An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
If “The Help” was decent at anything, it was good at showing the segregation of the era. In the image above we see white women in the front of the bus and black women at the back. Public transport wasn’t the only place in which segregation was present – from schools and hospitals to hairdressers and swimming pools. Black people have faced discrimination since they first came into contact with western civilization. With the civil rights movement they are closer to constitutional equality than ever before and – finally they achieve that.
I feel that “The Help” – based on a book written by a white person, directed by a white person and the top billing going to a white person – is not a very good movie about the civil rights era. The whole point is that black voices are finally being heard and taken into account, so why are we discussing it from the viewpoint of a white person.
And it’s true. The laws of that time would only place the maids in danger and while they mention this, the risk of physical danger that hovered over the civil rights movement is mostly absent. And the end result is that Skeeter gets the job she wanted and Aibileen gets fired. All that Skeeter is putting on the line is her social life but with her plans to leave that doesn’t seem like a threat to her at all. Also taking into account the tight social circles, I highly doubt gossip about Skeeter would reach far from Jackson.
In the film, civil rights movement is only mentioned in passing, one of the instances being Skeeter’s superior telling her to hurry up with the book before the “whole civil rights thing blows over”. I was hoping that Evers’ murder would change the direction the movie was heading but I was wrong. It is evident that the movie was only using the era, maybe for the 60s aesthetic, maybe for sympathy and extra attention, who knows. I feel if you were to change some parts of the plot the story could be told in the context of any era. All in all it basically told the story of a white woman profiting off of retelling the stories of black women.
In conclusion, “The Help” is perhaps not the best movie for learning about history, but it isn’t completely horrible when taken just as a work of fiction. It is very lighthearted for the most part (the over-saturated visuals play into that a lot) and focuses mostly on relationships.
(A topic I wish would’ve come up in discussion was Skeeter’s education. I believe the fact that she had a higher education played a role in her views and was part of the reason why she started interviewing Aibileen and the others. I recall Stuart saying something along the lines of “all they teach at [Skeeter’s university] is how to get a man” and I think having a degree was something Stuart was not looking for in a wife and led to him disliking Skeeter.)
“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”
Civil Rights Movements
The civil rights movement was a struggle for social justice that took place mainly between 1954 and 1968 (started in the southern states, came to national prominence during the mid-1950s.), with the goal of enforcing constitutional and legal rights for African Americans that other Americans already enjoyed. This movement had its roots in the centuries-long efforts of African slaves and their descendants to resist racial oppression and abolish the institution of slavery. The movement achieved its largest legislative gains in the mid-1960s, after years of direct actions and grassroots protests that were organized from the mid-1950s until 1968. The Civil War had officially abolished slavery, but it didn’t end discrimination against blacks—they continued to endure the devastating effects of racism, especially in the South. By the mid-20th century, African Americans had had more than enough of prejudice and violence against them.
They, along with many whites, mobilized and began an unprecedented fight for equality that spanned two decades. Encompassing strategies, various groups, and organized social movements to accomplish the goals of ending legalized racial segregation, disenfranchisement, and discrimination in the United States, the movement, using major nonviolent campaigns, eventually secured new recognition in federal law and federal protection for all Americans.
Brown vs. (Board of Education of) Topeka
In the spring of 1951, black students in Virginia protested their unequal status in the state’s segregated educational system. Students at Moton High School protested the overcrowded conditions and failing facility. Some local leaders of the NAACP had tried to persuade the students to back down from their protest against the Jim Crow laws of school segregation. When the students did not budge, the NAACP joined their battle against school segregation. The NAACP proceeded with five cases challenging the school systems; these were later combined under what is known today as Brown v. Board of Education.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, case in which on May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously (9–0) that racial segregation in public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits the states from denying equal protection of the laws to any person within their jurisdictions. Brown v. Board of Education was one of the cornerstones of the civil rights movement, and helped establish the precedent that “separate-but-equal” education and other services were not, in fact, equal at all. Although the 1954 decision strictly applied only to public schools, it implied that segregation was not permissible in other public facilities. Considered one of the most important rulings in the court’s history, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka helped to inspire the American civil rights movement of the late 1950s and 1960s.
The Court stated that the
“segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group.”
Little Rock Nine
After the Brown v. Topeka case, in 1957, Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas asked for volunteers from all-black high schools to attend the formerly segregated school. On September 3, 1957, nine black students (selected on the criteria of excellent grades and attendance.), known as the Little Rock Nine, arrived at Central High School to begin classes but were instead met by the Arkansas National Guard (on order of Governor Orval Faubus) and a screaming, threatening mob (their enrollment was followed by the Little Rock Crisis). The Little Rock Nine tried again a couple weeks later and made it inside but had to be removed for their safety when violence ensued.
