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Parallels Between the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement

I was drawn to the topic of the Cold War back in high school history class. The lesson material was more interesting than what I had learned in my previous classes. The more we went in-depth with history lessons, the more I learned and became interested in history classes. Afterward came the subject concerning the civil rights movement, which I understood as equally drawing as that of the Cold War. History sessions on these subjects helped me apprehend that the civil rights movements and the Cold War share several connections. These include time, place and outcomes. Cold War was a political and military conflict between the US and the Soviet Union and their corresponding associates. On the other hand, the civil rights movement was a social movement in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s; the ambitions were to terminate racial discernment and segregation in the state and to offer equal rights to minorities such as African Americans. These two bygone incidents had major roles in modeling modern American society and abundantly influenced each other.

By the end of World War II, Europe had collapsed, promoting the split of international power between the Soviet Union and the United States. As a result, they both struggled to gain control over the world countries, thus triggering the Cold War. In the chapter, ‘The Cold War at Home and Abroad’, Longman acknowledges that the Cold War influenced the beginning of the civil rights movement. This was because the war ended, placing the Americans, especially the whites, at a better place in education and economic development. It, in turn, made the minority groups such as African Americans and Hispanics develop aggression in fighting for their civil rights to completely enjoy the privileges and rights indicated in the Constitution after the war, which influenced the civil rights movement.

The Cold War corresponded with the civil rights movement in the US and the anti-colonial movement in Africa and Asia. Both were pressured to interrupt America’s determination to beat communism. As the USSR exploited the protests of black Americans and pursued to lengthen its effect in the Third World, the United States strained to massage its domestic racial issues by endorsing gradual reconciliation, while out of the country, it encouraged nonviolent decolonization all along pro-Western lines. The Cold War and the civil rights movements are similar in that both were major issues affecting the citizens during the 1900s. The Cold War brought about the conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, while the civil rights movement created a bad reputation and brought much pressure to the US, making them major issues that degraded development. In the chapter ‘Civil Rights, white resistance, and Black Nationalism’, Gerstle alleges numerous tests were presented to the presidents throughout the cold war and the civil rights movement. The civil rights movement was a massive distraction for the president and the individuals of the US from the superior issue, the Cold War. Gerstle also argues that the Vietnam and civil rights movement shattered the liberal nation apart, thus portraying that the two were challenging issues that somehow linked amid each other. The other similarity is that they were both triggered by the Second World War. After the Second World War, European nations started competing for power resulting in the Cold War. Similarly, communities started to fight for their rights resulting in the social rights movement.

The Cold War started in the 1940s running down to the 1980s. It was a period when world superpowers struggled to spread their ideologies to other parts of the world. The civil rights movement started in the 1950s and the 1960s when minorities, including African Americans, fought for their rights as provided in the Constitution. The two periods interact at a given period; the two matters took place concurrently. It implies that in American history, America was going through both Cold War and the social rights movement. The two periods influenced each other in the following way: as the US struggled to spread its ideology of decolonization without violence, it had internal issues of racial discrimination. Therefore, the presence of the Cold War influenced the civil rights movement and achieved a solution to the problems since the US wanted to appear free from internal conflicts.

📎 References:

1. Arnesen, E. “Civil Rights and the Cold War At Home: Postwar Activism, Anticommunism, and the Decline of the Left.” American Communist History. 11.1 (2012): pp. 5-44
2. Gerstle, G. American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2017
3. Longman, America through the Eyes of Its People, Volume 2, 3rd Edition Pearson Education Publisher, 2006

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