The GOP has been implying Black Lives Matter is more divisive than the Civil Rights Movement

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tags: election 2016, GOP, civil rights movement, Black lives matter



Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulHRosenberg.

The underlying assumption here is that the Civil Rights Movement was a Good Thing, and thus must have brought Americans together, and moved us forward. Over a period of decades, there’s certainly a core of truth in this notion, despite how far we still have to go. However, polling from the 1960s reveals that the Civil Rights Movement was overwhelmingly less popular than Black Lives Matter is today.

As a benchmark, recent polling on Black Lives Matter by Pew found that “43% support the movement, including 18% who strongly support it. About one-in-five Americans (22%) oppose the movement, and a sizable share (30%) said they have not heard anything about the Black Lives Matter movement or did not offer an opinion.”  Indeed, only white Republicans held a predominantly negative view.

In sharp contrast, the record from the 1960s is consistently more negative, and the early 1960s are particularly instructive because of how consistently non-violent the movement was in the face of violent, sometimes deadly opposition. In 1961, Gallup asked about two high-profile manifestations of the Civil Rights Movement—sit-ins and freedom rides—and found that majorities thought they were much more likely to hurt, than to help.

Sit-ins were first used in August 1939, when African-American attorney Samuel Wilbert Tucker organized one at the then-segregated Alexandria, Virginia, library. This was followed by a number of other sit-ins in the 1940s and 50s, the most notable of which began in Oklahoma City in August 1958, gaining national attention, inspiring others in the movement to follow in their footsteps. But it was two 1960 sit-ins—in Greensboro, North Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee—that put the sit-in movement at the center of national attention, dramatically increasing its power and scope.




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