Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights Movement’

In this week’s post, we are going to have a look at two of the most iconic faces who fought against segregation and for Black civil rights. Their names ring a bell in more than just American heads; their achievements are known and respected all around the world. If you ask people to name two emblematic figures of the “Black movement”, it is most likely that they mention one of those two names: Rosa Parks and Muhammed Ali.


Muhammad AliIt is difficult to picture him without his shorts and boxing gloves, Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay), is often represented on a ring or in a motion of fist-fight as that is the image we see right away when we think of the boxer. His image represents power and strength, just like his muscular body suggests. He embodies what is commonly called “Black power” and is seen as a revolutionary political figure in the American History. He used his famous image (we can see the photographers behind him on the picture) to spread anti-segregation ideas.
Ali experienced discrimination early on as he grew up in the segregated south city of Louisville, Kentucky. As he turned towards the Nation of Islam (a black association) and underwent a change of name, Ali became more radical and started to claim the separation of blacks from white America. This movement advocated that whites were seen as evil and oppressing the blacks who should be proud of themselves. In 1967 after being drafted to go to Vietnam, Ali refused to enter the military which caused him to be prevented from bowing for 3 years, to loose his champion belt and to spend some years in prison. At this period, blacks were most likely to be drafted and Ali’s refusal was then a protest against the unfair drafting system.

Contrary tRosa_Parks_in prisono Ali, Rosa Parks was not famous until she stepped into History after refusing to stand up and let one white passenger sit instead of her in a bus. She triggered the year-long Montgomery bus boycott led by the non less famous Martin Luther King Jr. She did not want to seek physical confrontation but rather pursue a pacific fights by challenging the segregationist system. In 1943, Rosa Parks joined in the NAACP in which she and her husband would become very active. They were also part of the voters league.
As a small woman, her power was not physical. The photo suggests that she was a very determined woman, standing for what she believe and not fearing going to prison to obtain civil rights. We can here see a woman who is proud of what she has done and does not lower the head in front of the authorities. Her achievements gave her the name of “mother of the civil rights movement”.
Rosa Parks continued to fight for injustice all throughout her life and obtain many awards for her commitment. She is nowadays seen as a “role model for courage and the face of injustice”.


Overall, both have managed to advance the cause of black inequalities, one being a massive muscular man and the other a small but greatly determined woman.

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When we think of American culture and its icons it is inevitable that the subject of music should be addressed. Not only has America influenced the music industry globally, it is the music industry! The appeal of American music could be due to the fact that it is an amalgamation of voices from every depth of society. From the yearning laments of Irish immigrants to the soulfulness of the African-American Gospel choirs, American music is perhaps more poignant and penetrating. It represents the struggles of its people, the triumphs, diehard patriotism and the faith that ‘change is gonna come’ where change is needed.
Automatically, Springsteen’s ‘Born in the U.S.A’ and McLean’s ‘American Pie’ spring to mind as the forefront runners of iconic American songs. This promotion of American ideals and staunch patriotism dominates our perception of what it means to be American, ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ But perhaps a more fitting icon of song would be Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come.’ This song acknowledges the everyday adversity of American citizens whilst asserting that America the Great has the capacity for change.
Cooke, like too many American legends, died prematurely yet his legacy as the ‘King of Soul’ lives on in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His role as prevalent pioneer in the world of soul inspired many of the greats from Aretha Franklin to Marvin Gaye. As an African-American of Chicago, Cooke was a fervent activist of the Civil Rights Movement. However, his popularity was owed to happy go lucky tunes i.e. ‘Wonderful World’ and ‘Twistin’ the Night Away.’ The jovial nature of such songs exemplified all that was good in American life. For the ‘King of Soul’ such trivial tunes lacked punch and passion which served as a constant inner turmoil. It wasn’t until Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ that Cooke was truly worthy of the sobriquet ‘King of Soul.’ Moved by a white man’s accuracy and poignancy in depicting the struggle of African Americans, Cooke came to the realisation that music was key in projecting mass values, therefore the key to change in regards to racism. Losing his white fan base was no longer a fear as the quest for the greater good took centre stage.
Ultimately ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ became the anthem of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The song alludes to the long African-American struggle from the middle passage to present day. But most importantly it stays in the realm of optimism of Cooke’s prior works. It does not denounce the government nor sully white Americans. In an avant-garde fashion, it acknowledges discrimination, violence and hate however only as a temporary condition. Change will come and humanity is not void of good. ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ achieves immortality with a transient and relatable message regardless of the era. A song which decades on can stir emotions and render the coldest of hearts worthy of feeling, more than deserves the status of icon. Its theme of hope should be utilised in every nation, it does not reside in the pessimistic or oblivious but inhabits societal realities and is willing to act.

Shanice Atkins (QUB)

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 Coretta Scott King, Source: http://www.usprisonculture.com/blog/2012/07/03/coretta-scott-king-on-going-to-jail/

 Rosa Parks,   Source: http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-rosa-parks

Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King were both influential African-American women from the Southern state of Alabama. They both played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement: Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the eventual end to segregated transport and Coretta Scott King worked tirelessly in support of various causes, especially after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death.

Rosa Parks is recognised individually as an icon for her part in the de-segregation of transport in America. In contrast, Coretta Scott King is more often recognised as “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wife” and many photographs show her standing by his side or looking after their four children, portraying a domesticated image of her, instead of depicting her fierce championing of the causes she supported. She is less often recognised individually for her contribution to the Civil Rights Movement, but her support of various civil rights movements before and after her husband’s death was extremely influential. She supported gay rights and women’s rights, as well as rights for African-Americans, but also advocated peace, denounced racism and poverty and spoke out against apartheid and other international issues. Rosa Parks, on the other hand, is normally recognised for her contribution to the African-American Civil Rights Movement, although she devoted her time to educational causes as well towards the end of her life. The most common image of her is usually the photo of her arrest, presenting her as a criminal, instead of as an icon and a rallying point for thousands of African-Americans who wanted to end segregation.

