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Movements for civil rights were a worldwide series of political movements for equality before the law that peaked in the 1960s. In many situations it took the form of campaigns of civil resistance aimed at achieving change through nonviolent forms of resistance. In some situations it was accompanied, or followed, by civil unrest and armed rebellion. The process was long and tenuous in many countries, and many of these movements did not fully achieve their goals, although the efforts of these movements did lead to improvements in the legal rights of previously oppressed groups of people.
Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom which has witnessed violence over many decades, known as the Troubles, arising from tensions between the British (Unionist, Protestant) majority and the Irish (Nationalist, Catholic) minority following the Partition of Ireland in 1920.
The civil rights struggle in Northern Ireland can be traced to activists in Dungannon, led by Austin Currie, who were fighting for equal access to public housing for the members of the Catholic community. This domestic issue would not have led to a fight for civil rights were it not for the fact that being a registered householder was a qualification for local government franchise in Northern Ireland.
In January 1964, the Campaign for Social Justice (CSJ) was launched in Belfast. This organisation joined the struggle for better housing and committed itself to ending discrimination in employment. The CSJ promised the Catholic community that their cries would be heard. They challenged the government and promised that they would take their case to the Commission for Human Rights in Strasbourg and to the United Nations.
Having started with basic domestic issues, the civil rights struggle in Northern Ireland escalated to a full-scale movement that found its embodiment in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. NICRA campaigned in the late sixties and early seventies, consciously modelling itself on the American civil rights movement and using similar methods of civil resistance. NICRA organised marches and protests to demand equal rights and an end to discrimination.
NICRA originally had five main demands:
All of these specific demands were aimed at an ultimate goal that had been the one of women at the very beginning: the end of discrimination.
Civil rights activists all over Northern Ireland soon launched a campaign of civil resistance. There was opposition from Loyalists, who were aided by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), Northern Ireland's police force. At this point, the RUC was over 90% Protestant. Violence escalated, resulting in the rise of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) from the Catholic community, a group reminiscent of those from the War of Independence and the Civil War that occurred in the 1920s that had launched a campaign of violence to end British rule in Northern Ireland. Loyalist paramilitaries countered this with a defensive campaign of violence and the British government responded with a policy of internment without trial of suspected IRA members. For more than 300 people, the internment lasted several years. The huge majority of those interned by the British forces were Catholic. In 1978, in a case brought by the government of the Republic of Ireland against the government of the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the interrogation techniques approved for use by the British army on internees in 1971 amounted to "inhuman and degrading" treatment.
The IRA encouraged Republicans to join in the movement for civil rights but never controlled NICRA. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association fought for the end of discrimination toward Catholics and did not take a position on the legitimacy of the state. Republican leader Gerry Adams explained subsequently that Catholics saw that it was possible for them to have their demands heard. He wrote that "we were able to see an example of the fact that you didn't just have to take it, you could fight back". For an account and critique of the movements for civil rights in Northern Ireland, reflecting on the ambiguous link between the causes of civil rights and opposition to the union with the United Kingdom, see the work of Richard English.
One of the most important events in the era of civil rights in Northern Ireland took place in Derry, which escalated the conflict from peaceful civil disobedience to armed conflict. The Battle of the Bogside started on 12 August when an Apprentice Boys, a Protestant order, parade passed through Waterloo Place, where a large crowd was gathered at the mouth of William Street, on the edge of the Bogside. Different accounts describe the first outbreak of violence, with reports stating that it was either an attack by youth from the Bogside on the RUC, or fighting broke out between Protestants and Catholics. The violence escalated and barricades were erected. Proclaiming this district to be the Free Derry, Bogsiders carried on fights with the RUC for days using stones and petrol bombs. The government finally withdrew the RUC and replaced it with the army, which disbanded the crowds of Catholics who were barricaded in the Bogside.
Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972, in Derry is seen by some as a turning point in the movement for civil rights. Fourteen unarmed Catholic civil rights marchers protesting against internment were shot dead by the British army and many were left wounded on the streets.
