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Various movements seeking civil rights, human rights and social justice since the Second World War have become known as a civil rights movement. The first movement that became famous under this name was the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, which sought rights for African-Americans. In the United States, some African-Americans suffered from severe forms of oppression, including enforced racial segregation and second class citizenship, which were legally sanctioned by Jim Crow laws. Subsequently, other disadvantaged groups in the US and in other nations have organized their own movements, inspired by the tactics and rhetoric of the American civil rights movement. Such movements advocating for equal rights emerged both in democracies and in countries without a democratic government. In non-democratic states, mass movements for democracy have emerged which are also inspired by earlier civil rights movements.

During the second half of the 20th century Western societies introduced legislation that tried to remove discrimination on the basis of race, gender or disability, starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This declaration, which affirmed the democratic principles first enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence bolstered the ongoing activities of nations and groups whose civil rights were being denied, either de jure or de facto. In their later years, some of the movements fractured and certain factions took a sharp turn to the radical left, and then lost popularity. The struggles of these movements took place during a postwar period of increasing worldwide civil unrest and popular rebellion, and they coincided with the struggle against colonialism in colonies in Africa and Asia, which resulted in decolonization, and with political opposition by emerging student movements.


The Civil Rights Movement in the United States refers in part to a set of noted events and reform movements in America aimed at abolishing public and private acts of racial discrimination, particularly, acts against African Americans, between 1954 to 1968, most notably in the southern United States. It is sometimes referred to as the Second Reconstruction era.

African-Americans against racism in the United States

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In the early years of the 20th century in the United States, racially discriminatory laws and racial violence aimed at African-Americans began to mushroom.[How to reference and link to summary or text] This period is sometimes referred to as the nadir of American race relations.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Elected, appointed, or hired government authorities began to require or permit discrimination, specifically in the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Kansas.[How to reference and link to summary or text] There were four required or permitted acts of discrimination against African Americans. They included racial segregation – upheld by the United States Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 - which was legally mandated by southern states and nationwide at the local level of government, voter suppression or disfranchisement in the southern states,[How to reference and link to summary or text] denial of economic opportunity or resources nationwide, and private acts of violence and mass racial violence aimed at African Americans unhindered or encouraged by government authorities. Although racial discrimination was present nationwide,[How to reference and link to summary or text] the combination of law, public and private acts of discrimination, marginal economic opportunity, and violence directed toward African Americans in the southern states became known as Jim Crow laws. These laws aimed to deprive African Americans of their rights and reflected the sentiment of the white population in states with these laws.

Noted strategies employed prior to the Civil Rights Movement of 1955 to 1968 to abolish discrimination against African Americans initially included litigation and lobbying efforts by traditional organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). These efforts were the distinction of the American Civil Rights Movement from 1896 to 1954. The aftermath of the Brown v. Board of Education case—which declared separate but equal unconstitutional—was really what triggered the Civil Rights Movement, as various parts of the South refused to comply with it.

By 1955, private citizens became frustrated by gradual approaches to implement desegregation by federal and state governments and resistance by proponents of racial segregation and voter suppression. In defiance, these citizens adopted a combined strategy of direct action with nonviolent resistance known as civil disobedience. This strategy was inspired by the tactics and philosophy of non-violent resistance that were developed by Mahatma Gandhi, first during the early civil rights movement in South Africa and then during India's struggle for independence from Great Britain.

The acts of civil disobedience, organized and supported by civil rights organizations such as the NAACP, CORE, SCLC and SNCC produced crisis situations between protesters and government authorities. The authorities of federal, state, and local governments often had to act with an immediate response to end the crisis situations – sometimes in the protesters' favor. Some of the different forms of civil disobedience employed include boycotts- which began after Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of a segregated bus, as successfully practiced by the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956) in Alabama.

The success and influence of the Montgomery Bus Boycott led to Martin Luther King Jr being one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. The movement managed to break down racial segregation through "sit-ins" as demonstrated by the influential Greensboro sit-in (1960) in North Carolina, and marches as exhibited by the Selma to Montgomery marches (1965) in Alabama. Direct action in the South also involved ensuring the de facto desegregation of public transport through freedom rides and organizing voter registration through the Freedom Summer project. Among the notable actions in Northern states was the Chicago Freedom Movement of 1965-1967, though it lost most of its strength after the march on Cicero.

