‘the Use of Non-Violence Was the Most Important Reason for Improved Civil Rights 1954 to 1963.’ Explain Why You Agree or Disagree with This View. (24 Marks) Essay

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The idea of using non-violence as a technique in the civil rights movement was the idea of Martin Luther King which branched from Ghandi’s belief of non-violence from the time he spent in India and his own Christian beliefs. A range of non-violent methods were used by the protestors. In 1955, the Montgomery Busy Boycott was the biggest protest to date and was the first major time that so many people had come together to overturn the Jim Crow laws. The Greensboro sit-ins were a series of non-violent protests in 1960 which led to the Woolworths department store chain reversing its policy of racial segregation in southern US as well as segregation in public areas being largely abandoned in Florida, Texas etc. The freedom rides were when civil rights activists rode interstate buses into the southern US in 1961 to test the supreme courts decision of ruling segregation on interstate transport illegal. As soon as the riders hit Montgomery, they were mobbed and attacked by white southerners. Each of these actions showed the world that peaceful means were being used to try and gain true equality as well as including whites this meant the movement widened. The Albany campaign in November 1961 was recognised as a major defeat. Under William Anderson, a number of local black organisations were formed in an attempt to desegregate the city. By mid-December, 500 demonstrators had been jailed. Anderson invited King’s help to maintain the movement and secure national publicity for the non-violent protest. The tactics of non-violence however did not work because the Head of Police in Albany, Laurie Pritchett, had learned from previous protests and campaigns that no violence should be used against the protestors to ensure less media coverage and less sympathy for the black protestors. Pritchett went on to arrest protestors but he made sure that the jails were not filled by them.

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