America is renowned as a country that espouses freedom in every respect. An important point to note, however, is that this freedom was not easy to come by. It resulted from a continuum of bloody struggles that characterized the nation between the 1950s and 1970s.
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This essay explores three liberation movements including the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM), the Civil Rights Movement (CRM), and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement (AVWM) with the objective of establishing the main factors that dictated the endeavors of these movements and the overall effectiveness of each.
Synopses Of The Movements
The struggle for the rights of African-Americans has a long history in America. It began in the days of slavery and climaxed around the mid-1950s when the CRM rose to national prominence (Carson 1). The main objective of the CRM was to agitate equality for all Americans.
The movement carried out its activities, which included non-violent protests, civil disobedience, and marches under the auspices of key figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Andrew Goodman (Carson 1). In the end, it realized positive results in the form of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
The Anti-Vietnam War Movement (AVWM) emerged in 1965 when U.S. citizens realized that the war in Vietnam was far from what they had been hoodwinked into believing (“Protests against the Vietnam War” par. 2). The protests began as a resistance to the draft and became more prominent when the bodies of dead American soldiers began arriving back home (“Protests against the Vietnam War” par. 3).
The movement was majorly concerned with castigating the involvement of America in the Vietnam War Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X emerged as key figures in this movement alongside others such as James Forman, Stokely Carmichael, and Floyd McKissick (“Protests against the Vietnam War” par. 6). Although the movement went on after the assassination of King and Malcolm X in 1968, its influence greatly reduced.
The Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) was another key protest movement that emerged in the U.S. in the 1960s, and 70s was the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) (Epstein par. 4).
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The movement’s primary concern was to eliminate the inequality that characterized the American workplace with regards to women. Its activities became widespread around the stated time, probably due to the ongoing civil rights and anti-war uprisings.
Its activities included non-violent demonstrations and heightened lobbying (Epstein par. 6). Some of its notable leaders include Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Germaine Greer (Epstein par. 8). The movement managed to expand the social space for women.
A Comparison Of The Movements
The synopses above highlight some key elements of these movements. All the movements organized and executed demonstrations, protests, and street marches to express their outrage. This attribute emerges as an important common feature of all the three movements. The CRM sought equality between African-Americans and whites.
Similarly, WRM sought workplace equality for women. The AVWM for its part agitated social justice for innocent Vietnamese whose lives were being devastated by the Vietnam War (“Protests against the Vietnam War” par. 6). Each of these movements had a compelling reason for its endeavors.
To achieve its goals, each of the movements employed its strategies and tactics to compel the concerned authorities to address its grievances. The CRM used non-violent demonstrations, rallies, civil disobedience, and marches through the streets. The WLM and AVWM also used some of these tactics to capture the attention of the government. However, CRM’s tactics and strategies were more extensive in the other two movements.
Although it also employed street marches and protests, civil disobedience did not feature among tactics of the WLM. Instead, it opted for intense lobbying via the National Organization for Women (NOW) (Epstein par. 9).
The AVWM for its part shared the civil disobedience strategy with the CRM. King and Malcolm X openly exhorted young American men to resist the draft during the Vietnam War (“Protests against the Vietnam War” par. 5). This attribute differentiates the tactics of these two movements from the somewhat mild approach adopted by the WLM.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X featured as influential leaders in both CRM and AVWM. Other key figures opted to confine themselves within the activities of their respective movements. As a result, the two groups remained distinctively separate after the assassination of the King and Malcolm X.
The leadership of the two movements was a complete contrast to that of the WLM. No member of this group was officially recognized as a leader. However, key players in the movement emerged as de-facto leaders (Epstein par. 5). Thus, unlike the other two movements, which had organized leadership, the WLM’s leadership was unplanned and unorganized.
Each of the three movements was characterized by landmark events in the form of protests, marches, and rallies. However, CRM seems to have recorded a larger number of events than the other two. Besides the normal demonstrations, it involved children in street marches and organized sit-ins at local stores (Carson 3). Some of its civil disobedience activities turned violent and triggered the killing of some activists (Carson 3).
The AVWM also had its share of activities that included shredding drafts in public, the involvement of war veterans in protests that culminated in the throwing of medals at doorsteps of the Capitol building. These events differed from those of the WLM, which aside from holding demonstrations and rallies, took a diplomatic approach.
All three movements encountered obstacles in their quests. However, CRM and AVWM only contended with external obstacles. This aspect marks another key difference between the two movements and the WLM. Since it did not have officially acclaimed leaders, the group had to contend with internal power wrangles as well as the issues it sought to address. An obstacle that cuts across all the three movements, however, is that they all sought to overturn demeaning legislation. As such, the bureaucracy of the government was a factor that each movement had to deal with.
Despite the many challenges, each movement boasted of achievement in the end. The CRM occasioned the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Carson 1). However, the movement failed to address the poverty menace that persists among African-Americans.
The AVWM for its part boasts of ending the Vietnam War. However, analysts argue that the movement played an insignificant role in ending the war. Finally, the WLM boasts of expanding social and democratic space for women. However, the majority of women are still stuck in traditionally feminine jobs. Also, they earn less in comparison to their male counterparts.
In consideration of the activities, achievements, and shortfalls of these movements, it becomes apparent that although all of them failed at some point, the degree of their effectiveness varies.
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My evaluation leads me to conclude the CRM made the greatest achievement. African-Americans were not considered American citizens, especially in the southern parts of the country. Thus, the endeavors of this movement gave this group identity, opened up a myriad of opportunities for them, and above all, restored their lost human dignity.
Carson, Clayborne. American Civil Rights Movement. Encyclopedia Britannica, 23 Dec. 2013. Web. 1 May. 2014.
Epstein, Barbara. What Happened to the Women’s Movement? Monthly Review, 04 May 2001. Web. 1 May. 2014.
Protests against the Vietnam War. History learning site, n.d. Web. 1 May. 2014.