Finally, President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervened and ordered federal troops to escort the Little Rock Nine to and from classes at Central High. Still, the students faced continual harassment and prejudice. Their efforts, however, brought much-needed attention to the issue of desegregation and fueled protests on both sides of the issue.
The role of Rosa Parks
In December 1943 Rosa joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, and she became chapter secretary. On December 1, 1955, a 42-year-old seamstress named Rosa Parks (1913—2005) found a seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus after work. Segregation laws at the time stated blacks must sit in designated seats at the back of the bus, and Parks had complied. When a white man got on the bus and couldn’t find a seat in the white section at the front of the bus, the bus driver instructed Parks and three other blacks to give up their seats. Parks refused and was arrested.
As word of her arrest ignited outrage and support, Parks unwittingly became the “mother of the modern day civil rights movement” and helped initiate the civil rights movement in the United States. Black community leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) led by Baptist minister Martin Luther King Jr. Parks’ courage incited the MIA to stage a boycott of the Montgomery bus system (that began the day Parks was convicted of violating the segregation laws). Ninety percent of African Americans in Montgomery partook in the boycotts, which reduced bus revenue significantly, as they comprised the majority of the riders. The boycott lasted 381 days. On November 14, 1956 the Supreme Court ruled segregated seating was unconstitutional. Over the next half-century, Parks became a nationally recognized symbol of dignity and strength in the struggle to end entrenched racial segregation.
NAACP, Jim Crow and disenfranchisement
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is a civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909 as a bi-racial endeavor to advance justice for African Americans. Purpose: “To ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.”
In its early years, the NAACP was based in New York City. It concentrated on litigation in efforts to overturn disenfranchisement of blacks, which had been established in every southern state by 1908, excluding most from the political system, and the Jim Crow statutes that legalized racial segregation. In 1913, the NAACP organized opposition to President Woodrow Wilson’s introduction of racial segregation into federal government policy, workplaces, and hiring.
To marginalize blacks, keep them separate from whites and erase the progress they’d made during Reconstruction, “Jim Crow” laws were established in the South beginning in the late 19th century. Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States. Blacks couldn’t use the same public facilities as whites, live in many of the same towns or go to the same schools. Interracial marriage was illegal, and most blacks couldn’t vote because they were unable to pass voter literacy tests. The laws were enforced until 1965.
In practice, Jim Crow laws mandated racial segregation in all public facilities in the states of the former Confederate States of America and other states, starting in the 1870s and 1880s, and were upheld in 1896, by the U.S. Supreme Court’s “separate but equal” legal doctrine for facilities for African Americans, established with the court’s decision in the case of Plessy vs. Ferguson. Moreover, public education had essentially been segregated since its establishment in most of the South, after the Civil War (1861–65).
Jim Crow laws weren’t adopted in northern states; however, blacks still experienced discrimination at their jobs or when they tried to buy a house or get an education. To make matters worse, laws were passed in some states to limit voting rights for blacks.
The legal principle of “separate, but equal” racial segregation was extended to public facilities and transportation, including the coaches of interstate trains and buses. Facilities for African Americans and Native Americans were consistently inferior and underfunded, compared to the facilities for white Americans; sometimes there were no facilities for people of color. As a body of law, Jim Crow institutionalized economic, educational, and social disadvantages for African Americans, and other people of color living in the south. Legalized racial segregation principally existed in the Southern states, while Northern and Western racial segregation generally was a matter of fact — enforced in housing with private covenants in leases, bank lending-practices, and employment-preference discrimination, including labor-union practices.
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 on 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 front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963. The main purpose of the peaceful march was advocating civil and economic rights legislation and establishing job equality for African Americans. It was organized and attended by civil rights leaders such as A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr., who built an alliance of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations that came together under the banner of “jobs and freedom.”
Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 to 300,000; the most widely cited estimate is 250,000 people. Observers estimated that 75–80% of the marchers were black. The march was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history.
The highlight of the march was SCLC president King’s (who spoke last) “I have a dream” speech in which he called for an end to racism. King’s speech quickly became a slogan for equality and freedom. The speech was carried live by TV stations and subsequently considered the most impressive moment of the march. In it, King called for an end to racism in the United States. It invoked the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the United States Constitution. Though it has become known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, the famous line wasn’t actually part of King’s planned remarks that day.
Though his speech was scheduled to be four minutes long, he ended up speaking for 16 minutes. At the end of the speech, Mahalia Jackson (gospel star) shouted from the crowd, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”, and King departed from his prepared text for a partly improvised peroration on the theme of “I have a dream”. Over time it has been hailed as a masterpiece of rhetoric, added to the National Recording Registry and memorialized by the National Park Service with an inscription on the spot where King stood to deliver the speech.
