Skip to content

US History 395 Essay Assignment

Students will submit a response within the text box in the next section titled that includes followed by a grade (0-100) for the essay. After each, provide a full paragraph (usually four to six sentences) that offers an explanation of how they came up with those grades and how the “student” might improve their essay. The following guideline for an “A” essay should help students frame their analysis of each of the sample essays:

A: The essay is well organized and addresses each aspect of the question by bringing in details about relevant events and primary/secondary sources. The essay avoids opinions and sweeping statements along with simple judgments (segregation was wrong and civil rights leaders were strong) in favor of details to support any statements/judgements with examples that are clearly drawn from course materials. The essay offers details and connects facts to address key issues raised by the questions in a manner that demonstrates original work based on the student’s use of course materials. The essays make reference to specific examples from course materials and address the question in a substantive manner with well-organized and fact-filled paragraphs. It is clear that this student dedicated time to reading course materials and authoring and editing their work based on what they learned in the course.

  1. Compare the tactics, strategies, and rhetoric used by Martin Luther King, Jr. to those used by Malcolm X. Be sure to offer specific examples from history. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were two influential figures in the American civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s, each with distinct tactics, strategies, and rhetoric. While both sought racial equality, their approaches diverged significantly. Martin Luther King, Jr. was known for his commitment to nonviolent resistance. He drew inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of passive resistance and believed in achieving change through civil disobedience and peaceful protests. King’s most famous moment was the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which he delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. In this address, he eloquently articulated his vision of a future where people were judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin,. In contrast, Malcolm X advocated a more confrontational approach with fiery rhetoric that contrasted with King’s uplifting speeches. Malcolm X went on TV and made statements that often made viewers uncomfortable. At the same time, Malcolm X urged African Americans to exercise their voting rights and, if denied, to use any means available to secure their rights. Many of Malcolm X’s speeches resonated with those who believed that nonviolent resistance was ineffective in the face of systemic racism. Another significant difference between the two leaders was their stance on integration. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated for integration, emphasizing the importance of racial harmony and unity. His belief was that change would come through the integration of African Americans into all aspects of American society. King was a leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which aimed to end segregation on public transportation. Malcolm X, on the other hand, was a proponent of Black nationalism and advocated separatism. He gave fiery speeches and argued that African Americans should establish their own independent institutions and reject integration with white society unless it was on their own terms. The Nation of Islam, to which he belonged for a significant portion of his life, promoted these ideas with a separatist ideology. “We want to be with our own kind,” Malcolm X explained. His focus on self-reliance and the creation of a separate African American identity attracted those who believed that integration was unattainable or undesirable. In conclusion, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, despite their shared goal of racial equality, employed vastly different tactics, strategies, and rhetoric in their civil rights activism. King’s commitment to nonviolence and integration stood in stark contrast to Malcolm X’s advocacy for self-defense and separatism. Their distinct approaches reflected the diversity of thought within the civil rights movement and illustrated the complexity of the struggle for racial equality in the United States during the 20th century. Both leaders left a lasting impact on the fight for civil rights, and their legacies continue to influence social justice movements today.
  2. Discuss how the tactics and strategies used in the Montgomery Bus Boycott were similar and different from those used during the Freedom Rides of 1961. Be sure to utilize specific examples from history, including tactics and strategies employed by leaders of the movements and the response by their opponents. The Montgomery Bus Boycott demonstrates the leadership of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., and many other countless local leaders who worked against the evil of segregation that pervaded the Jim Crow South. It was also one of the pivotal moments in the American civil rights movement, employing distinct tactics and strategies while sharing some commonalities with other civil rights protests like the Freedom Rides. Together, both were important in the nation’s gradual path toward racial equality. This essay will explore how the tactics and strategies used in these two historical events were both similar and different. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began in December 1955, was a nonviolent protest initiated by Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. The Montgomery Bus Boycott aimed to end the unfair practice of racial segregation on Montgomery, Alabama’s city buses. The key tactic employed was a city-wide bus boycott, which concluded with victory over segregation despite widespread hostility or indifference by most white residents. When African American residents refused to use the bus system, it significantly affected the city’s economy. This nonviolent approach was underpinned by the philosophy of civil disobedience and passive resistance, with Martin Luther King, Jr. emerging as a central figure and spokesperson for the movement. In contrast, the Freedom Rides of 1961 were more confrontational in nature. Organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Freedom Rides sought to challenge the segregation of interstate buses and terminals, particularly in the South. The strategy here involved interracial groups of activists traveling on buses through the Deep South, deliberately violating segregationist laws and customs. This tactic aimed to provoke a response from local authorities and highlight the unjust