Ms. Rose26 February 2017MLK Synthesis Essay “The hard truth is that the unity of the movement is a remarkable feature of major importance”(King 123). Throughout history, the United States has experienced a multitude of social movements.There have been social movements by many demographics: women, African Americans, NativeAmericans, and for many causes: civil rights, war protests, political policy.
The common threadbetween those effective social movements is widespread unification. This is seen throughout thehistory of the world. Whether the movement be the American Revolution or the CatholicReformation, success is dependent upon the unity of the movement. Standing united in solidarityis the most powerful weapon humankind can use to effect change in society. Individuals will swiftly encounter difficulty in protesting or resisting injustice alone, yetgroups of individuals together have a greater power. One has only to look back on the varioussocial movements in the United States to see the truth in this. During the Civil Rights movementof the 1960s, individuals joined together in groups to perform sit-ins or freedom rides.
Thefreedom riders were some of the first protesters to initiate the widespread Civil Rightsmovement. Their unity in the face of brutality and fierce opposition was a key factor that”generated more publicity and inspired dozens more Freedom Rides”Though they were few at first, they were like-minded and strongly unified in the pursuit of justice and equality. This isseen in a similar movement: the women’s suffrage movement. In the election of 1872, Susan B.Anthony cast her vote in the presidential election. This in itself might not seem so extraordinary,if it were not for the fact that women were prohibited from voting in 1872. During this time, thewomen’s suffrage movement was not large or strongly unified, and Anthony quicklyencountered difficulty. Two weeks after she cast her vote, she was arrested.
As the movementgained more support, however, and Anthony worked hard for unity, the opposition diminished inthe face of their strength. In 1917, strongly united women marched for their right to vote in therain , and it was only a matter of time before they won the vote with the 19th amendment. WhatSusan B. Anthony had been unable to accomplish single-handedly, women as a whole wontogether. Together, individuals find power. Though one might argue that the most substantial change occurs from a strong leader, anexecutive order, or a Supreme Court decision, the desire and motivation to create changesoriginates from the people. The United States, touted as the most powerful nation in the world,backed out of the Vietnam War as a result of widespread, strongly unified antiwar protests.
Afterlearning of the beginning of the war, many college students launched protests. As the U.S.continued to fight in Vietnam with no tangible outcomes except mass casualties, more and moreAmericans joined in these anti-war protests. Eventually they presented one front of angrilyprotesting demonstrators and became “an unstoppable force, pressuring American leaders toreconsider its commitment” . The United States withdrew.
Likewise, the freedom riders, a smallgroup at first, became an unstoppable force which urged substantial change in governmentpolicy. They, by helping to initiate the Civil Rights movement, helped elicit civil rights legislation. On such example is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By presenting the beginnings of anational movement, they were “putting pressure on President Kennedy” to take action and “endthe violence” . In this way, the most substantial change comes from the people, both as theinitiators of change, and as those who lay the groundwork and do the heavy lifting. Society and government, as products of humanity, must be subject to the will of people.
Therefore, the power of the people becomes ultimate when they unite. Returning to the anti-warprotests during Vietnam, we see that government, often regarded as the ultimate power in acountry, found itself bogged down by unpopular sentiment and the realization that “it isimpossible to win a long, protracted war without popular support” . As the protests proliferated,the cost of the war was more and more difficult to maintain. Eventually, the cost was too high.The government backed out.
The people, united, were unstoppable. The women’s movement,also, demonstrated this power. By uniting, they claimed their roles as members and creators ofsociety and government. They demanded their right to be represented, and they won. Theirprolonged marches and dedicated protesters, fearless of the elements, garnered attention andultimately triumphed over opposition . Once the people can unite with a strong enough goal,government must change.
Furthermore, strong unification in a social movement not only has the power to changegovernment and society, but to reshape it or model it into something entirely new. Before theCivil Rights movement, United States society was deeply divided. The two races: black andwhite, lived separate lives. Social interaction and collaboration were non-existent.
This allchanged with the freedom riders. After “the Interstate Commerce Commission issued rulesprohibiting segregated transportation facilities” as a result of the riders, the first step had been taken towards creating a new society for a new generation . A new society was on the rise.
. In thesame manner, women reshaped the political and social landscape. The unity of their movementnot only forced government to change and grant them the vote, but it demonstrated the potentialimpact women could have when they took up their own cause . This impact has become evidentin society today, where both men and women of different races can hold powerful jobs acrossAmerica. Across time, we have seen that groups of individuals can effect change more productivelythan individuals alone. As they unite, they gain the power to alter society.
They can achieve thisthrough government, powerful leaders, representatives, or their own voices as they claim theirauthority. It is important to recognize this power of solidarity and unification, and utilize thisultimate weapon for positive societal change. When the people are awakened to their own power,equality and justice are in reach. Sources:A.
“Suffragists marching in rainy street during the Grand Picket, March 4, 1917.” The Library of Congress. N.
Web. 15 Feb. 2017.
B. “The Freedom Rides.” The Freedom Rides. Congress of Racial Equality, n.d. Web.
15 Feb. 2017.C. “The Antiwar Movement.” Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d.
Web. 15 Feb. 2017.