Large-Scale Social Change
The Civil Rights Movement
Social movements are purposeful and organized groups that intend to work towards a common social goal (Griffiths & Keirns, 2015). The civil rights movement is one of the social movements in American history. The preliminary stage is the initial stage of a social movement, which involves individuals being aware of an issue, and certain leaders emerge to help address these issues (Griffiths & Keirns, 2015). At the time of the Civil Rights Movement, the problems of racial discrimination and segregation became even more prominent, especially after the introduction of Jim Crow segregation, which implied that Southern blacks would remain in conditions of inequality and poverty (Khan Academy, 2017). After the 1954 Brown v Board of Education supreme case that banned segregation in public schools, as well as Rosa Parks’ arrest in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat for a white man, individuals became more compelled to act on the racial injustices and segregation during that time. Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X arose to help address these issues.
The second stage is the coalescence stage, in which individuals join together and organize to publicize the problem and raise awareness (Griffiths & Keirns, 2015). At this stage, individuals develop a heightened sense of discontentment and begin publicly addressing and condemning the issue. During the civil rights movement, high-profile campaigns highlighted segregation issues in the South. One of them was the Montgomery Bus Boycott, as well as the lunch counter sit-ins whereby African American students refused to sit down at the segregated counters and wait to be dragged out by the police or be served. Institutionalization is stage 3 of the social movement, whereby the movement requires no mass volunteerism as it is already a well-founded organization with a paid workforce (Griffiths & Keirns, 2015).
The Civil Rights Movement became an established organization with well-established leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. Subsequently, the last stage is the decline stage, which occurs once the movement successfully brings about the desired change. In addition, individuals do not take the issue seriously anymore, or when individuals fall away and take on a new movement (Griffiths & Keirns, 2015). The Civil Rights Movement reached the decline stage when the issues of social injustice and discrimination were addressed by enacting such laws as the Fair Housing Act, Voting Rights Act, and the Civil Rights Act. Unfortunately, the issues protested against continue to affect American society today.
One of the events that triggered the movement was the segregation laws. Rosa Parks was in this segregated bus and was asked to give up her seat for a white man who found the white section full. When Parks refused, she was arrested. Subsequently, the Brown v Board of Education, which banned segregation of public schools even though violence and discrimination against Black students in a White-dominated school continued, also steered the movement (Public Broadcasting Service, 2020). In addition, the refusal of students to leave Woolworth’s lunch counter for failure to serve them played a key role, as individuals joined in what was known as the Greensboro sit-ins. During the civil rights movement, some of the key figures included Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, W.E.B. Du Bois, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman.
Resource mobilization is one of the social change theories that can be applied to the civil rights movement. Various organizations, such as the National Association for Advancement of Colored People and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, helped mobilize individuals and resources important for the movement (Griffiths & Keirns, 2015).
Griffiths, H., & Keirns, N. (2015). Introduction to Sociology 2e. OpenStax.
Khan Academy. (2017). Introduction to the Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved from https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/postwarera/civil-rights-movement/a/introduction-to-the-civil-rights-movement
Public Broadcasting Service. (2020). The Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/johngardner/chapters/4b.html
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Watch the following video clip. This Video provides background and examples to help explain macro-level social change. An example of large-scale or macro-level social change can be seen in social movements.
Three parts of social change narrative. (2013). In Doctoroff Media Group, Moyers & Company: How people power generates change [Video].
After watching the Video, consider one of the major social movements of the twentieth century, from civil rights in the United States to Nelson Mandela’s anti-apartheid movement in South Africa to Gandhi’s nonviolent protests in India.
Please address the following four questions:
What are the stages of the social movement involved in the selected social movement? Explain with examples.
What were the elements/events that kindled and helped to develop this movement to bring about social change?
Who were the leaders or important figures in the movement?
Which theory of social change can be applied to the selected movement?
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