History Coursework – The American Civil Rights Movement

Question 1a: What type of discrimination is shown in source 2?

Question 1b: How does source one support what’s happening in source 2?

In Source 2 we see racial discrimination in the form of segregated drinking fountains for white men and black men. Source 1 states “you would eat in a separate place and use a drinking fountain labelled coloured” and in source 2 we see visual evidence of this happening.

Question 2: What types of discrimination are shown in sources 1-5?

In source 1 Martin Luther King tells us that the black man suffers segregation in hospitals, schools, parks, pools, waiting rooms and are treated unjustly in the courtrooms. We are told this in this source 5. In source 3 we find that vehicles carrying black passengers had to wear a colour different and contrasting to the whites’. We also find that airport facilities were segregated along with seating and betting when concerned with sport. Inter-racial boxing and wrestling was prohibited.

In source on the black right to vote was denied and promotion in a job went to your white co-worker, regardless of how much more talent you had. Most blacks could only get jobs concerning menial manual labour. The formation of ghettos of blacks was encouraged and this shows discrimination in housing. In source 4 we are told that a black person fears death because she is black even more than ‘hunger hell and the devil’. This is mental intimidation. In source 5 we are told that a black woman is killed simply because she spilt a drink over a white man. This is intimidation.

Question 3: How reliable are sources 7-10 as evidence of white peoples reaction to desegregation is schools?

Source 7 is a limited source. This is how I came to this conclusion: The New York Times is a reputable, famous newspaper. It is renowned for its neutrality, and it thinks that segregation is not the way to go. I am forced to ask, did the newspaper cut out a pro-black section from the whole caption of text? If so, why? Would it have been to please the main readers who share the view of the newspaper? Would it have been to curry up support or more readers? (Black readers). Is the newspaper politically biased? Is it voicing its opinion through careful selection of racist sources? Is it an eyewitness account? If so, who was this witness and if not then how long afterwards was this account written and how accurate are the words in the text? Is the text taken out of context? Was this all that happened on this day? The answer is more than likely no because the conversation recorded seems only to last a few seconds.

Source 8 is another unreliable source. This is because the photo could have been cut down to focus in on Eckland when something relevant could have been happening outside the frame. Photographers are sometimes biased and they might zoom in on a particular section or area in the photo that has a lesser importance than others etc. Was the photographer biased? We cannot tell for sure whether the helmeted guard is stopping Eckford from entering Little Rock or clearing whites from her path. We also cannot be sure if the people behind her are shouting abuse or support still expressions are usually very difficult to interpret, like these.

The New York Times might use this image in its news report on this incident to increase support further and to please its majority audience, anti-segregationist whites. If a caption were included in this image, then it would convey a different image than it does captionless. In a caption, a writer could highlight the helmeted guard on the extreme left, the crowd behind the black schoolgirl or Eckford herself. If they presented a bad image of Eckford then it would make believable evidence (If collected from a reliable source). This source does not necessarily sum up the view of all whites, as only a small minority are shown. One could predict that a lot of whites had this same view or one could also predict that the students at Little Rock were the only racists in America at the time.

Source nine is a direct, factual eyewitness account of what happened in source eight. Everything that is said is factual. There is no opinion and therefore no bias. I might ask was she really spat at or did she make that up for sympathy/pity? But if she lied, then why would she add in the part about that sympathetic white man at the end if she wants to portray a negative image of whites in general? The check up on the reliability of this source, check out sources 7 and 8. 7 tells us that the whites disapproved of the black girl going into the school and 8 proves to us that Eckford was going into Little Rock, Arkansas with a crowd of whites and a guard present.

Question 4: How useful is source 11 to an historian studying segregation in the south?

Source 11 is a biased source. We can tell this through the statement that was made: “segregation is desired and supported by the majority of both races in the South, who dwell side by side under harmonious conditions” This is a blatant lie. Everyone around at that time new what a lie it was. Blacks do not live harmoniously with whites in the South. Eastland defends segregation in a very open manner. “Segregation promotes racial harmony…segregation is not racial discrimination.” We must take into consideration that the person speaking has authority and is in the US Senate and is a Senator for the Southern State of Mississippi. A similar view to this is probably accepted by 80-90% of the southern population. White Anglo-Saxon Protestants take up most of the Southern states.

This source is unreliable because of its obvious bias but it is still useful. It shows us how southern W.A.S.P.s felt; it tells us that they would try to justify the discrimination against blacks in America any way they could.. I would gamble that Eastland did not even believe the words he said during that speech. Blacks certainly wouldn’t and southern Whites would see it as an excuse to continue discriminating and justifiably, in their eyes. This man objects to the supreme court ruling and the involvement of the Federal Government. To prove this here is a quote: ‘Free men have the right to send their children to schools of their own choosing, free from governmental interference.’ This source does not represent all southern senators. We only have evidence that this represents one southern senator.

