Post War Civil Rights Movement

The end of the World War II marked the new period in the history of the US and the civil rights movement. At the same time, it was an extremely contradictive epoch where the awakening of civil rights consciousness confronted the strong opposition from the part of the state and conservative circles.
First of all, it should be pointed out that World War II made human life and freedom really important notions to the extent that human rights became the primary concern of the world community which treated them as the main and universal value. In fact, it was obvious that the violation of civil rights was one of the basic cause that led to World War II that was the greatest tragedy in the world history and the US played an important role in the struggle for civil rights, freedom and democracy. On the other hand, the actual situation with civil rights in the US was still far from ideal, though civil rights movement had started to grow in power.
One of the main problems of the post war civil rights movement was the anti-communist policy of the state which threatened to civil rights of many Americans and undermined the basic principles of democracy. The fear of the communist threat was the result of the fact that the USSR became the only real opponent of the US in the international arena since Germany as well as Europe at large was ruined by the war.
Naturally, in such circumstances a new wave of social paranoia and anti-communist movement overwhelmed the whole country. However, the main ideologist has been changed. At that time it was McCarthy. He had become well known after 1950 when he charged that communists infiltrated the American State Department. Naturally, he suggested to clean it up. Being a chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on investigations, he held hearings to question government officials and others about suspected communist activities. Later on, this campaign of persecution and slander became known as McCarthyism. Quite remarkably that even such a famous person as C. Chaplin, who sympathized to communist movement, also suffered from such a policy of the US. Naturally, such a policy resulted in the development of social tension between representative of different social classes and followers of different political beliefs. On the other hand, communist movement also stimulated the development of civil rights movement since, being oppressed, American communist could not fail to fight for human rights and provoked other citizens conscious of civil rights help them change the existing order.
This period was marked by the great shift in the society that occurred because of the change of the role of men and women that was the result of the war. Men that returned from the war had to adapt to a new peaceful life that had changed. Furthermore, the role of women had changed as well. The war forced them to replace men and consequently after the war there appeared the problem of job places for veterans. Moreover, the psychology of a new generation was different, more independent and striving for freedom.
So, the period after the World War II led to the change of social psychology accompanied by the progressing political pressure aimed at the communist movement and it resulted in the development of social paranoia and limitations of certain civil rights and liberties, particularly political one. As a result, the major arguments of that epoch concerned the problem of the campaign launched by the state against its citizens in the struggle against the communist threat. To put it more precisely, the main argument was whether the means are justified by the ends or not, i.e. whether the prevention of illusionary external threat by means of oppression of civil rights of American citizens is acceptable or not.
The growing opposition and development of the civil rights movement in late 1940s and 1950s perfectly demonstrated that the response of American society was negative and Americans would rather prefer to protect their civil rights than become victims of the state that did not respect their civil rights and threaten to transform in a totalitarian state.
In such a way, the dilemma of the post war US was solved in favor of civil rights and American society demonstrated that its civil rights consciousness had been higher than probably ever before. No wonder that this period was marked by the rapid progress of civil rights movement aiming at the elimination of discrimination in American society, especially on the basis of racial differences. In fact, in this period African Americans had gained the basic civil rights they had never had before and the improvement of their civil rights was unprecedented to the extent that they had got an opportunity to really feel equal to other members of society. The similar trends could observed in feminist and other movements that struggled for civil rights and equal opportunities for all Americans.

1. Lewis and Patterson, Major Problems in American History. New York: Random House, 1998.
2. Lewis, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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