Lyndon Johnson is quoted saying after JFK’s assassination that he had received the presidency he never wanted. JFK had always had a passive stance on civil rights. It seems obvious that it was something he hoped for but he needed the support of the white southerners, therefore, he was caught in a political trap. JFK would address the general public and bring up the injustices that were committed against black Americans, unfortunately, due to his need for the white southern vote and his short presidency he would not accomplish really anything in the ways of civil rights.
Although the way LBJ had to take office is horrible his stance on civil rights was exactly what was needed. Most people remember LBJ as the president who did Vietnam, however, that view misses all that he did domestically for civil rights. From the beginning, LBJ’s stance was that equal rights were written into the constitution and legislators have taken an oath to honor that constitution, therefore, it is common sense that black Americans should have assured civil rights. He sold it to Congress as a matter of honoring the constitution, but today we know that LBJ really thought of this as an obvious need to treat all of America’s citizens with equality. Unlike Kennedy, LBJ was an enforcer and planned to enforce civil rights. He was not motivated politically to try and win the white southerners votes he had never had their support so instead, he worked for equality for all. He even used some leverage from JFK’s tragic death to push to Congress that civil rights for black American’s is what JFK would have wanted.
Today it is hard to imagine being arrested simply for playing music in a city park but unfortunately, this was a reality that many folk musicians and their listeners faced if they chose “organize” without permission. The sixties as I see it was a time where Beatniks faced oppression for choosing to be individuals in a public place. Jonny the foot wanted to challenge this and chose to express himself vocally in a public place and was arrested for his chosen form of expression. He left his not so perfect niche in Nebraska and come to a place where people could be individuals as weird and wonderful as they wanted. He’s chosen form of expression was feet art that showed the miles he put on them similar to the way a car shows its mileage. He, like many other Beatniks, was after individuality. This wasn’t uncommon for the people of his generation that grew up un the cookie cutter towns that preached materialism and sameness. Not everyone chose to express themselves like Johnny. One form of expression arose in the form of the Folk Revival where musicians like Bob Dylan proved their individuality lyrically speaking out against injustices through rhythm and lyrics. Some of these Folk revivalists were women like Joan Baez who chose to express her independence and liberation as a woman from men who wanted to tie her down. In the end, all of these people were after the same thing, freedom to express themselves where ever they chose. They were met by the “upstanding citizens” who arrested and brutalized them for simply protesting or playing music publically. This was the cost of being an individual, potential arrest, police brutality, and jail time. Today, in a time where singing and participating in demonstrations in a public park is not something people are being arrested for, it is easy to forget the social change that the Beatniks and Folk Revivalists brought about, however, without them we may not be so familiar with the ability to express ourselves.
This week we read a lot about Anne Moody and how she was affected by all the tensions that were surrounding her youth. Anne Moody at points would become almost physically ill thinking all of the injustice that was happening around her and more so than that she would become ill thinking about how all of the adults around her did nothing to stop them. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that everything that we have learned about in history has an actual effect on people. For instance, Anne Moody was still in high school and was affected by the Brown vs. Board of Education supreme court decision.
Due to the nonspecific wording of the ruling, schools were in no rush to integrate so Anne Moody would not end up going to a white high school. However, in her town, the white people organized and built a really nice school so that maybe the black people would not want to integrate because it would be “equal”. I had heard that school districts would do things like this, but when you read about Anne Moody’s life these events really stand out as injustices. White people in the south were so set against their children going to integrated schools that they would spend loads of money to try and prevent it. Today we realize how absolutely absurd that it and how senseless it is to spend all of that money to protect their moronic racism.
I was also really struck by the section where Emma had her foot blown off by Wilbert, yet no one blamed Wilbert instead they blamed the white man. I think the way that Anne Moody explained the situation makes it clear that the injustices were much greater than inconveniences, men really could not get jobs that paid enough to provide to their families. The black freedom struggle was more than a political movement, but it was also a struggle for economic equality. In this section of Anne Moody’s account, I think she wants her audience to see that and while I don’t think anyone excuses Wilbert for his actions I think everyone can sympathize with him and see how this inequality has driven him to a point of almost insanity full of misdirected anger.
In conclusion, Anne Moody’s life put the historical events that we’ve learned about in school into perspective and shows that they had actual effects on real people not just effects on the NAACP and the political movement. Additionally, they affected the economic livelihood of black men and while these men were not slaves they often worked like one and were not compensated nearly enough to work and be treated the way they were.