Civil Rights Movement

Midterm Essay Exam




This exam asks you to write one thesis-driven formal essay and three short informal essays according to the standards discussed below.


  1. Formal Essay: Compose a thesis-driven 4-6 page essay in response to an essay topic option listed below. This essay should be at least four full pagesin length (typed, double spaced with 1-inch margins). It should be written and organized according to academic paper standards (argument-driven with a thesis statement, well organized, formal tone, grammar and spell-checked) and draw on ample course material. That said, the most important point of evaluation will be the student’s ability to draw upon the course materials (homework and lessons) to respond to the chosen essay question and, thereby, demonstrate engagement with the course materials, an understanding of major themes, and critical thought regarding the subject matter. Research beyond the course materials is not required.


Formal Essay Topic Options:


  • Option One:Draw upon course material to identify and discuss how a diversity of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Americans fought for freedom on the US home-front. You should address how true liberty and freedom were conceived of by these Americans (what did it mean to be truly free?), the obstacles and circumstances which stood in the way of claiming liberty and freedom, who/what they struggled against, and the ways in which these Americans endeavored to achieve liberty and freedom.


  • Option Two: Draw upon course material to identify and discuss US western expansion and major shifts in US foreign policy and behavior abroad between the 1890s and (roughly) the 1920s. You should consider the ideals and motives associated with American western expansion and global expansion, how this expansion impacted those whose homelands were expanded into, and the manner in which the turn toward overseas empire and non-defensive interventionism impacted the American home-front and status as a “free and democratic” nation. Somewhere in this essay, it would likely be constructive to revisit the major points that Americans openly debated ahead of the Spanish American War, the forces pulling the nation into empire and interventionism, and the perspectives of the most decorated US Marine prior to WWII (Smedley Butler).


  • Option Three: Draw upon course material to identify and discuss the key features of American capitalism through World War I. You should consider such features as myths versus realities regarding how the economic system operated, the nature of big business, the Robber Barons, the national “bankers,” the dynamic between government and big business, and the overlap of American big business abroad and at home, including in policy making and behavior.





Branching paths: The Civil Rights Movement

The great period between 1954-1968 was characterized by a drastic rise in the social change movement to gain equal rights under the United States Constitution.  Although the Civil war had made great strides towards eradicating slavery, the black people were still subjected to racism and discrimination. For example, black people did not have the right to vote, access better-paying jobs. As a result, black leaders mobilized the Civil rights movement to commence the nation’s constitutional transformation journey to embrace the Declaration of Independence promise of true liberty and freedom.  Since its inception in the 19th century, the Civil rights movement has made significant strides to bridge social, economic, and political diverse ideas to achieve freedom. This paper explores the chronological events that led to fulfilling the freedom instituted by our forefathers through a social, economic, and political diversity lens.

Identify and discuss how a diversity of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Americans fought for freedom on the US home front.

In the early 19th century, America was proven socially, politically diverse. Segregation reigned all over the country, and states were divided across the North and Southern border.  The diversity that existed among the states was characterized by racism. In the Northern state, the economy was vibrant and thriving, while in the Southern state, the economy was deteriorating due to its huge reliance on free or cheap labor. The whites owned most of the properties and often tried to buy the small portions of black communities occupied.  Black people did not have access to education, the right to worship, votes, and were treated as second-class citizens. Sometimes, minor crimes can lead to severe beatings and execution without trials or legal proceedings. Minorities in society have for so long experienced great Injustices, and it has formed the basis of modern-day atrocities.

Employment for African Americans was rare; the few war-related job opportunities available were offered to the whites, and they were discouraged from joining the army. Most black men worked as laborers on the farms while women did house chores in the whites’ houses.  This led to the continued provision of cheap labor under harsh working conditions. This led to the emergence of resistance, power play, and rebellion as the US expanded, and people started to voice their opinions. Primarily these social tensions manifested inform of rich versus the poor, native bred or immigrant and worker compared to capitalists.   Slavery was coined as a diversity because the black people were perceived as different, thus denying rights affirming the country’s unfair racial inequality. Eventually, the slavery debate spiraled out of control, led to the civil war’s emergence, and marked the beginning of the long fight for freedom.

