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African-Americans in the 1960s Essay

African-Americans in the 1960s faced segregation, discrimination and stereotyping from their white counterparts. The African-Americans were discriminated based on their race, color, origin, religion and creed. Therefore, they were excluded from many activities of the country.

The segregation included access to certain schools, waiting for long before being served and denial of voting rights. However, amidst these forms of discrimination, African- American movements emerged that demanded for equality and fair treatment of all the citizens.

Historical background

1960s witnessed emergences of many African-led movements, which had a sole objective of fighting discrimination. African-American civil rights movement (1965-1968) was a movement aimed at fighting racial discrimination against the African- Americans. It was also constituted to restore voting rights to the African-Americans (Digital rights para. 3).

Black power movement was another movement that emerged in 1966, which aimed at promoting civil rights including racial dignity, political self-sufficiency, economic and freedom from oppression from the whites (Murphiee 13). These movements, through rallies, lobbied for civil disobedience and non violent protest that helped them in raising their concerns to the federal and state government.

These protests bore fruits as legislations were changed to accommodate the rights of the African-Americans. For instance, civil rights act of 1964 banned any form of discrimination based on religion, color, race, employment practices, national origin and public accommodation.

Furthermore, the voting right act of 1965 restored and protected the voting rights of the African-Americans. Many other acts and rights were enacted to ensure that all citizens were granted equal opportunity and fair treatment.

Adversaries of the African-Americans in 1960s

African-Americans went through difficulties in the 1960s. Because of the harsh treatment, their lifespan was seven years less compared to the whites. The children of African blacks had half chances of completing their schools successfully. Only, a third of the students had a chance of completing college while only a third had a chance to join a profession body.

This discrimination impacted negatively on the progress of African-Americans. Furthermore, the African-Americans earned half as much as whites and their chances of securing a job were very minimal. In addition, the voting rights of African-Americans were limited, as this freedom was denied to them (Murphiee 13).

Other forms of oppression were evident in the granting of opportunities and even in providing services or any other assistance. An African-American was always served after all the whites were served. This preferential treatment demonstrated the highest level of inhumanity and discrimination.

Stopping segregation when going to school

In 1960s, attending school was a privilege that was given to white children. African-Americans were segregated as their children could not be admitted to certain schools that were a preserve of the whites. Many African blacks were viewed as second class citizens and they were not given an equal opportunity to enroll in good schools.

Even after the Brown v. Board of education decision, only 49 schools desegregated and only 1.2 African-American children in 11 states attended class with the whites (Digital rights para. 6). Therefore, this demonstrated the disparities and the level of segregation that the whites showed to their African-American counterparts.

In parts of the 1960, civil activist such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr spoke of these injustices and demanded the government to accord equal rights to all of its citizens without discriminating against race or skin color.

Woolworth story

Discrimination was evident in the whites against the African blacks through different spheres of interactions and relations. On February 1, 1960, four African-Americans, Blair, Franklin, Joseph and David walked into the Wool worth stores in North Carolina agricultural and technical college. When they requested for a cup of coffee, a white waitress demanded them to stand before they could be served (Digital rights para. 4).

The notion behind standing is the formed perception and stereotyping of the African-Americans. This episode demonstrated the harsh realities of racial discrimination that African blacks went through as citizens of United States in 1960s. To demonstrate their anger and dissatisfaction on the way they were treated, the four men stayed at their seats until the lunch counter closed leading to sit-in protests.

The four men rallied support and the following day 25 colleges appeared at the restaurant. The non violent protest went on with African-Americans protesting against inequality. The protest finally bore fruits after six months when the white city officials granted the rights to African Americas to be served in a restaurant without giving preference to the whites (Digital rights para. 7).

The protests on lunch counter sit-ins spread to other cities across the southern states. For instance, in North Carolina, some storekeeper unscrewed their lunch counters while in states such as Alabama, Virginia, seats were roped-off to ensure that no one was given a preferential treatment.

