Why is it important to focus on the actions of the government and leaders when discussing and analyzing civil rights?

Select ONE (1) of the following questions to answer. Make sure to incorporate evidence from this week’s readings to support your argument:

  1. A longstanding debate among scholars who study the Modern Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s is whether or not to look at the movement from the top-down or the bottom-up. Scholars who favor the top-down approach focus on the actions of the government (the President, Congress, Supreme Court) and and the leaders of organizations (MLK, Malcolm X, etc.). However, bottom-up scholars focus on the activities of the rank and file members of civil rights organizations and the activists operating on the local/ground level. The readings for this week mostly lend to a top-down approach to the Civil Rights Movement. Drawing upon this week’s readings on the struggle for voting rights, why is it important to focus on the actions of the government and leaders when discussing and analyzing civil rights? Also, what is missing from this narrative when you focus on the top? What other elements are important to understand this movement that might be left out or obscured without using a bottom-up approach? 
  1. Popular histories of the Modern Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s have tended to ignore the complexities and nuances in strategies of civil rights organizations and leaders. Select two speeches from leaders of the Movement from this week’s (Ella Baker, John Lewis, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Carmichael). Then, compare and contrast your two selected speeches. Address similarities and differences in these speeches and how they reflect similarities and/or differences in strategy. Also, address how your analysis of your selected speeches highlights complexities and/or nuances that need to be highlighted when examining the Movement.
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