Both women received various accolades and awards both before and after their deaths and have become important American icons for their role in the Civil Rights Movement and have inspired many others to participate in other civil rights movements across the world.

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Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, both African American women, are two giants of the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa McCauley was born in Tuskegee, Alabama on 4 February 1913 and Coretta Scott was born on 27 April 1927 in Marion, Alabama.

Rosa McCauley attended the local one roomed school for black children whilst white children were taken by bus to a superior school for whites only. Rosa had to leave school in 1929 to look after her sick mother and grandmother. Unlike Rosa, Coretta was able to carry on her education and received a BA in music and education before going on to study in Boston for a second degree in voice and violin. It was whilst she was in Boston that she met Martin Luther King Jnr and they married in June 1953. They went on to have four children.

Rosa took a job in a shirt factory in Montgomery, Alabama and married Raymond Parks in 1932 who was an active member of the Montgomery chapter of NAACP. Encouraged by her husband, she got her High School degree in 1933 and also joined the NAACP. Rosa and Raymond did not have any children.

It was Rosa’s refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery on 1 December 1955 that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and reinvigorated the Civil Rights Movement. Her arrest and trail led to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association and Martin Luther King Jnr, who had recently moved to Montgomery was chosen as its leader.  The boycott went on for 381 days but was eventually successful in having Montgomery Bus Company lift the enforcement of segregation. By taking a stand, Rosa Parks pricked the conscience of the nation and started one of the largest and most successful movements against racial segregation in history. Coretta Scott King supported her husband in his work in Montgomery and took part in the boycott.

After Dr. King was assassinated on 4 April 1968, his widow took on his work and advocated non-violent campaigns for social change. Coretta Scott King widened her approach and took on numerous causes where equality and liberty were missing. These included racial an economic justice, women’s and children’s rights, gay and lesbian dignity, religious freedom, the needs of the poor and homeless, full employment, health care, educational opportunities, nuclear disarmament and environmental justice. She founded and ran the Martin Luther King Jnr Centre for Nonviolent Social Change which trained thousands of people in Dr. King’s philosophy. Coretta Scott King worked tirelessly for the rest of her life for these causes and often met with world leaders to press her case. She was equally at ease with ordinary working people. She was beside Nelson Mandela when he became South Africa’s first democratically elected President. She successfully campaigned to have Martin Luther King Day officially recognised.

Rosa Parks and her husband suffered for their activism as they both lost their jobs in the wake of the boycott. This led them to move to Detroit Michigan in search of work. Rosa continued to work in support of Civil Rights for the rest of her life and campaigned against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. On his release from prison, Nelson Mandela told her that her actions had sustained him during his incarceration. She founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in 1987 which sought to educate young people on important issues of equality and freedom. In February 2013, to mark the centenary of her birth, President Obama unveiled a statue of her in Statuary Hall in Washington DC. In his speech he said that it was the men and women of Montgomery that made it possible for him to be President of the USA.

Both these women are towering figures of the twentieth century. A simple act of brave disobedience by Rosa Parks changed America and changed the world. She has been called the mother of the Civil Rights Movement. Coretta Scott King, widowed at the age of forty and with four children, took on the mantle of her husband and was a woman of compassion, wisdom and vision who sought to make a better world.

Rosa Parks died in 2005 and Coretta Scott King in 2006. They were mourned by all who strive for justice and freedom throughout the world.




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ImageThese two photos show very different images of women in the Civil Rights Movement. Coretta Scott King is seen as having a stereotypical female role in society at the time as a supporting wife and loving mother. She is presented as a warm and peaceful woman. However this picture does evoke comparisons to white women of the period perhaps suggesting a common bond between all women. Rosa Parks, however, appears as a dangerous female criminal. She has a untidy appearance, which may have been a common stereotype of african american women at the time. The prison photograph suggests the evil that many whites saw in the Black community at the time. Although both of these women represent the civil rights movement, they are very contrasting images which show Coretta Scott King as a gentle, peaceful mother and Rosa Parks as a dangerous criminal.


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Rosa Parks, a 42 year old seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama, was a woman who many described as being quiet, unassuming and a perfect lady. However, little did they know that Parks would provide the fuse for a much bigger issue, the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1955, Parks doing the unthinkable and rising above fear, refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man. This moment became not only an act of personal liberation for Parks herself but also for other African Americans, young and old. After having been arrested, however her trial lasted all of 5 minutes in which she was found guilty of violating the state segregation statute and fined 10 dollars. This led to the transformation of Rosa Parks the person into Rosa Parks the icon, as her act of resistance led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in which for 381 days, African Americans stayed off the buses which eventually led to public transport in 1956 being racially integrated.


Coretta Scott King is known to most as the wife of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but to some she is known as a self-driven and long standing champion of civil rights away from the shadow of her husband. Working side-by-side with her husband for many years, Coretta took part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and worked to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Mrs. King played a prominent role in the years after her husbands 1968 assassination when she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself.


The similarities between these two icons as shown in the above pictures, is that they both contributed to the civil rights era, they both stood up and acted against the inequality in which African Americans were facing in all aspects of life. However, the most significant contrast between these two women is that, Coretta Scott King only became an activist in her own right after the assassination of her husband as prior to this she worked alongside her husband and other African American women. Although King played an active role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, it was Parks who inspired other African Americans to take a stand for equal rights as she as an individual challenged racial bigotry rather than relying on other people. Infact, the U.S Congress called Parks “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”.

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