To get the full picture we need the entire speech that he gave. He could have changed his tone further on in the speech for all we know. He is even prepared to introduce the states rights issue to win his argument: ‘ Free men have the right to send their children to schools of their own choosing, free from governmental interference.’ There is a certain warped kind of logic found in his argument. It is useful because it shows us how some Whites defend segregation as a good idea.

Question 5: How is the behaviour of white people towards black people shown in sources 8 and 12?

Source 8 shows a crowd of Whites behind Eckford (on her way to school) shouting at her and Source 12 shows 3 civil rights supporters sitting at a lunch counter designated for Whites only, being smeared with mustard, ketchup and paint. The offending crowds in both photographs portray accurately the views of bigoted whites at the time and the victims in each photograph demonstrate the view of liberal Whites.

Question 6: `Bob Dylan promoted the civil rights movement.` How accurate is this view of Bob Dylan’s motives for writing `The lonesome death of Hattie Carrol?`

This source induces a lot of questions such as what motives did Bob Dylan have for writing this song? His motives were more than likely for financial gain, to become famous and to convey his message to all his fans. This source lacks an essential item-Dylan’s own view. It has the views of his ex-girlfriend, Joan Baez, Bernice Reagan, a black student activist from Albany and Patrick Humphries, author of numerous books on Dylan. But no Dylan. However this does not affect reliability.

When Humphries criticises Dylan by saying ‘He hi-jacked the folk bandwagon to his own ends to make a career’. I think he means that Dylan used the work of others to further his career. He also implies that he is not only in it for a good image and that he is sincere. I agree to the extent that I think Dylan used the influences of folk artists but not their worl itself. He also implies that Dylan is temporarily involved in politics.

Joan Baez does not doubt Dylan’s motives. She says she was the politically involved one of the couple while Dylan was simply in search of fame. Contrary to this statement, Baez also states that he put his principles before profit. Because she is the ex-girlfriend of Dylan, this source is not entirely reliable. She may be bitter towards Dylan because the relationship did not work out or she may be biased against him for the same reason. Another reason could be jealousy that Dylan was rich and she was not as a result of the break-up. She would be the most likely candidate to know Dylan’s motives because she was so close to him but she would also be most likely to be biased against him because their relationship failed.

Reagan presumes that Dylan has integrity and is not a user. Also, she says he risked his career and that he was a power with a voice. She was impressed by Dylan and this shows he has a definite impact on people through his song writing. This song could be useful to a civil rights supporter like Bernice Reagan because it could be used, as evidence against racists and it would be a popular support for their case.

Personally, I think Dylan was writing this song primarily to get the message across, very closely followed by his desire for money and fame. If it was to be a money making song he would have had it neutral or anti – Hattie Carrol because the Whites were the people who spent money on records at the time. Aiming the song at Blacks would not have been the smartest thing to do if he wanted to make money in 1930’s America.

Question 7: `The life of American Blacks has undoubtedly improved since the 1950’s`. Using all the sources and your own knowledge, how far do you agree with this interpretation of the changes in the lives of American Blacks?

Between the 50’s and today, life has definitely improved for blacks living in America. They have the right to vote in both federal and state elections and were protected to vote. They had been released from the shackles of segregation and had achieved legal equality by the four civil rights acts passed in the 1960’s –

o 1964 – civil rights act

o 1965 – voting rights act

o 1967 – ruled by Supreme Court that state laws forbidding inter-racial marriages was against the constitution

o 1968 – civil rights act (fair housing act)

But although laws were made and systems and procedures were changed it would take a lot longer to change the minds of racist whites. These achievements however do not prove that economical and social equality exists. A lot more work needs to be done i.e. attitudes of racists white towards blacks and those of blacks towards racist whites etc.

The evidence used in these sources is limited and the implications made are determined by personal interpretation and above all most of the evidence is biased either towards or against blacks. Because the evidence is biased, either towards or against blacks. Because the evidence is biased and some sources contradict others it is made very hard to conclude with this evidence. Also, concerning personal interpretation it all depends on the attitude of the historian and attitudes will change undoubtedly over the next decade or so and will probably continue to change until the end of that historian’s life.

Despite the improvement blacks have experienced, a lot more improvements need to be made.

Source 2 is an easily analysed source. It shows a segregates drinking fountain. This is not likely to be biased but we must still ask who took the photo? , Was he/she biased? , Has he/she left anything out of the picture for any reason? Also, what was the photograph taken? It is possible it was taken for a neutral source, as there is no caption. Given the right caption, this image could have a very different meaning where the photo is concerned.

Source 3 tells us of the various different forms of segregation in waiting rooms, seating where sport was concerned, transport, inter-racial boxing and in other airport facilities. It simply states what the laws were.