Noted achievements of the Civil Rights Movement include the legal victory in the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) case that overturned the legal doctrine of "separate but equal" and made segregation legally impermissible, passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned discrimination in employment practices and public accommodations, passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that restored voting rights, and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 that banned discrimination in the sale or rental of housing.

In a relatively stable political system, after a status had been reached where every citizen has the same rights by law, practical issues of discrimination remain. Even if every person is treated equally by the state, there may not be social equality because of discrimination within society, such as in the workplace, which may hinder civil liberties in everyday life.

Later in the movement's trajectory, groups like the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, the Weathermen and the Brown Berets turned to more militant tactics to make a social revolution that would overthrow capitalism and establish, in particular, what they considered to be self-determination for resident U.S. minorities. To counter and ultimately destroy this trend, the United States Government launched a coordinated effort involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency called COINTELPRO that was designed to subvert such groups and their activities.

Black Power

Main article: Black Power

By 1966 the emergence of the Black Power movement (1966-1975) began gradually to eclipse the original "integrated power" aims of the Civil Rights Movement that had been espoused by Martin Luther King Jr. Advocates of Black Power argued for black self-determination, and to assert that the assimilation inherent in integration robs Africans of their common heritage and dignity. The theorist and activist Omali Yeshitela argues that Africans have historically fought to protect their lands, cultures and freedoms from European colonialists, and that any integration into the society which has stolen another people and their wealth is actually an act of treason. Today, most Black Power advocates have not changed their self-sufficiency argument.

Chicano Movement

Main article: Chicano Movement

The Chicano movement blossomed in the 1960s and was active through the late 1970s in various regions of the U.S. The movement had roots in the civil rights struggles that had preceded it, adding to it the cultural and generational politics of the era.

The early heroes of the movement — Rodolfo Gonzales in Denver, Colorado and Reies Tijerina in New Mexico — adopted a historical account of the preceding hundred and twenty-five years that obscured much of Mexican-American history. Gonzales and Tijerina embraced a form of nationalism that was based on the failure of the United States government to live up to the promises that it had made in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In that account, Mexican-Americans were a conquered people who simply needed to reclaim their birthright and cultural heritage as part of a new nation, which later became known as Aztlán. That version of the past did not, on the other hand, take into account the history of those Mexicans who had immigrated to the United States. It also gave little attention to the rights of undocumented immigrants in the United States in the 1960s — not surprising, since immigration did not have the political significance it was to acquire in the years to come. It was only a decade later when activists, such as Bert Corona in California, embraced the rights of undocumented workers and helped broaden the focus to include their rights. Instead, when the movement dealt with practical problems most activists focused on the most immediate issues confronting Mexican-Americans: unequal educational and employment opportunities, political disenfranchisement, and police brutality. In the heady days of the late 1960s, when the student movement was active around the globe, the Chicano movement brought about more or less spontaneous actions, such as the mass walkouts by high school students in Denver and East Los Angeles in 1968 and the Chicano Moratorium in Los Angeles in 1970. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was one of the leading organizations advocating Black Power.

The movement was particularly strong at the college level, where activists formed MEChA, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, which promoted Chicano Studies programs and a generalized ethno-nationalist agenda.

American Indian Movement

At a time when sit-ins were a common U.S. protest tactic, American Indian Movement (AIM) takeovers in their early days were noticeably forceful. Some appeared to be spontaneous outcomes of protest gatherings; other times they included deliberate armed seizure of public facilities. The Alcatraz Island occupation of 1969, although commonly associated with AIM, pre-dates the organization but was a catalyst for its formation. In 1970 AIM occupied abandoned property at the Naval Air Station near Minneapolis, Minnesota. In July 1971 AIM assisted a takeover of the Winter Dam, Lac Courte Oreilles, Wisconsin. The Bureau of Indian Affairs Headquarters in Washington D.C. got seized in November 1972; the building was sacked, and 24 were arrested. The Custer County Courthouse was occupied in 1973, though the occupation was routed after a riot took place. The Wounded Knee Incident also took place then, lasted 71 days, and left at least two dead.