The peace process has made significant gains in recent years. Through open dialogue from all parties, a state of ceasefire by all major paramilitary groups has lasted. A stronger economy improved Northern Ireland's standard of living. Civil rights issues have become far less of a concern for many in Northern Ireland over the past 20 years as laws and policies protecting their rights and forms of affirmative action have been implemented for all government offices and many private businesses. Tensions still exist, but the vast majority of citizens are no longer affected by violence.
The 1960s brought intense political and social change to the Canadian province of Quebec, with the election of Liberal Premier Jean Lesage after the death of Maurice Duplessis, whose government was widely viewed as corrupt. These changes included secularization of the education and health care systems, which were both heavily controlled by the Roman Catholic Church, whose support for Duplessis and his perceived corruption had angered many Québécois. Policies of the Liberal government also sought to give Quebec more economic autonomy, such as the nationalization of Hydro-Québec and the creation of public companies for the mining, forestry, iron/steel and petroleum industries of the province. Other changes included the creation of the Régie des Rentes du Québec (Quebec Pension Plan) and new labour codes that made unionizing easier and gave workers the right to strike.
The social and economic changes of the Quiet Revolution gave life to the Quebec sovereignty movement, as more and more Québécois saw themselves as a distinctly culturally different from the rest of Canada. The segregationist Parti Québécois was created in 1968 and won the 1976 Quebec general election. They enacted legislation meant to enshrine French as the language of business in the province, while also controversially restricting the usage of English on signs and restricting the eligibility of students to be taught in English.
A radical strand of French Canadian nationalism produced the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), which since 1963 has been using terrorism to make Quebec a sovereign nation. In October 1970, in response to the arrest of some of its members earlier in the year, the FLQ kidnapped British diplomat James Cross and Quebec's Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte, whom they later killed. The then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, himself a French Canadian, invoked the War Measures Act, declared martial law in Quebec, and arrested the kidnappers by the end of the year.
Movements for civil rights in the United States include noted legislation and organized efforts to abolish public and private acts of racial discrimination African Americans and other disadvantaged groups between 1954 to 1968, particularly in the southern United States. It is sometimes referred to as the Second Reconstruction era, alluding to the unresolved issues of the Reconstruction era in the United States (1863–1877).
After 1890 the system of Jim Crow, disenfranchisement, and second class citizenship degraded the citizenship rights of African Americans, especially in the South. It was the nadir of American race relations. There were three main aspects: racial segregation – upheld by the United States Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 –, legally mandated by southern governments—voter suppression or disfranchisement in the southern states, and private acts of violence and mass racial violence aimed at African Americans, unhindered or encouraged by government authorities. Although racial discrimination was present nationwide, the combination of law, public and private acts of discrimination, marginal economic opportunity, and violence directed toward African Americans in the southern states became known as Jim Crow.
Noted strategies employed prior to 1955 included litigation and lobbying attempts by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). These efforts were a hallmark of the American Civil Rights Movement from 1896 to 1954. However, by 1955, blacks became frustrated by gradual approaches to implement desegregation by federal and state governments and the "massive resistance" by whites. The black leadership adopted a combined strategy of direct action with nonviolent resistance known as civil disobedience. The acts of civil disobedience produced crisis situations between practitioners and government authorities. The authorities of federal, state, and local governments often had to act with an immediate response to end crisis situations – sometimes in the practitioners' favor. Some of the different forms of protests and/or civil disobedience employed included boycotts, as successfully practiced by the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955–1956) in Alabama which gave the movement one of its more famous icons in Rosa Parks; "sit-ins", as demonstrated by the influential Greensboro sit-in (1960) in North Carolina; and marches, as exhibited by the Selma to Montgomery marches (1965) in Alabama. The evidence of changing attitudes could also be seen around the country, where small businesses sprang up supporting the movements for civil rights, such as New Jersey's notable Everybody's Luncheonette.