treatment of African American and white activists. It was a more aggressive and direct approach compared to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. One similarity between these two events was the use of mass mobilization and civil disobedience to bring attention to the issues of racial segregation. In both cases, the movements relied on the strength of collective action, with participants willing to endure hardship and violence in pursuit of their goals. However, the key difference lay in the level of direct confrontation and the geographic scope. While the Montgomery Bus Boycott was localized to a single city and emphasized economic pressure, the Freedom Rides intentionally ventured into hostile territory across the South, challenging the segregated facilities head-on. The Freedom Rides were met with violent resistance, with buses being attacked, and activists often arrested and assaulted. This heightened level of direct confrontation drew significant media attention and forced the federal government to intervene, leading to greater legal and regulatory changes. In conclusion, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Freedom Rides were both important moments in the civil rights movement, but they differed in their tactics and strategies. The Bus Boycott relied on nonviolent protest and economic pressure, focusing on one city’s bus system, while the Freedom Rides were a more confrontational, direct action approach that aimed to challenge segregation on a broader scale, ultimately attracting greater national and international attention to the issue of civil rights in the United States. Both events contributed significantly to the broader struggle for racial equality, showcasing the diversity of strategies used by civil rights activists during that era. While America continues to struggle to secure racial equality, the nation owes a debt of gratitude to the leaders and participants of these two pivotal events.
  3. Summarize Rosa Parks’ life of challenging racism culminating with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. After reading the chapter in the module about Rosa Parks’ early life, I finally understand why she seemed a bit exasperated in interviews that were recorded years later when reporters asked if she refused to give up her seat that fateful day in Montgomery because she was tired. If Parks was tired, it wasn’t because of a lack of seating on a bus one afternoon, but rather the effects of a life of challenging Jim Crow and often paying the price for doing so. In the first pages of the book, Parks talks about “treading the tightrope of Jim Crow.” Latter pages and the next chapter bring up instances when she and others faced the constant threat of sexual assault. Together with her husband Raymond, the Parks challenged racial discrimination and often faced the consequences for their actions, including threats of physical violence and losing one’s job—something that was already a challenge despite Rosa Park’s tenacity in completing her education even after the closure of some of her schools. Together with her husband Raymond, Rosa Parks became a leading voice in their local NAACP, and that led to her being hired by the organization. As part of that work, Parks risked her life to support a Black woman who had been raped by white men in the Deep South. Although she knew she might lose her life in an effort that was unlikely to result in a conviction of the white assailants, Parks made this journey and many others on behalf of the NAACP and their efforts to defend Black women in the Deep South. If she was tired in those interviews in later life, perhaps the reason is that her decades of fearless advocacy were largely unknown. Maybe she was tired of answering questions from people who only knew a sliver of her life’s story– the moment she refused to give up her seat on a bus. Not the years of challenging Jim Crow. Not the years of defending victims of sexual assault or standing up to would-be rapists in her own life. Not even the 381 days that she and other African Americans found ways to get to and from work without using the city busses of Montgomery. If she was tired, it wasn’t just on day one of that 381-day campaign. Like many female historical figures, Rosa Parks’ life has been compressed to one moment, but a deeper examination would show a life that helps to explain a fuller history of the civil rights movement in the United States. Parks worked as a seamstress when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated Montgomery city bus, but her act of defiance was not a spontaneous one. Instead, it was because the people in that community knew and respected her and chose her as a leader. Claudette Colvin had already challenged segregation along with others, but the community decided that it would be Parks who would make a planned and deliberate protest. Parks’ arrest was only one day in a protest she helped to plan and lead with other women like Jo Ann Robinson and local men like E. D. Nixon. It was also the event that created the opportunity for Martin Luther King, Jr. to demonstrate his eloquence and leadership. The protest lasted for 381 days and was the culmination of work from hundreds who coordinated rides in private vehicles and Black-owned cabs. It was a coordinated and nonviolent protest against racial segregation that transcended the issue of seating on the city’s buses. In many ways, it was the culmination of Rosa Parks’ courage to stand up against would-be assailants as a young woman along with the tenacity she demonstrated to complete her education even when the local schools closed. It was also the culmination of the defense of Black communities that date back to Rosa Parks and E.D. Nixon’s work to investigate the case of Recy Taylor. While Nixon and Parks were unable to secure justice for Taylor, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was successful in showing the economic power of Black communities and the way that a united Black community could prevail through collective action and nonviolent resistance. Rosa Parks remains a symbol of the organizing work in Montgomery that demonstrated the power of a unified Black community. The story of her intelligence and leadership may often be eclipsed by the emergence of Martin Luther King, Jr., but after reading the chapter on her early life along with the other resources in the course modules, I have a better understanding of Rosa Parks’ life of challenging racism and the power of collective action she unlocked by working with people like Jo Ann Robinson, Martin Luther King, Jr. and her own husband Raymond, who she lovingly referred to as “Parks.” The result of these sources was a deeper understanding of Rosa Parks from a figurehead of a single moment in the civil rights movement to a life of activism.

Leave a Reply