Why did the progress of civil rights in America falter in the latter part of the 1950s?

Essay by SpacechimpHigh School, 11th gradeB, March 2004

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Following the Montgomery bus boycott of 1956 the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was established. The creation of this organization caused divisions within the Civil Rights movement and tensions with other groups, in particular the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP initially saw the SCLC as antagonists and hindered many of their early campaigns/ rallies. Although cooperation between the two groups increased over time, the SCLC was not able to achieve much in its first few years. Martin Luther King, leader of the SCLC, was known for clashing with other leaders such as Adam Clayton Powell and Jesse Jackson. He had also been accused of being a 'glory seeker' and having a 'messiah complex'. The SCLC concentrated on the South and non-violent campaigns - this was an important role, different to that of the NAACP, but early disorganisation and some areas of weak leadership may have slowed progress at this time.

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which had emerged in the 1940s, had suffered when its leader James Farmer had left in the mid-1950s and so contributed little to the movement during this time.

Another problem that faced the civil rights movement at this time was the white backlash following the progress that had been made in the early 1950s, in particular the Brown ruling. A number of White Citizen's Councils were set up resulting in the closure of a number of NAACP branches, which subsequently became illegal in Alabama. This white backlash was demonstrated by the events of Little Rock- although the Supreme Court had ruled against segregated schools, desegregation was difficult to enforce without violent opposition. These matters were only made worse by the State Government- the governor of Arkansas, Faubus, felt that by retaining segregation he would be re-elected. This...