The most illustrious march is probably the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It is best remembered for the speech Martin Luther King, Jr. gave, in which the "I have a dream" part turned into a national text and eclipsed the troubles the organizers had to bring to march forward. It had been a fairly complicated affair to bring together various leaders of civil rights, religious and labor groups. As the name of the march tells us, many compromises had to be made in order to unite the followers of so many different causes. The "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" emphasized the combined purposes of the march and the goals that each of the leaders aimed at. These leaders, informally named the Big Six, were A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Martin Luther King Jr., Whitney Young, James Farmer and John Lewis. Although they came from different political horizons, these leaders were intent on the peacefulness of the march, which even had its own marshal to ensure that the event would be peaceful and respectful of the law. The success of the march is still being debated but one aspect has been raised in the last few years: the misrepresentation of women. A lot of feminine civil rights groups had participated in the organization of the march but when it came to actual activity, women were denied the right to speak and were relegated to figurative roles in the back of the stage. As some female participants have noticed, the March can be remembered for the "I Have a Dream" speech but for most female activists it was a new awakening, forcing black women not only to fight for civil rights but also to engage in the Feminist movement.
Noted achievements of the movements for civil rights in this area include the judicial victory in the Brown v. Board of Education case that nullified the legal article of "separate but equal" and made segregation legally impermissible, passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned discrimination in employment practices and public accommodations, passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that restored voting rights, and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 that banned discrimination in the sale or rental of housing.
By 1965, the emergence of the Black Power movement (1966–1975) began to gradually eclipse the original "integrated power" aims of the movements for civil rights that had been espoused by Martin Luther King, Jr.. Advocates of Black Power argued for black self-determination, and asserted that the assimilation inherent in integration robs Africans of their common heritage and dignity; e.g., the theorist and activist Omali Yeshitela argues that Africans have historically fought to protect their lands, cultures and freedoms from European colonialists, and that any integration into the society which has stolen another people and their wealth is actually an act of treason.
Today, most Black Power advocates have not changed their self-sufficiency argument. Racism still exists worldwide and it is believed by some that blacks in the United States, on the whole, did not assimilate into U.S. "mainstream" culture, either by King's integration measures or by the self-sufficiency measures of Black Power—rather, blacks arguably became even more oppressed, this time partially by "their own" people in a new black stratum of the middle class and the ruling class. Black Power's advocates generally argue that the reason for this stalemate and further oppression of the vast majority of U.S. blacks is because Black Power's objectives have not had the opportunity to be fully carried through.
One of the most public manifestations of the Black Power movement took place in the 1968 Olympics, when two African-Americans stood on the podium doing a Black Power salute. This act is still remembered today as the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute.
The Chicano Movement, also known as the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement and El Movimiento, was part of the American Civil Rights Movement that sought political empowerment and social inclusion for Mexican-Americans around a generally nationalist argument. The Chicano movement blossomed in the 1960s and was active through the late 1970s in various regions of the U.S. The movement had roots in the civil rights struggles that had preceded it, adding to it the cultural and generational politics of the era.
The early heroes of the movement—Rodolfo Gonzales in Denver, Colorado and Reies Tijerina in New Mexico—adopted a historical account of the preceding hundred and twenty-five years that had obscured much of Mexican-American history. Gonzales and Tijerina embraced a nationalism that identified the failure of the United States government to live up to its promises in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In that account, Mexican-Americans were a conquered people who simply needed to reclaim their birthright and cultural heritage as part of a new nation, which later became known as Aztlán.
That version of the past did not, but take into account the history of those Mexicans who had immigrated to the United States. It also gave little attention to the rights of undocumented immigrants in the United States in the 1960s— which is not surprising, since immigration did not have the political significance it later acquired. It was a decade later when activists, such as Bert Corona in California, embraced the rights of undocumented workers and helped broaden the movement to include their issues.