Loving vs Virginia case
Loving v. Virginia was a Supreme Court landmark case that 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 plaintiffs in the case were Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and black woman whose marriage was deemed illegal according to Virginia state law and who had been sentenced to a year in prison. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Lovings appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously (9-0) that so-called “anti-miscegenation” statutes were unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. The decision is often cited as a watershed moment in the dismantling of “Jim Crow” race laws.
The Court struck down Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, thereby overruling the 1883 case Pace v. Alabama and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States. Virginia had argued that its law was not a violation of the Equal Protection Clause because the punishment was the same regardless of the offender’s race, and thus it “equally burdened” both whites and non-whites. The Court found that the law nonetheless violated the Equal Protection Clause because it was based solely on “distinctions drawn according to race” and outlawed conduct—namely, getting married—that was otherwise generally accepted and which citizens were free to do. Additionally, the Court ruled that the freedom to marry was a constitutionally protected fundamental liberty, and therefore the government’s deprivation of it on an arbitrary basis such as race was violation of the Due Process Clause.
The decision was followed by an increase in interracial marriages in the U.S. and is remembered annually on Loving Day.
The Loving case was a challenge to centuries of American laws banning miscegenation, i.e., any marriage or interbreeding among different races. Restrictions on miscegenation existed as early as the colonial era, and of the 50 U.S. states, all but nine had a law against the practice at some point in their history. By the 1950s, more than half the states in the Union—including every state in the South—still had laws restricting marriage by racial classifications. In Virginia, interracial marriage was illegal under 1924’s Act to Preserve Racial Integrity. Those who violated the law risked anywhere from one to five years in a state penitentiary.
Richard Loving was killed in 1975 when a drunk driver in Caroline County struck the couple’s car. Mildred survived the crash and went on to spend the rest of her life in Central Point. She died in 2008, having never remarried.
Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (enacted July 2, 1964) is a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States that outlaws 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.
Initially, powers given to enforce the act were weak, but these were supplemented during later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment, and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment.
The legislation had been proposed by President John F. Kennedy in June 1963, but opposed by filibuster in the Senate. After Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed the bill forward, which in its final form was passed in the U.S. Congress by a Senate vote of 73–27 and House vote of 289–126. The Act was signed into law by President Johnson on July 2, 1964, at the White House.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
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. It was aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Voting Rights Act is considered one of the most far-reaching and effective pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.
The Act contains numerous provisions that regulate elections. The Act’s “general provisions” provide nationwide protections for voting rights. Section 2 is a general provision that prohibits every state and local government from imposing any voting law that results in discrimination against racial or language minorities. Other general provisions specifically outlaw literacy tests and similar devices that were historically used to disenfranchise racial minorities.
Although the Voting Rights Act passed, state and local enforcement of the law was weak, and it often was ignored outright, mainly in the South and in areas where the proportion of blacks in the population was high and their vote threatened the political status quo. Still, the Voting Rights Act gave African-American voters the legal means to challenge voting restrictions and vastly improved voter turnout. In Mississippi alone, voter turnout among blacks increased from 6 percent in 1964 to 59 percent in 1969. Since its passage, the Voting Rights Act has been amended to include such features as the protection of voting rights for non-English speaking American citizens.
Black Power movement, Black Panther Party
Black Power movement
1965–1985. 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.
Motivated by a desire for safety and self-sufficiency that was not available inside redline neighborhoods, Black Power activists founded black-owned bookstores, food cooperatives, farms, media, printing presses, schools, clinics and ambulance services. The international impact of the movement includes the Black Power Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago.
While black American thinkers such as Robert F. Williams and Malcolm X influenced the early Black Power movement, the Black Panther Party and its views are widely seen as the cornerstone. It was influenced by philosophies such as pan-Africanism, black nationalism and socialism, as well as contemporary events including the Cuban Revolution and the decolonization of Africa.
At the movement’s peak in the early 1970s, some of its more militant leaders were killed during conflicts with police, prompting many activists to abandon the movement.
Black Panther Party
The Black Panthers, also known as the Black Panther Party, was a far-left political organization founded in October 1966 in Oakland, California by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale to challenge police brutality against the African American community. Dressed in black berets and black leather jackets, the Black Panthers organized armed citizen patrols of Oakland and other U.S. cities. At its peak in 1968, the Black Panther Party had roughly 2,000 members. The organization later declined as a result of internal tensions, deadly shootouts and FBI counterintelligence activities aimed at weakening the organization. The party was active in the United States from 1966 until 1982, with chapters in numerous major cities, and international chapters operating in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s, and in Algeria from 1969 until 1972.