White Resistance to the Civil Rights Movement

1514 words 7 pages
Civil Rights

Throughout Reconstruction, southern whites felt constantly threatened by legislation providing rights for former slaves. The Civil Rights Bill of 1875 was the last rights bill passed by congress during reconstruction. It protected all Americans’ (including blacks) access to public accommodations such as trains. With the threat of complete equality constantly looming, violence toward former slaves gradually increased in the years following the Civil War. Beatings and murders were committed by organized groups like the Ku Klux Klan, out-of-control mobs, and individual white southern men. During Reconstruction, white southerners had limited governmental power, so they resorted to violence in order to control
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Throughout the book, Lewis traces the historical evolution of the term ‘massive resistance’ and explores the variety of contexts in which it was carried out. In discussing the role of Senator Harry Flood of Virginia, as well as elements of the mass media, Lewis reveals the many causes and actors in the acts of massive resistance. At first, massive resistance was the response of different elements of white society in the South, in opposition to the federal government's plans to desegregate southern society. Lewis discharges many historical explanations that viewed massive resistance as simply being carried out by southern political elites. He also dismisses the idea that the resistance only occurred at the well-known sites of segregationist protests such as Little Rock, Ole Miss and Birmingham. The author also discusses activities occurring at the grassroots level, which reveals that the movement of southern white resistance was very diverse. In regards to the beginning of the movement, Lewis rejects the idea that the Supreme Court's Brown decision was the only event that started massive resistance. He states that citing Brown as the single catalyst shows that many scholars have misread the movement. He believes that the movement was more complex than that. As "an amorphous beast," massive resistance must be viewed as a "phenomenon that was too sprawling, and simply not sufficiently obedient, to have been ushered into existence by a single


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