When the movement dealt with practical problems in the 1960s, most activists focused on the most immediate issues confronting Mexican-Americans; unequal educational and employment opportunities, political disfranchisement, and police brutality. In the heady days of the late 1960s, when the student movement was active around the globe, the Chicano movement brought about more or less spontaneous actions, such as the mass walkouts by high school students in Denver and East Los Angeles in 1968 and the Chicano Moratorium in Los Angeles in 1970.
The movement was particularly strong at the college level, where activists formed MEChA, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, which promoted Chicano Studies programs and a generalized ethno-nationalist agenda.
At a time when peaceful sit-ins were a common protest tactic, the American Indian Movement (AIM) takeovers in their early days were noticeably violent. Some appeared to be spontaneous outcomes of protest gatherings, but others included armed seizure of public facilities, such as in the Wounded Knee incident.
The Alcatraz Island occupation of 1969, although commonly associated with NAM, pre-dated the organization, but was a catalyst for its formation.
In 1970, AIM occupied abandoned property at the Naval Air Station near Minneapolis, Minnesota. In July 1971, it assisted in a takeover of the Winter Dam, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Wisconsin. When activists took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs Headquarters in Washington D.C. in November 1972, they sacked the building and 24 people were arrested. Activists occupied the Custer County Courthouse in 1973, though police routed the occupation after a riot took place.
In 1973 activists and military forces confronted each other in the Wounded Knee incident. The standoff lasted 71 days, and two men died in the violence.
If the period associated with first-wave feminism focused upon absolute rights such as suffrage (which led to women attaining the right to vote in the early part of the 20th century), the period of the second-wave feminism was concerned with the issues such as changing social attitudes and economic, reproductive, and educational equality (including the ability to have careers in addition to motherhood, or the right to choose not to have children) between the genders and addressed the rights of female minorities. The new feminist movement, which spanned from 1963 to 1982, explored economic equality, political power at all levels, professional equality, reproductive freedoms, sexuality, issues with the family, educational equality, sexuality, and many other issues.
Since the mid-19th century in Germany, social reformers have used the language of civil rights to argue against the oppression of same-sex sexuality, same-sex emotional intimacy, and gender variance. Largely, but not exclusively, these LGBT movements have characterized gender variant and homosexually oriented people as a minority group(s); this was the approach taken by the homophile movement of the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. With the rise of secularism in the West, an increasing sexual openness, women's liberation, the 1960s counterculture, the AIDS epidemic, and a range of new social movements, the homophile movement underwent a rapid growth and transformation, with a focus on building community and unapologetic activism which came to be known as the Gay Liberation.
The words "Gay Liberation" echoed "Women's Liberation"; the Gay Liberation Front consciously took its name from the "National Liberation Fronts" of Vietnam and Algeria, and the slogan "Gay Power", as a defiant answer to the rights-oriented homophile movement, was inspired by Black Power and Chicano Power. The GLF's statement of purpose explained:
"We are a revolutionary group of men and women formed with the realization that complete sexual liberation for all people cannot come about unless existing social institutions are abolished. We reject society's attempt to impose sexual roles and definitions of our nature."
— GLF statement of purpose
GLF activist Martha Shelley wrote,
"We are women and men who, from the time of our earliest memories, have been in revolt against the sex-role structure and nuclear family structure."
— "Gay is Good", Martha Shelley, 1970
Gay Liberationists aimed at transforming fundamental concepts and institutions of society, such as gender and the family. In order to achieve such liberation, consciousness raising and direct action were employed. Specifically, the word 'gay' was preferred to previous designations such as homosexual or homophile; some saw 'gay' as a rejection of the false dichotomy heterosexual/homosexual. Lesbians and gays were urged to "come out" and publicly reveal their sexuality to family, friends and colleagues as a form of activism, and to counter shame with gay pride. "Gay Lib" groups were formed in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, the UK, the US, Italy and elsewhere. The lesbian group Lavender Menace was also formed in the U.S. in response to both the male domination of other Gay Lib groups and the anti-lesbian sentiment in the Women's Movement. Lesbianism was advocated as a feminist choice for women, and the first currents of lesbian separatism began to emerge.