Gender equity issues

If the period associated with First-wave feminism focused upon absolute rights such as suffrage (which led to women attaining the right to vote in the early part of the 20th century), the period of the second-wave feminism was concerned with the issue of economic equality. One phenomenon included the recognition of lesbian women within the movement, due to the simultaneous rise of the gay rights movement, and the deliberate activism of lesbian feminist groups, such as the Lavender Menace.

The developments led to explicit lesbian feminist campaigns and groups, and some feminists went further to argue that heterosexual sexual relationships automatically subordinated women, and that the only true independence could come in lesbian relationships ("lesbian separatism"). The second wave is sometimes linked with radical feminist theory. One interesting and under-documented aspect of the second-wave was the rise of women's cooperative living communities. An example of one such intentional community was the Chatanika River Women's Colony.

LGBT rights and gay liberation

Since the mid 19th century in Germany, social reformers have used the language of civil rights to argue against the "oppression of same-sex sexuality", same-sex emotional intimacy, and gender variance. Largely, but not exclusively, these LGBT movements have characterized gender variant and homosexually-oriented people as a minority group or groups; this was the approach taken by the homophile movement of the 1940s, 50s and early 60s. With the rise of secularism in the West, an increasing sexual openness, Women's Liberation, the 1960s counterculture, and a range of new social movements, the homophile movement underwent a rapid growth and transformation, with a focus on building community and unapologetic activism. This new phase came to be known as Gay Liberation.

The words "Gay Liberation" echoed "Women's Liberation"; the Gay Liberation Front consciously took its name from the National Liberation Fronts of Vietnam and Algeria; and the slogan "Gay Power", as a defiant answer to the rights-oriented homophile movement, was inspired by Black Power and Chicano Power. The GLF's statement of purpose explained:

"We are a revolutionary group of men and women formed with the realization that complete sexual liberation for all people cannot come about unless existing social institutions are abolished. We reject society's attempt to impose sexual roles and definitions of our nature."

— GLF statement of purpose

GLF activist Martha Shelley wrote,
"We are women and men who, from the time of our earliest memories, have been in revolt against the sex-role structure and nuclear family structure."

— "Gay is Good", Martha Shelley, 1970

Gay Liberationists aimed as transforming fundamental institutions of society such as gender and the family. In order to achieve such liberation, consciousness raising and direct action were employed. Specifically, the word 'gay' was preferred to previous designations such as homosexual or homophile; some saw 'gay' as a rejection of the false dichotomy heterosexual/homosexual. Lesbians and gays were urged to "come out", publicly revealing their sexuality to family, friends and colleagues as a form of activism, and to counter shame with gay pride. "Gay Lib" groups were formed around the world, in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, the UK, US, Italy and elsewhere. The lesbian group Lavender Menace was also formed in the U.S in response to both the male domination of other Gay Lib groups and the anti-lesbian sentiment in the Women's Movement. Lesbianism was advocated as a feminist choice for women, and the first currents of lesbian separatism began to emerge.

By the late 1970s, the radicalism of Gay Liberation was eclipsed by a return to a more formal movement that became known as the Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement.

Civil rights movement in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland saw the formation of the Campaign for Social Justice in Belfast in 1964, followed by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association on the 1st of February 1967.[1] The organisation's demands were:[2]

  • Universal franchise in local government elections in line with the franchise in the rest of the United Kingdom
  • The redrawing of electoral boundaries by an independent Commission to ensure fair representation
  • Legislation against discrimination in employment at local government level and the provision of machinery to remedy local government grievances
  • A compulsory points system for housing which would ensure fair allocation
  • The repeal of the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Acts of 1922, 1933 and 1943
  • The disbandment of the Ulster Special Constabulary
  • The withdrawal of the Public Order (Amendment) Bill

These demands for reform, and the subsequent backlash by some in the unionist community, can be considered to have been one of the causes of the Troubles, a violent conflict, akin to a civil warTemplate:POV-statement that lasted for more than thirty years.

In a conscious imitation of tactics used by the American Civil Rights Movement,[How to reference and link to summary or text] the new organisation held marches, pickets, sit-ins and protests to pressure the Government of Northern Ireland to grant these demands. The first civil rights march in Northern Ireland was held on 24 August 1968 between Coalisland and Dungannon.[3]

Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday (Irish: Domhnach na Fola) is the term used to describe an incident in Derry, Northern Ireland, on 30 January 1972 in which 26 civil rights protesters were shot by members of the 1st Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment led by Lieutenant-Colonel Derek Wilford and his second-in-command Captain (later General) Mike Jackson, who had joint responsibility for the operation, during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march in the Bogside area of the city. Thirteen people, six of whom were minors, died immediately, while the death of another person 4½ months later has been attributed to the injuries he received on the day. Two protesters were injured when run down by army vehicles.[4] Many witnesses including bystanders and journalists testify that all those shot were unarmed. Five of those wounded were shot in the back.