All the customers had to stand upon being served with food. African- Americans Students resorted to attacking those libraries, lunch counters, and other public facilities such as beaches that were segregated and a preserve for the whites.

In pursuit of their rights, 142 student leaders formed a student Nonviolent coordinating committee, which would enable them fight and demand for equality. Rev. Luther King motivated them and encouraged them to stand up and be ready to be taken into jail in their pursuit to awaken the dozing conscience of whites.

These sit-ins resulted to wade-ins in beaches that were segregated. By the end of 1960 more than 70,000 people had participated in the sit-ins in more than 100 countries and 20 states with police arresting more than 3600 protestors.

Furthermore, almost 187 students were expelled from their learning institutions for participating in the sit-ins (Digital rights para. 8). However, these protest bore fruits as most of the counters were integrated hence helping in breaching the gap between the whites and the African-Americans.

Right to vote

African-Americans in the early 1960s were prohibited to vote. This fundamental right was denied to them making them to be non partisans in the politics of the US. They could not therefore, demand for the respect of their rights because they could not vote. However, the enactment of the 1964 civil rights that prohibited discrimination in public accommodations and employment provided a relief.

Nevertheless, prior to the enactment of the act, this fundamental constitutional right to vote was not provided to the African-Americans (Clayborne, para. 4). For instance, in state of Alabama, eligible voters were required to provide written answerers to a 20 paged test on the state government and constitution.

Some of the questions that were asked during these tests included giving reasons to why presidential electors cast ballots for their presidents and many other questions of such caliber. These laws were intended to restrict the African-American voters from participating in the elections through intimidating them indirectly. Therefore, the whites made it difficult for the African-Americans to votes in the general elections

Martin Luther king was instrumental in bringing the issue of voting rights to national attention when he decided to launch a voter registration drive in Selam, Alabama in 1965. In Selam city the number of blacks outnumbered those of whites but surprisingly the roles related to voting were assigned to the whites.

99 percent of roles were reserved for whites with only 1 percent being taken up by the blacks. Luther led his black counterparts to the county courtroom for registration. But their quest was halted after an approximate 2,000 black demonstrators were arrested together with king (Clayborne, para. 6).

However, upon the ruling by the federal court not to interfere in registration, James Clark ordered the African-Americans to stand on a line for five hours before taking a test. At the end of the day, not even a name of a single black was added in the registration rolls.

Protest matches went on and when four Ku Klux Klan members killed a 39 old white civil rights volunteer, the president, Johnson expressed nation’s anger and shock marking the journey to change (Digital rights para. 5). Two measures were adopted in 1965, which were aimed at helping in safeguarding the rights of black Americans.

24th amendment was ratified by the state on 23 January to bar any poll tax in the federal elections. Five southern states had poll taxes in their systems of governance.

Secondly, the signing of voting right by the president on 6 August prohibiting literacy tests and instructing federal examiners to seven states to begin registration of black voters helped in boosting African-American registered voters. The number reached 450,000 in the southern states within a year.


In conclusion, 1960s was a transformation or transition period for the African-American citizens. They had suffered all forms of discrimination and through their undeterred efforts and determination, they managed to fight and reclaim their rightful place in the American community.

The African-Americans were discriminated in terms access to schools, services, voting rights but through their devotion, they finally managed to be granted their rights.

Works Cited

Clayborne, Carson. , 1994. Web.

Digital rights. . Web.

Digital rights. America in Ferment: The Tumultuous 1960s: The State of Black America in 1960. Web.

Murphiee, Vanessa. Black Power: Public Relations and Social Change in the 1960s. American Journalism, 21.3 (2004): 13-32.

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IvyPanda. "African-Americans in the 1960s." September 22, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-americans-in-the-1960s/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "African-Americans in the 1960s." September 22, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-americans-in-the-1960s/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'African-Americans in the 1960s'. 22 September.

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