On the Impact of the Movement
The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi brought about tremendous changes. No longer were blacks denied the right to vote, to eat, shop, and swim where they pleased, and more importantly, to attend integrated schools. The movement instilled in black Mississippians a sense of pride not seen since the days of Reconstruction. Having opened up the Magnolia state to the rest of the world, civil rights activists succeeded in demonstrating the power of nonviolent direct action.
Despite its many accomplishments, however, the civil rights movement had its shortcomings. For example, many people, both young and old, lost their lives, homes, jobs, and families. Still other individuals were so damaged by psychological trauma that they ceased being productive members of the community. The movement left intact the economic inequities that had contributed to the maintenance of segregation. And finally, racism remained alive and well long after the movement's end. Like most movements of its kind, the civil rights movement left behind a mixed legacy of triumph and tragedy. Nevertheless, it changed the way blacks and whites thought of themselves, and therefore helped to advance the cause of social equality.
Charles Young, elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1978, is a former civil rights activist. He noted that one of the things accomplished during the movement was the recognition of talent. "You know for so long we have had the expertise, knowledge, and ability to do, but was never allowed the opportunity. Even though that is still not 100 percent today, the exposure has given us the opportunity to show the world a lot of our talent." He added that, on the other hand, the movement "helped set us back some, especially in the economic field, because nothing from the primary white community has ever drifted over to the black community."
Mrs. Julia Holmes, one of the Meridian activists, thought that the movement brought a number of positive changes to Mississippi. She told one interviewer that after the movement, "blacks began to feel like they were worthy" and their "self-esteem just went up sky high. And they felt that they didn't have to bow down to anybody and that they were as good as anyone else." In addition, she noted that "after the murder of the civil rights workers, [blacks] really felt that they should be beneficial to society, and they started owning their own businesses and running for office." And, she added, "conventional wisdom would say that Vernon Dahmer, Medgar Evers, and the three civil rights workers that were murdered would probably be amazed if they came to our town because it is wracked with drug problems, debilitating poverty, and violence." On the other hand, she insists that they "would be pleased with the number of people who are trying to persevere in the face of adversity. And I think that they would find hope in this. So, the movement was not in vain and they didn't die in vain." She concluded that the movement "did wonders" for Mississippi.