Civil Rights Movement in Argentina

Student movements

German student movement

The Civil Rights Movement in Germany was a left-wing backlash against the post-Nazi Party era of the country, which still contained many of the conservative policies of both that era and of the pre-World War I Kaiser monarchy. The movement took place mostly among disillusioned students and was largely a protest movement analogous to others around the globe during the late 1960s . It was largely a reaction against the perceived authoritarianism and hypocrisy of the German government and other Western governments, and the poor living conditions of students. A wave of protests - some violent - swept Germany, further fuelled by over-reaction by the police and encouraged by other near-simultaneous protest movements across the world. Following more than a century of conservatism among German students, the German student movement also marked a significant major shift to the left-wing and radicalisation of student politics. A small number of students became so radicalised that they set up a terror group, the Red Army Faction (RAF), which carried out bombings, kidnappings and assassinations, mainly to capitalists, from the 1970s into the early 1990s.

France 1968

See also: May 1968

A general strike broke out across France in May 1968. It quickly began to reach near-revolutionary proportions before being discouraged by the French Communist Party, and finally suppressed by the government, which accused the communists of plotting against the Republic. Some philosophers and historians have argued that the rebellion was the single most important revolutionary event of the 20th century because it wasn't participated in by a lone demographic, such as workers or racial minorities, but was rather a purely popular uprising, superseding ethnic, cultural, age and class boundaries.

It began as a series of student strikes that broke out at a number of universities and high schools in Paris, following confrontations with university administrators and the police. The de Gaulle administration's attempts to quash those strikes by further police action only inflamed the situation further, leading to street battles with the police in the Latin Quarter, followed by a general strike by students and strikes throughout France by ten million French workers, roughly two-thirds of the French workforce. The protests reached the point that de Gaulle created a military operations headquarters to deal with the unrest, dissolved the National Assembly and called for new parliamentary elections for 23 June 1968.

The government was close to collapse at that point (De Gaulle had even taken temporary refuge at an Air force base in Germany), but the revolutionary situation evaporated almost as quickly as it arose. Workers went back to their jobs, urged on by the Confédération Générale du Travail, the leftist union federation, and the Parti Communiste Français (PCF), the French Communist Party. When the elections were finally held in June, the Gaullist party emerged even stronger than before.

Most of the protesters espoused left-wing causes, communism or anarchism. Many saw the events as an opportunity to shake up the "old society" in many social aspects, including methods of education, sexual freedom and free love. A small minority of protesters, such as the Occident group, espoused far-right causes.

On 29 May several hundred thousand protesters led by the CGT marched through Paris, chanting, "Adieu, de Gaulle!"

While the government appeared to be close to collapse, de Gaulle chose not to say adieu. Instead, after ensuring that he had sufficient loyal military units mobilized to back him if push came to shove, he went on the radio the following day (the national television service was on strike) to announce the dissolution of the National Assembly, with elections to follow on 23 June. He ordered workers to return to work, threatening to institute a state of emergency if they did not.

Tlatelolco Massacre, Mexico

The Tlatelolco Massacre, also known as Tlatelolco's Night (from a book title), took place on the afternoon and night of October 2, 1968, in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco section of Mexico City. The death toll remains uncertain: some estimates place the number of deaths in the thousands, but most sources report 200-300 deaths. Many more were wounded, and several thousand arrests occurred.

The massacre was preceded by months of political unrest in the Mexican capital, echoing student demonstrations and riots all over the world during 1968. The Mexican students wanted to exploit the attention focused on Mexico City for the 1968 Olympic Games. President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, however, was determined to stop the demonstrations and, in September, he ordered the army to occupy the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the largest university in Latin America. Students were beaten and arrested indiscriminately. Rector Javier Barros Sierra resigned in protest on September 23.