By the late 1970s, the radicalism of Gay Liberation was eclipsed by a return to a more formal movement that became known as the Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement.
The movements for civil rights in Germany were a left-wing backlash against the post-Nazi Party era of the country, which still contained many of the conservative policies of both that era and of the pre-World War I Kaiser monarchy. The movement mainly attracted disillusioned students and was largely a protest movement analogous to others around the globe during the late 1960s. It was largely a reaction against the perceived authoritarianism and hypocrisy of the German government and other Western governments and the poor living conditions of students. A wave of protests, some violent, swept Germany, further fueled by over-reaction by the police and encouraged by other near-simultaneous protest movements across the world. Following more than a century of conservatism among German students, the German student movement also marked a significant major shift to the left-wing and radicalization of student politics.
A general strike broke out across France in May 1968, which began to reach near-revolutionary proportions before being discouraged by the French Communist Party and finally suppressed by the government, which accused the communists of plotting against the Republic. Some philosophers[who?] and historians[who?] have argued that the rebellion was the single most important revolutionary event of the 20th century because it wasn't participated in by a lone demographic, such as workers or racial minorities, but was rather a purely popular uprising, superseding ethnic, cultural, age and class boundaries.
It began as a series of student strikes that broke out at a number of universities and high schools in Paris following confrontations with university administrators and the police. The de Gaulle administration's attempts to quash those strikes by further police action only inflamed the situation further, leading to street battles with the police in the Latin Quarter, followed by a general strike by students and ten million French workers, roughly two-thirds of the French workforce. The protests reached the point that de Gaulle created a military operations headquarters to deal with the unrest, dissolved the National Assembly and called for new parliamentary elections on 23 June 1968.
The government was close to collapse at that point and De Gaulle had even taken temporary refuge at an airforce base in Germany, but the revolutionary situation evaporated almost as quickly as it arose. Workers went back to their jobs, urged on by the Confédération Générale du Travail, the leftist union federation, and the Parti Communiste Français (PCF), the French Communist Party. When the elections were finally held in June, the Gaullist party emerged even stronger than before.
Most of the protesters espoused left-wing causes, communism or anarchism, and many saw the events as an opportunity to shake up the "old society" in many social aspects, including methods of education, sexual freedom and free love. A small minority of protesters, such as the Occident group, espoused far-right causes.
On 29 May, several hundred thousand protesters led by the CGT marched through Paris, chanting "Adieu, de Gaulle!", "Goodbye, de Gaulle!".
While the government appeared to be close to collapse, de Gaulle chose not to say adieu. Instead, after ensuring that he had sufficient loyal military units mobilized to back him if push came to shove, he went on the radio the following day (the national television service was on strike) to announce the dissolution of the National Assembly, with elections to follow on 23 June. He ordered workers to return to work, threatening to institute a state of emergency if they did not.
From that point, the revolutionary feeling of the students and workers faded away. Workers gradually returned to work or were ousted from their plants by the police. The national student union called off street demonstrations the government banned a number of left organizations, and the police retook the Sorbonne on 16 June. De Gaulle triumphed in the elections held in June and the crisis had ended.
The Tlatelolco massacre, also known as Tlatelolco's Night (from a book title), took place in the afternoon and night of October 2, 1968, in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco section of Mexico City. The death toll remains uncertain, with some estimates placing the number of deaths in the thousands, but most reporting 200–300 deaths with many more wounded and several thousand arrested.
The massacre was preceded by months of political unrest in the Mexican capital, echoing student demonstrations and riots all over the world during 1968. Mexican students wanted to exploit the attention focused on Mexico City for the 1968 Summer Olympics. President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, however, was determined to stop the demonstrations and, in September, ordered the army to occupy the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the largest university in Latin America. Students were beaten and arrested indiscriminately, causing Rector Javier Barros Sierra to resign in protest on September 23.
