Self-Inflicted Separation

The state of nature that characterized the 1960s was far from uniform. This turbulent decade in history is in fact known and thought of as a period in which chaos, change, and anti-conformity reigned supreme. So it was no surprise to see that in the articles from chapter three of Takin’ It To The Streets, the latter half of the 60s also housed a distinctly different civil rights movement; one in which its activists essentially dismantled the ideologies and types of protests that were previously instated by their predecessors and instead replaced them with ideals that were in fact quite the opposite. While the first half of the 60s would face activists who believed in a means of non-violence, unification, and peaceful protest, the second half of this paradoxical time period would face activists who believed in militancy, Black Power, and the establishment of a revitalized black culture.

One of the major reasons for this stark change in tone for the civil rights movement was a change in leadership. While the first half of the decade had Martin Luther King Jr. to lead the way, after his assassination Malcolm X took center stage as one of the movement’s predominant faces. However unlike King, Malcolm’s ideology was much more belligerent in that he famously advocated to tackle “the problem head-on, nonviolently as long as the enemy is nonviolent, but violent when the enemy gets violent” (122). Not only was this philosophy completely different from that of King’s, Malcolm’s words began to resonate with a frustrated black community and the civil rights movement began to take on a new ideology in which violence was a means to move forward.

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Furthermore, the civil rights movement of the latter half of the decade also produced significant cultural change within the communities of the black population. Above all else, the goal of activists of King’s generation focused on gaining rights that would make them equal citizens of the United States and to create an overall holistic nation. Once again this ideology was in direct contradiction to the latter 60s movement; in this specific time period, activists began to intentionally separate blacks from the rest of the population. This is not to say that activists attempted to perform an act of segregation, this was very much an effort of conscious separation in which blacks would still retain the rights of a full citizen of America while choosing to stand apart from whites culturally. For instance, Blues music was heavily revitalized during this time period by blacks to put a cultural division in place. In the article “Black Art and Black Liberation” by Larry Neal, it is stated that: “The Blues God knows that he will cease to exist if his people cease to exist. He knows that being Black and Beautiful is not enough. He knows that the oppressor cares nothing about our beauty… This is what the Black Arts Movement is al about” (140). With this quote it becomes quite evident that blacks viewed blues music and many other distinctively different cultural forms as a way to set themselves apart and perhaps even above the white citizens of America.

It cannot distinctly be said which approach has been more effective- the tactics of the first or second half of the 1960s. While the former had more visible success due to attacks on and passages of legitimate legislation, the cultural revival and success of the latter half of the movement can also be seen as an intangible success that was still important to the development of what would eventually become a more holistic nation.

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