Student demonstrators were not deterred, however. The demonstrations grew in size, until on October 2, after student strikes lasting nine weeks, 15,000 students from various universities marched through the streets of Mexico City, carrying red carnations to protest the army's occupation of the university campus. By nightfall, 5,000 students and workers, many of them with spouses and children, had congregated outside an apartment complex in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco for what was supposed to be a peaceful rally. Among their chants were México – Libertad – México – Libertad ("Mexico – Liberty – Mexico –Liberty"). Rally organizers attempted to call off the protest when they noticed an increased military presence in the area.

The massacre began at sunset when army and police forces — equipped with armored cars and tanks — surrounded the square and began firing live rounds into the crowd, hitting not only the protesters, but also other people who were present for reasons unrelated to the demonstration. Demonstrators and passers-by alike, including children, were caught in the fire; soon, mounds of bodies lay on the ground. The killing continued through the night, with soldiers carrying out mopping-up operations on a house-to-house basis in the apartment buildings adjacent to the square. Witnesses to the event claim that the bodies were later removed in garbage trucks.

The official government explanation of the incident was that armed provocateurs among the demonstrators, stationed in buildings overlooking the crowd, had begun the firefight. Suddenly finding themselves sniper targets, the security forces had simply returned fire in self-defense.

Massacre at Thammasat

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The Massacre of 6 October 1976 was a violent crackdown on leftist students and protesters that occurred in the grounds of Thammasat University and at Sanam Luang in Bangkok, Thailand. Students from various Bangkok universities were demonstrating against the return to Thailand of Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachorn, who had been forced from power three years earlier but had recently reentered the country as a Buddhist monk. The protests began at Sanam Luang, but soon moved onto the nearby campus of Thammasat University, forcing the university to suspend its examinations.

The attack and massacre was led by Thai military and police units, but especially by the brutal right-wing paramilitary Red Gaur and the royalist Village Scouts. It was sparked by a mock hanging of a student protester, inspired by the murder by hanging of three demonstrators in Nakhon Pathom. However, a photo of the student in the mock hanging was retouched to create a resemblance to the Crown Prince, and the altered photo was printed by two Bangkok newspapers. This doctored photo inflamed the right-wing and caused their violent response.

Officially, 46 people died in the crackdown, which saw protesters shot, beaten and bodies mutilated, though the actual death toll was probably much higher. The massacre led immediately to a military coup against the democratic government of Prime Minister Seni Pramoj and the appointment of Tanin Kraivixien as Prime Minister.

Democracy movements

South Korean democracy movement

Philippine revolution of 1986

Main article: EDSA Revolution

Chinese democracy movement

Burmese democracy movement

Reform movements in communist Eastern Europe

Prague Spring

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The Prague Spring (Czech: Pražské jaro, Slovak: Pražská jar, Russian: пражская весна) was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia starting January 5 1968 and running until August 20 of that year when the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies (except for Romania) invaded the country.

During World War II Czechoslovakia fell into the Soviet sphere of influence, the Eastern Bloc. Since 1948 there were no parties other than the Communist Party in the country and it was indirectly managed by the Soviet Union. Unlike other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the communist take-over in Czechoslovakia in 1948 was, although as brutal as elsewhere, a genuine popular movement. Reform in the country did not lead to the convulsions seen in Hungary.

Towards the end of World War II Joseph Stalin wanted Czechoslovakia, and signed an agreement with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, that Prague would be liberated by the Red Army despite the fact that the United States Army under General George S. Patton could have liberated the city earlier. This was important for the spread of pro-Russian (and pro-communist) propaganda that came right after the war. People still remembered what they felt as Czechoslovakia's betrayal by the West at the Munich Agreement. For these reasons the people voted for communists in the 1948 elections - the last democratic poll for a long time.

From the middle of the 1960s Czechs and Slovaks showed increasing signs of rejection of the existing regime. This change was reflected by reformist elements within the communist party by installing Alexander Dubček as party leader. Dubček's reforms of the political process inside Czechoslovakia, which he referred to as Socialism with a human face, did not represent a complete overthrow of the old regime, as was the case in Hungary in 1956. Dubček's changes had broad support from the society, including the working class. However, it was still seen by the Soviet leadership as a threat to their hegemony over other states of the Eastern Bloc and to the very safety of the Soviet Union. Czechoslovakia was in the middle of the defensive line of the Warsaw Pact and its possible defection to the enemy was unacceptable during the Cold War.

