Updated: Jul 6
Conflict is known to disrupt education as a common fact; there’s no real doubt about that. But there have been some historical cases where conflict has proven to help the oppressed or the minority. One example is the African American community’s fight for equal educational opportunities in a white-dominant society. The African American community spent several decades fighting for equal rights and opportunities with strategies such as civil disobedience, non-violent resistance, protests, boycotts, marches and much more. Newspapers, radios and television reports documented their struggle to end inequality and their efforts to challenge segregation in courts legally.
One of the essential catalysts for these changes was the Montgomery bus boycott, one of the first major protests against racial segregation. Rosa Parks, a black woman and long-time civil activist, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger as required by segregation laws, leading to her being arrested and jailed. Her defiance was what helped spark the boycott. And even though the boycott was met with violent retaliation by segregationists, the success of the one-day protest led to the boycott lasting for 382 days. It ended only when the Supreme Court ruled that “segregation on the city’s buses was unconstitutional”.
Another step towards equality was the Sit-Ins carried out by black university students. Like the Montgomery protests, the students practiced non-violent civil disobedience by sitting at the segregated lunch counter and politely asking to be served. While The staff ignored them, they remained seated until the counter closed. The next day more students joined in, and as word spread, other students throughout the region also started sit-ins. The strategy was to ask for service politely and not to move until they had been served. While the students endured many arrests, taunts and even beatings, many businesses eventually began to relent.
One of the civil rights movement’s most dangerous and dramatic efforts was the Freedom Ride, which counted on the racist people of the region to create a scene so that the riots would compel the government to prevent the unconstitutional segregation of races on communal transportation. The plan was organized by the Congress of Racial Equality, a civil rights group committed to direct, non-violent action. Freedom riders were to board the buses heading for the southern states and planned to enter segregated areas at each stop. Of course, white supremacists retaliated, setting the buses on fire, attacking the riders as they got off and even beating them with sticks and chains. The freedom ride, however, achieved its purpose: the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered the integration of all bus, train, and air terminals and signs indicating “coloured” and “white” sections came down in more than 300 Southern stations.
And these efforts, along with many more, did not go unrewarded: the Brown decision in 1954, the Civil Rights Act in 1964, and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 were all huge victories and the first steps to bringing about equality; and although their struggle is still not yet over, it showed that significant changes are possible.