Address how true liberty and freedom were conceived of by these Americans, the obstacles and circumstances, who/what they struggled against, and how these Americans endeavored to achieve liberty and freedom.

Amidst all social chaos in 1941, black people issued major threats to parade in Washington for better and equal employment rights.  In rebuttal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued directives to open up the national military to be accessible to all Americans regardless of creed, race, or color. Despite the deep-rooted discrimination, large troops of black Americas served in World War II, which cemented their call to defend freedom.

In 1948, President Harry Truman issued executive orders to abolish discrimination in the army during the Cold War era. This gave a platform for the black people to pass legislation built on equal rights and active support for the civil rights movement. In the subsequent year, a 42-year older woman named Rosa Parks violated the segregation laws, which led to her arrest at the Montgomery Bus Status, which elicited nationwide outrage and support for equal rights and freedom as embedded in the similar rights movement (Morris, 1986). As a result, the black community formed the Montgomery Improvement Association under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr to liberate the black people from the paws of the oppressor. After 381days of boycotting the Montgomery bus system, the segregated seating was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In the wake of 1957, the civil rights act was passed into law. This act granted all Americans the right to vote. Furthermore, due to the intense literacy tests admitted in the South, Eisenhower pressured Congress to rewrite a new civil rights movement to cut off racial tensions, discrimination, and true liberty. Through this, the United States restored the American dream of freedom to exercise our democratic right (Morris, 1986).

Another major contributor to the achievement of freedom and true liberty is the famous March in Washington on August 28, 1963, for equal rights and social change. The highly publicized event was attended by Bayard Rustin, A, Philip Randolph, and Martin Luther King, Jr. More than 2000,000 racially diverse people took part in the peaceful march to echo the message of social justice and equality. Martin Luther King’s Speech was the highlight of the march as he fully reiterated tour Forefathers’ dream to live an equal and free life. Since then, the speech became the mid-term for national civil rights.

Consequently, the Civil Acts of 1964 was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson in the presence of John F. Kennedy before his assassination. Next year, President Johnson increased the speed of scale of social change enacted by the civil rights Act of 1964 by eradicating all voter literacy tests in the South.  In 1968 the Fair Housing Act was passed into law, eradicating all forms of discrimination in housing. The efforts of the American diversity eliminated racism, black voter suppression, discrimination, employment, and housing practice through legislation to achieve liberty and freedom.  In the wake of the 20th century, discrimination and prejudices had drastically declined. However mid-20th century suddenly skyrocketed. Therefore, although the civil rights movement came to end, black activists are still vocal about eradicating racially motivated activities still embedded in the system (MacLean, n.d).

True liberty originates from the precepts of the Declaration of Independence instituted by our forefathers. During the height of the civil rights movement, American diversity brought about new birth freedom characterized by true freedom through the civil war, World war for the four freedoms, and the cold war to safeguard freedom. America’s birth for true liberty is evident in the emancipation journey during the civil rights movement war to allow the right to vote.  However, by the mid-20th century, black people were still experiencing myriad issues such as poverty and discrimination. In the wake of the new regime leaders, activists took up new leadership roles to devise mechanisms and strategies to mitigate the problems the black people were experiencing (MacLean, n.d).

In summary, America has made a tremendous effort to achieve freedom and true liberty instituted by the nation’s forefathers through the abolition of racism, review, interpretation of the Declaration of Independence.  The American Government embrace acknowledges freedom and a true sense of itself. The forefathers believed that freedom among its primary purposes is to secure and facilitate blessings to humanity. However, American diversity has had to fight to usher new freedom, make it accessible and protect the free world through generations.


MacLean, N.(n,d) The Civil Rights Movement: 1968-2008, Freedom’s Story, Teacher Serve®, National Humanities Center. National Humanities Center. Org.

Morris, A. D. (1986, n.d). The origins of the civil rights movement. Simon and Schuster.

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