However, a sizeable minority in the ruling party, especially at higher leadership levels, was opposed to any lessening of the party's grip on society and they actively plotted with the leadership of the Soviet Union to overthrow the reformers. This group watched in horror as calls for multi-party elections and other reforms began echoing throughout the country.

Between the nights of August 20 and August 21 1968, Eastern Bloc armies from five Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia. During the invasion, Soviet tanks ranging in numbers from 5,000 to 7,000 occupied the streets. They were followed by a large number of Warsaw Pact troops ranging from 200,000 to 600,000.

The Soviets insisted that they had been invited to invade the country, stating that loyal Czechoslovak Communists had told them that they were in need of "fraternal assistance against the counter-revolution". A letter which was found in 1989 proved an invitation to invade did indeed exist. During the attack of the Warsaw Pact armies, 72 Czechs and Slovaks were killed (19 of those in Slovakia) and hundreds were wounded (up to September 3, 1968). Alexander Dubček called upon his people not to resist. He was arrested and taken to Moscow, along with several of his colleagues.

Charter 77

Main article: Charter 77

Revolutions of 1989

Main article: Revolutions of 1989

Popular revolutions in post-communist states

Main article: Color Revolutions

Civil rights and anti-colonial movements in Africa

South Africa

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Early years: 1960-1976

Although the African National Congress (ANC) and others opposed to apartheid had initially focused on non-violent campaigns, the brutality of the Sharpeville Massacre of March 21, 1960 caused many blacks to embrace the idea of violent resistance to apartheid. However, although the ANC's armed wing started its campaign in 1961, no victory was in sight by the time that Steve Biko was a medical student in the late nineteen-sixties. Even as the nation's leading opposition groups like the ANC proclaimed a commitment to armed struggle, their leaders had failed to organize a credible military effort. If their commitment to revolution had inspired many, the success of the white regime in quashing it had dampened the spirits of many.

It was in this context that black students, Biko most notable among them, began critiquing the liberal whites with whom they worked in anti-apartheid student groups, as well as the official non-racialism of the ANC. They saw progress towards power as requiring the``dents' Organization in 1969, an all-black student group, and from this grew an increasingly militant Black Consciousness Movement, including the formation of a non-student organization, the Black People's Convention (BPC). This new Black Consciousness Movement not only called for resistance to the policy of Apartheid, freedom of speech, and more rights for South African blacks who were oppressed by the white Apartheid regime, but also black pride and a readiness to make blackness, rather than simple liberal democracy, the rallying point of unapologetically black organizations. Importantly, the group defined black to include other "people of color" in South Africa, most notably the large number of South Africans of Indian descent. The movement stirred many blacks to confront not only the legal but also the cultural and psychological realities of Apartheid, seeking "not black visibility but real black participation" in society and in political struggles. [1]

The gains this movement made were widespread across South Africa. Many black people felt a new sense of pride about being black as the movement helped to expose and critique the inferiority complex felt by many blacks at the time. The group formed Formation Schools to provide leadership seminars, and placed a great importance on decentralization and autonomy, with no person serving as president for more than one year (although Biko was clearly the primary leader of the movement). Early leaders of the movement such as Bennie Khoapa, Barney Pityana, Mapetla Mohapi, and Mamphela Ramphele joined Biko in establishing the Black Community Programmes (BCP) in 1970 as self-help groups for black communities, forming out of the South African Council of Churches (SASO) and the Christian Institute. They also published various journals, including the Black Review, Black Voice, Black Perspective, and Creativity in Development.

On top of building schools and day cares and taking part in other social projects, the BCM through the BCP was involved in the staging of the large scale protests and workers strikes which gripped the nation in 1972 and 1973, especially in Durban. Indeed, in 1973 the government of South Africa began to clamp down on the movement, claiming that their ideas of black development were treasonous, and virtually the entire leadership of SASO and BPC were banned. In late August and September of 1974, after holding rallies in support of the Frelimo government which had taken power in Mozambique, many leaders of the BCM were arrested under the Terrorism Act and the Riotous Assemblies Act. Arrests under these laws allowed the suspension of the doctrine of habeas corpus, and many of those arrested were not formally charged until the next year, resulting in the arrest of the "Pretoria Twelve" and conviction of the "SASO nine", which included Maitshe Mokoape and Patrick Lekota. These were the most prominent among various public trials which gave a forum for members of the BCM to explain their philosophy and to describe the abuses that had been inflicted upon them. Far from crushing the movement, this led to its wider support among black and white South Africans. [2]

