Importance of Students to the Success of the Civil Rights Movement

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Date Submitted: 09/13/2011 05:30 PM

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Why were students so important to the success of the civil rights movement in the post-Brown era?

Richard J McIntire, a former award winning journalist states: ‘From its very start, young people and students have played an integral part in the American civil rights and social justice movement’[1] and exemplifies that students were vital to the success of the civil rights movement in the post-Brown era. Students were directly involved in matters such as the Little Rock School crisis and orchestrated the Greensboro ‘sit-ins’. This essay will examine and justify the importance of students to the success of the civil rights movement. It will discuss the Little Rock School crisis, the Greensboro ‘sit-ins’, the formation of SNCC (the Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee), the freedom rides, the murder of Emmett Till and the way in which student life made it easier for youths to devote themselves to the cause than adults. All of these demonstrations, groups and issues made a substantial contribution to the Civil Rights Movement.

Education was a prominent issue within the civil rights movement and directly affected the students of both races; therefore, students were expressly involved in the Little Rock School crisis. The Little Rock Nine, consisting of Jefferson Thomas, Carlotta Walls, Gloria Ray, Elizabeth Eckford, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo, Terrance Roberts, Minniejean Brown and Ernest Green, made the decision to attend Little Rock Central High, despite the growing turmoil that was a result of the Brown decision. Elizabeth Eckford tells of her ordeal, cited in Juan Williams’ Eyes on the Prize, she explains: ‘I tried to pass through the long lines of guards around the school so as to enter the grounds behind them… the crowd began to follow me, calling me names. I still wasn’t afraid…somebody started yelling ‘Lynch her! Lynch her!’[2] Author Borgna Brunner states ‘that was only the beginning of their ordeal. Every morning on their way to school...