The paper "African - American Civil Rights Movement" is a great example of a literature review on sociology. Social movement theories have been significant in providing an explanation concerning why social movements or social mobilizations take place in society. One of the theories of social movement is the collective behavior theory. Snow, 1986, et al (1986) highlights that; collective behavior involves people acting collectively in order to attain a certain goal. This involves people collectively, transcending and bypassing the set institutional patterns in order to attain their stated objective.
Collective behavior has historically resulted in the formation of various prominent social movements. One of the most radical social movements in history is Africa- American Civil rights movement. This particular paper seeks to evaluate how the collective behavior theory was applied in the African - American civil rights movement. The scope of the analysis will also be grounded on providing a background of the American civil rights movements. Background of the African – American civil rights movements The American civil rights movement was a radical reform movement that was initiated by black Americans in the United States.
The movement was aimed at fighting for the civil rights of the black American population. Although many records indicate that the movement begun in the 1950s to the 1970s. In actual sense, the movement can be traced back to 1783 when the state of Massachusetts was forced to outlaw legally the practice of slavery (Young, 1982). Young( 1982) highlights that for several years, black Americans had been fighting for equal citizenry rights as those accorded to other races, however, discrimination still existed in American society. One major strategy that was adopted by the black Americans for a number of years to fight for their rights was the use of litigation.
Some of the litigations include 1865, the inclusion of the abolition of the slave trade in the American constitution and the 1896 ruling by the Supreme Court of equal and separate segregation. McAdam, (1982) however reveals that litigation was not actually very effective based on the fact that the discrimination of black people in America increased for instance as indicated by a series of killings of black Americans, segregation, and lack of political participation. The traditional strategy of litigation through the courtroom was evidently not effective in the fighting for the rights of the African American population, as a result, social movement become an impending solution to solving the existing status quo.
Mosler and Catley, (1998) highlight that by the 1950 black American’ s begun to gather together in order to organize protests that were basically not violent. Some of the protests include the 1960 protest by black college students who went and sat at a lunch counter section that was specifically reserved for white students.
After 1950, the African American people began to organize various movements, that were aimed at fighting for equal rights. One of the outstanding historical movements by the black Americans was the Washington D. C march in 1963 that was led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The objective of the march was aimed at pushing for the enhancement of the Civil Rights Bill. More than 250, 000 African American people marched to the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr read his famous speech "I have a dream. How the collective behavior theory was applied in the African - American civil rights movement Robert Park a sociologist, who initiated the collective behavior theory, had a belief that the collective behavior field played a significant role in enhancing social change.
Park utilized the word crowd to mean a ‘ ’ collective stimulus’ ’ that is able to influence a revolution within the society. According to Park the concept of the crowd was not merely a destructive, pathological and bizarre collectivity, but rather a group of people with the objective of creating social change (Turner & Killian, 1987).
The American civil rights movement can be linked to the Parks analogy of collective behavior being geared towards enhancing social change. As indicated earlier, initially the African American population utilized vegetation as a strategy eliminating the racial discriminatory tendencies that existed in American society. However litigation did not create any sort of social change, as a result, the use of the crowd was the only way to initiate social change (Porta & Dani, 2009 ). Turner and Killian (1987) highlight that the Selma match of 1965 which had the objective of fighting for voting rights is an example of the effectiveness of collective behavior in enhancing social change.
A large stream of marches/ crowds of people women, children and men, followed Martin Luther King Jr, into the city of Selma where they organized a five-day movement (Turner & Killian, 1987). McAdam, (1982) highlights that the Selma movement was aimed at securing blessings for the African American people by passing an act that would give black people voting rights and also change the injustices legacy that existed in American society.
After the Selma movement, although many people lost their lives based on the fact that the protests become, violent, the act was later passed. The passing of the Voting Rights Act brought about positive and immediate impacts for the black people. Within months after the enactment of the act, a total of 250,000 voters from the black race were registered and within four years the number of voters had doubles. A good case in point is the state of Mississippi where the highest number of voters was recorded, in addition, the state had the highest number of public officials who were black( McAdam, 1982).
It can, therefore, be argued that the Selma movement of 1965 was a collective behavior initiative that influenced social change whereby black people were accorded the right to vote. Wallis (2003) highlights that; the logic behind the theory of collective behavior is that people act collectively due to the fact that their individual interests can also be served by the common interests exhibited by others who face the same situations as they do.
Collective behavior, therefore, takes place naturally once a person has identified that the common interests of others can actually advance their own good. In the most basic sense, a social movement is characterized by collective behavior that has the objective of developing a new way or order of life (Jones, 2007). Social movements are mostly instigated by a state of unrest and dissatisfaction with the existing form of life. After recognizing that the collective interests of other people will advance the individual well, then the person may naturally arise and join others to fight for a new way of life (Oberschall, 1995). In the context of the American civil rights movement, the theory of collective behavior was exhibited in the sense that individual black people faced the challenge of segregation and racial discrimination.
According to Lawson and Payne, (2006) every African American had lived to experience what it felt like to be treated differently due to the aspect of the race. As a result when social movements began to arise many black people were motivated to join the movements in order to create a collective voice that would change their lives and the lives of the future generation.
For instance, a black woman by the name Rose Parks in 1955 got into a crowded bus in the city of Alabama. Interestingly Parks took a sit in front of the bus instead of taking the back seat. When she was requested to move to the back seat, she declined. Rose was then arrested however her action greatly inspired the African American people, to support civil rights movements (Wiggins, 1987). After the bus incident with Rose, the civil rights movement begun to organize boycotts and protests against discriminatory tendencies.
Many black Americans boycotted riding on buses, this, therefore, meant that bus companies would get loses to the extent to which the segregation that occurred in buses would end (Webber & Morrogh, 2005). The outcome of the movement was very positive in the sense that the supreme court made a ruling that the aspect of segregation of buses was a behavior that was unconstitutional.