Soweto riots and BCM trajectory

Hector Pieterson, one of the first fatalities, is carried by a student during the Soweto riots. Photo by Sam Nzima. The Black Consciousness Movement heavily supported the protests against the policies of the apartheid regime which led to the Soweto riots in June of 1976. The protests began when it was decreed that black students be forced to learn Afrikaans, and that many secondary school classes were to be taught in that language. This was another encroachment against the black population, which generally spoke indigenous languages like Zulu and Xhosa at home, and saw English as offering more prospects for mobility and economic self-sufficiency than did Afrikaans. And the notion that Afrikaans was to define the national identity stood directly against the BCM principle of the development of a unique black identity. The protest began as a non-violent demonstration before police opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds of youths. The government's efforts to suppress the growing movement led to the imprisonment of Steve Biko, who became a symbol of the struggle. Biko died in police custody on September 12, 1977. It should be noted that Steve Biko was a non-violent activist, even though the movement he helped start eventually took up violent resistance. White newspaper editor Donald Woods supported the movement and Biko, whom he had befriended, by leaving South Africa and exposing the truth behind Biko's death at the hands of police by publishing the book Biko.

One month after Biko's death, the South African government declared 17 groups associated with the Black Consciousness Movement to be illegal. Following this, many members joined more concretely political and tightly-structured parties such as the ANC, which used underground cells to maintain their organizational integrity despite banning by the government. And it seemed to some that the key goals of Black Consciousness had been attained, in that black identity and psychological liberation were growing. Nonetheless, in the months following Biko's death, activists continued to hold meetings to discuss resistance. Along with members of the BCM, a new generation of activists who had been inspired by the Soweto riots and Biko's death were present, including Bishop Desmond Tutu. Among the organizations that formed in these meetings to carry the torch of Black Consciousness was the Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO) which persists to this day. [3] Almost immediately after the formation of AZAPO in 1978, its chairman, Ishmael Mkhabela, and secretary, Lybon Mabasa were detained under the Terrorism Act. In the following years, other groups sharing Black Consciousness principles formed, including the Azanian Confederation of Trade Unions (AZACTU), Congress of South African Students (COSAS), Azanian Student Organization (AZASO) and the Port Elizabeth Black Civic Organization (PEBCO).

While many of these organizations still exist in some form, some evolved and could no longer be called parts of the Black Consciousness Movement. And as the influence of the Black Consciousness Movement itself waned, the ANC was returning to its role as the clearly leading force in the resistance to white rule. Still more former members of the Black Consciousness Movement continued to join the ANC, including Thozamile Botha from PEBCO. Others formed new groups. For instance, in 1980, Pityana formed the Black Consciousness Movement of Azania (BCMA), an avowedly Marxist group which used as its political voice. Curtis Nkondo from AZAPO and many members of AZASO and the Black Consciousness Media Workers Association joined the United Democratic Front (UDF). [4] Many groups published important newsletters and journals, such as the Kwasala of the Black Consciousness Media Workers and the London based BCMA journal, Solidarity. And beyond these groups and media outlets, the Black Consciousness Movement had an extremely broad legacy, even as the movement itself was no longer represented by a single organization. Indeed, while the Black Consciousness Movement itself spawned an array of smaller groups, many people who came of age as activists in the Black Consciousness Movement did not join them. Instead, they joined a plethora of other organizations, including the ANC, the Unity Movement, the Pan Africanist Congress, the United Democratic Front and trade and civic unions.

Angola

In Angola, the rebellion of the cnN was taken up by the (UPA), which changed its name to Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola (FNLA) in 1962. On February 4 1961, the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola took credit for the attack on the prison of Luanda, where seven policemen were killed. On March 15, 1961, the UPA, in a tribal attack, started the massacre of white populations and black workers born in other regions of Angola. This region would be retaken by large military operations that, however, would not stop the spread of the guerrilla actions to other regions of Angola, such as Cabinda, the east, the south-east and the central plateaus.

