The Civil Rights Movement: Armed Self-Defense

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I. Introduction and Context The Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s to the 1960s was a period that significantly changed America forever. African-Americans did not have the same rights as white men, and were faced with segregation and discrimination. Under the Jim Crow Laws, blacks did not have equal access to public facilities and were treated as lower beings than whites. After many years of pain and struggle, all the while remaining silent, blacks finally decided to stand up for themselves and refuse to be compliant. Many acts of civil disobedience took place during this time, some were peaceful, while some were violent. An example of a civil disobedience from the Civil Rights Movement was Robert Williams’ protest to integrate facilities, where he uses armed self-defense, so that blacks were able to have equal access as whites. This was an effective form of protest because without the arms to protect themselves, the African-Americans wanting their voices to be heard would be suppressed by the brutality of racist white men. Civil disobedience is the act of resisting unjust laws; it is commonly, though not always, nonviolent. In his interview on Civil Disobedience, Howard Zinn explains, “Direct action means acting directly on the object of your protest or the source of your grievance… another form of direct action is nonviolent (that is, avoiding violence against human beings) action” (Zinn). Zinn explains that there are different forms of civil disobedience. One could

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