One of the common elements of the history of the United States in the early years was racial discrimination against foreigners. The main target groups were African Americans and other marginalized communities (McNeese, 100). However, the African American community in the United States was not willing to relent on their fight for equality and acquisition of basic human rights.
This desire led to the emergence of the infamous civil rights movement that begun in 1954 and ended in 1968. The African Americans were fighting to acquire equality in private and public domains in terms of their liberty, political rights, and full acknowledgment of their citizenship (Gardner 36).
The minority groups in the United States had hoped for better treatment from the white community, especially after President Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery during the Civil War.
Apart from Lincoln, other Presidents who were in office during the civil rights movement influenced the process of according full rights to African Americans and other marginalized communities (Landau 32). Most of the influence occurred during the presidencies of Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson.
President Dwight Eisenhower was the first of the three leaders to have an impact on the movement. His predecessor was President Truman, a Democrat who had lost his bid for a second term because he advocated for civil rights legislation. Eisenhower was a Republican and endured a bit of hostility from the Democrats (Gardner 50).
In 1957, Eisenhower introduced the Civil Rights Act. He also implemented a policy developed by President Truman that advocated for the integration of public schools with the military as a way of bringing equality. President Kennedy also influenced the civil rights movement during his term in office.
He witnessed the emergence of freedom riders, who were people that had come together and moved to the south in a move to protest discrimination against African Americans (Landau 39).
President Kennedy protected the freedom riders by assigning federal marshals as their security detail. Before his assignation in 1963, President Kennedy pushed for further desegregation when he ordered the governor of Alabama to ensure the enrollment of African American students in schools for the white community. Kennedy had also proposed some amendments to the Civil Rights Acts (McNeese 113).
President Lyndon Johnson arguably had the most impact on the civil rights movement. During his term, President Johnson effected proposals by Kennedy in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Gardner 58). He did everything to convince the Congress to accept the amendments and later signed it into law. President Johnson also signed into law, the Voting Rights Act (Sirimarco 60).
This act accorded political rights to all Americans, regardless of their ethnicity or origin. His decisions regarding KKK were also crucial. The KKK was a secret society of white southerners formed in the 19th Century to resist the emancipation of slaves.
The group used terrorist tactics to suppress African Americans (Sirimarco 69). President Johnson denounced KKK publicly on national television, as well as arresting and prosecuting its members. He showed his desire to bring equality by nominating Thurgood Marshall as the first member of the Supreme Court belonging to the African American community (Landau 45).
The civil rights movement was a long, hard, and emotional journey, especially for African Americans. They suffered, endured serious injuries, emotional breakdowns, and even witnessed as some of their colleagues died.
Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson played a crucial role in influencing the development of the civil rights movement. Of the three Presidents, I think Johnson influenced the movement the most because of the acts he signed into law, as well as the bold moves to denounce the KKK and appoint the first African American on the Supreme Court. However, most people hold President Eisenhower in higher regard to his contribution to the movement.
Gardner, Michael. Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage and Political Risks. New York: SIU Press, 2003. Print.
Landau, Elaine. The Civil Rights Movement in America. New Jersey: Scholastic Library Publishing, 2007. Print.
McNeese, Tim. The Civil Rights Movement. New York: Info Base Publishing, 2009. Print.
Sirimarco, Elizabeth. American Voices from the Civil Rights Movement. California: Cengage Learning, 2004. Print.