Guinea-Bissau

In Guinea-Bissau, the Marxist African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) started fighting in January 1963. Its guerrilla fighters attacked the Portuguese headquarters in Tite, located to the south of Bissau, the capital, near the Corubal River. Similar actions quickly spread across the entire colony, requiring a strong response from the Portuguese forces.

The war in Guinea placed face to face Amílcar Cabral, the leader of PAIGC, and António de Spínola, the Portuguese general responsible for the local military operations. In 1965 the war spread to the eastern part of the country and in that same year the PAIGC carried out attacks in the north of the country where at the time only the minor guerrilla movement, the Frente de Luta pela Independência Nacional da Guiné (FLING), was fighting. By that time, the PAIGC started receiving military support from the Socialist Bloc, mainly from Cuba, a support that would last until the end of the war.

In Guinea the Portuguese troops mainly took a defensive position, limiting themselves to keeping the territories they already held. This kind of action was particularly devastating to the Portuguese troops who were constantly attacked by the forces of the PAIGC. They were also demoralized by the steady growth of the influence of the liberation supporters among the population that was being recruited in large numbers by the PAIGC.

With some strategic changes by António Spínola in the late 1960s, the Portuguese forces gained momentum and, taking the offensive, became a much more effective force. Between 1968 and 1972, the Portuguese forces took control of the situation and sometimes carried attacks against the PAIGC positions. At this time the Portuguese forces were also adopting subversive means to counter the insurgents, attacking the political structure of the nationalist movement. This strategy culminated in the assassination of Amílcar Cabral in January 1973. Nonetheless, the PAIGC continued to fight back and pushed the Portuguese forces to the limit. This became even more visible after PAIGC received anti-aircraft weapons provided by the Soviets, especially the SA-7 rocket launchers, thus undermining the Portuguese air superiority.

Mozambique

Mozambique was the last territory to start the war of liberation. Its nationalist movement was led by the Marxist-Leninist Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO), which carried out the first attack against Portuguese targets on September 24 1964, in Chai, Cabo Delgado Province. The fighting later spread to Niassa, Tete at the centre of the country. A report from Battalion No. 558 of the Portuguese army makes references to violent actions, also in Cabo Delgado, on August 21 1964. On November 16 of the same year, the Portuguese troops suffered their first losses fighting in the north of the country, in the region of Xilama. By this time, the size of the guerrilla movement had substantially increased; this, along with the low numbers of Portuguese troops and colonists, allowed a steady increase in FRELIMO's strength. It quickly started moving south in the direction of Meponda and Mandimba, linking to Tete with the aid of Malawi.

Until 1967 the FRELIMO showed less interest in Tete region, putting its efforts on the two northernmost districts of the country where the use of landmines became very common. In the region of Niassa, FRELIMO's intention was to create a free corridor to Zambézia. Until April 1970, the military activity of FRELIMO increased steadily, mainly due to the strategic work of Samora Machel in the region of Cabo Delgado.

Role of the Organization of African Unity

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded May 1963. Its basic principles were co-operation between African nations and solidarity between African peoples. Another important objective of the OAU was an end to all forms of colonialism in Africa. This became the major objective of the organization in its first years and soon OAU pressure led to the situation in the Portuguese colonies being brought up at the UN Security Council.

The OAU established a committee based in Dar es Salaam, with representatives from Ethiopia, Algeria, Uganda, Egypt, Tanzania, Zaire, Guinea, Senegal and Nigeria, to support African liberation movements. The support provided by the committee included military training and weapon supplies. The OAU also took action in order to promote the international acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the Revolutionary Government of Angola in Exile (GRAE), composed by the FNLA. This support was transferred to the MPLA and to its leader, Agostinho Neto in 1967. In November of 1972, both movements were recognized by the OAU in order to promote their merger. After 1964, the OAU recognized PAIGC as the legitimate representatives of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde and in 1965 recognised FRELIMO for Mozambique.


See also

References

  1. Bew, Paul; Gordon Gillespie [1993]. "1967" Northern Ireland : A Chronology of the Troubles, 1968-1993, pp. 1, Dublin: Gill & MacMillan.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. 'Bloody Sunday', Derry 30 January 1972 - Names of the Dead and Injured CAIN Web Service, 23 March 2006. Retrieved 27 August 2006.
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Subaruski1 in blue.

  • Societies Westview Press, 2000

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