During the 1950’s, as television grew, there were several big segregation incidents in the south. First Brown versus the Education Board, 1954, which led to the end of segregation in schools. Despite this, it did not attract the media they needed. Next came the Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955. After a year of resisting to use buses a new law was passed ending segregation on transport. This protest, lead by Martin Luther King, brought the first Television media. The third was Little Rock, where blacks wished to enter a white school but the Governor stopped them, which caused violence between whites and blacks.
Television shocked the world with the truth of segregation. President Eisenhower had to act. This led to the civil rights act of 1957, making discrimination illegal. After the 1950s, the civil rights movement had gained in strength. April 1963, a peaceful demonstration, Birmingham, Alabama, King was arrested and chief of police, Bull Connor, ordered his men to attack. Over 3,300 peaceful protesters were attacked with tear gas, fire hoses, dogs and cattle prods. Television showed innocent people being brutally hurt, which stirred public opinion.
In August 1963 250,000 people marched on Washington for civil rights. The 28th August would be the day when King revealed his ‘I have a dream’ speech. This was broadcast around the world persuading people that blacks deserved rights. This persuaded President Kennedy to propose a new legislation that ‘racial discrimination has no place in American life or law. ‘ This led to four more civil rights acts. Despite all the protesting and civil rights, black life still wasn’t improving. By 1965 50% of Negroes lived in ghettos with poor housing and schools, high unemployment, and health care was inadequate.
In 1967 one third of all black families were living below government poverty level compared to 10% of white families. In 1966 a new slogan appeared: ‘Black Power’. The movement was the Black Panthers, set up by Huey Newton and Bobby Searle, who wanted to fight violence with violence. In 1965, Watts, Los Angeles, a riot broke out lasting five days after white police officers provoked blacks. It ended with 34 killed, hundreds injured, and 4,000 arrested. What television showed appalled whites, but to blacks it meant that they would no longer be pushed around. More riots ensued.
1967 the worst riots erupted with 83 people dead. President Johnson set up a commission that looked into riots. Despite TV images showing mistreatment of blacks, the commission still said that racism towards whites was to blame. The assassination of King in 1968 appalled the black community. People believed his killing a conspiracy by the FBI. In 1968, King was giving a speech in Memphis, when he was shot dead by James Earl Ray using a rifle. Blacks were enraged and blamed ‘White America’ for Kings death. Television showed this atrocity, which followed with riots and more people joining the Black Panthers to use violence.
Whilst this was going on in America, they were also fighting communism in Vietnam. 1961, America began to give military assistance to South Vietnam to prevent Communist North attacking. The US troops were inexperienced averaging only 18 years old, and could not compete with the Vietcong and their guerrilla tactics. With 543,000 troops sent, by 1968 30,000 were dead and 100,000 injured. Despite all their power, America couldn’t overcome North Vietnam. Great opposition to the Vietnam War came from black people. A major critic was Muhammad Ali, who was stripped of his world title after refusing to serve in what he called ‘a white man’s war’.
Over $141 billion was spent and cut backs on health care and schools were made. King criticised the government for spending money on war, whilst black people were living in poverty. He put it best when he said “We have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and White boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. ” Television showed the cruel reality of war to America as a new culture arrived: Hippies. They believed in peace and were strongly against the war and against racism.
The 4th May 1970, Kent State University, Ohio, hundreds of students protested against war. National Guard soldiers were brought in so the students threw stones. Without warning, the soldiers released 61 bullets leaving four dead and nine injured. TV images of their own people being killed made the war in Vietnam insupportable and gained support for blacks. To conclude, I believe television played a major role in the case against segregation. TV was the only way people could see what was really happening because no one could visualize the horrific images that were being broadcast.
Television didn’t change the laws, but it influenced enough of the right people to change the laws on civil rights. Television gained support for the black community, but without people such as King there would have been no case for the blacks. It was King and others that people were watching and supporting to follow the case against segregation. Television is a very powerful tool, which has great influential power. Although many laws were passed to help segregation, segregation never came to an official end, and it still a major problem in America which causes the most unrest amongst it’s own people.