However, student demonstrators were not deterred and the demonstrations grew in size until October 2, when, after nine weeks of student strikes, 15,000 students from various universities marched through the streets of Mexico City carrying red carnations to protest the army's occupation of the university campus. By nightfall, 5,000 students and workers, many of them with spouses and children, had congregated outside an apartment complex in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco for what was supposed to be a peaceful rally. Among their chants were México – Libertad – México – Libertad ("Mexico – Liberty – Mexico –Liberty"). Rally organizers attempted to call off the protest when they noticed an increased military presence in the area.
The massacre began at sunset when army and police forces — equipped with armored cars and tanks — surrounded the square and began firing live rounds into the crowd, hitting not only the protesters, but also other bystanders uninvolved with the protest. Demonstrators and passersby alike, including children, were caught in the fire; soon, mounds of bodies lay on the ground. The killing continued through the night, with soldiers carrying out mopping-up operations on a house-to-house basis in the apartment buildings adjacent to the square. Witnesses to the event claim that the bodies were later removed in garbage trucks.
The official government explanation of the incident was that armed provocateurs among the demonstrators, stationed in buildings overlooking the crowd, had begun the firefight, causing security forces to return fire in self-defense.
The Prague Spring (Czech: Pražské jaro, Slovak: Pražská jar, Russian: пражская весна) was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia starting on January 5, 1968, and running until August 20 of that year, when the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies (except for Romania) invaded the country.
During World War II, Czechoslovakia fell into the Soviet sphere of influence, the Eastern Bloc. Since 1948 there were no parties other than the Communist Party in the country and it was indirectly managed by the Soviet Union. Unlike other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the communist take-over in Czechoslovakia in 1948 was, although as brutal as elsewhere, a genuine popular movement. Reform in the country did not lead to the convulsions seen in Hungary.
Towards the end of World War II Joseph Stalin wanted Czechoslovakia, and signed an agreement with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt that Prague would be liberated by the Red Army, despite the fact that the United States Army under General George S. Patton could have liberated the city earlier. This was important for the spread of pro-Russian (and pro-communist) propaganda that came right after the war. People still remembered what they felt as Czechoslovakia's betrayal by the West at the Munich Agreement. For these reasons, the people voted for communists in the 1948 elections, the last democratic poll to take place there for a long time.
From the middle of the 1960s, Czechs and Slovaks showed increasing signs of rejection of the existing regime. This change was reflected by reformist elements within the communist party by installing Alexander Dubček as party leader. Dubček's reforms of the political process inside Czechoslovakia, which he referred to as Socialism with a human face, did not represent a complete overthrow of the old regime, as was the case in Hungary in 1956. Dubček's changes had broad support from the society, including the working class, but was seen by the Soviet leadership as a threat to their hegemony over other states of the Eastern Bloc and to the very safety of the Soviet Union. Czechoslovakia was in the middle of the defensive line of the Warsaw Pact and its possible defection to the enemy was unacceptable during the Cold War.
However, a sizeable minority in the ruling party, especially at higher leadership levels, was opposed to any lessening of the party's grip on society and actively plotted with the leadership of the Soviet Union to overthrow the reformers. This group watched in horror as calls for multi-party elections and other reforms began echoing throughout the country.
Between the nights of August 20 and August 21, 1968, Eastern Bloc armies from five Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia. During the invasion, Soviet tanks ranging in numbers from 5,000 to 7,000 occupied the streets. They were followed by a large number of Warsaw Pact troops ranging from 200,000 to 600,000.
The Soviets insisted that they had been invited to invade the country, stating that loyal Czechoslovak Communists had told them that they were in need of "fraternal assistance against the counter-revolution". A letter which was found in 1989 proved an invitation to invade did indeed exist. During the attack of the Warsaw Pact armies, 72 Czechs and Slovaks were killed (19 of those in Slovakia) and hundreds were wounded (up to September 3, 1968). Alexander Dubček called upon his people not to resist. He was arrested and taken to Moscow, along with several of his colleagues.
On 27 May 1967, Australians voted to amend their constitution, particularly removing Section 127, which had previously excluded Indigenous Australians from the census.