in civil and economic rights. Although racism is something that we can never be rid of, this man did his part to make every black person’s lives easier and give them a chance to make something of their lives and rise through the ranks. King and his speech are more than relevant today because racism has gone nowhere but we can thank him, for his influence on trying to end racism; then, today and in the future.

Critical response

When “The Help” was released in 2011, the opinions on the movie divided people. The film took regular viewers by storm and the movie was a massive hit in the box office and everyone loved it. But some critics and historians however had slightly different opinions.
Many reviewers were enraged by the incredibly ‘positive’ view of the filmmakers on the era and how the the era was portrayed. Quoting Dahlia Grossman-Heinze’ review for Generation Progress: “A number of critics say the film ignores the context of racism, violence, and murder that surrounded the Civil Rights Movement in favor of telling a more positive story about the pretend impact of a book that was never actually written.” Although, I did not think of it while watching the movie, I can’t help but agree with her. The portrayal of that era in the movie is nothing in comparison to the reality of that era. In an interview for NPR, Octavia Spencer who played Minnie states her opinion on the topic: “To me, it’s more a movie about relationships, how these white women relate with each other and then how they relate to the women … who work in their homes.”
In a statement, made by the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH) they also dispute the historical accuracy of the movie which also lines up with the opinions of a number of critics: “Despite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, The Help distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers. We are specifically concerned about the representations of black life and the lack of attention given to sexual harassment and civil rights activism.”
It all comes down to opinion in the end and how the movie was portrayed to be, whether it was meant to show the Civil Rights Era or just to show relationships between black maids.

Dahlia Grossman-Heinze, Generation Progress – https://genprogress.org/review-the-help-trades-historical-accuracy-for-a-cheery-story/
Octavia Spencer interview, NPR – https://www.npr.org/2011/08/12/139578287/octavia-spencer-you-cant-help-but-feel-this-film
Statement by the Association of Black Women Historians – http://truth.abwh.org/2011/08/12/an-open-statement-to-the-fans-of-the-help/

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