Negative view of Elvis

The three different people speaking out against Elvis Presley in Source G all have the same negative view of Elvis and the impact he was having, but have these views for different reasons and also have different reasons for expressing them publicly. Emmanuel Celler, who was an American Republican politician, is disapproving of Elvis Presley and is basically saying that Elvis is in bad taste and his uncivilised, immoral behaviour is only suitable for coloured people – though he is not directly racist, he implies strongly that black people are primitive compared to white people.

He is expressing a conservative, adult, white view, because he would have been appealing to mature white people, in an effort to gain more votes from this group and ultimately get elected. The racist view given by Emmanuel Cellers in Source G would have supported by his white public because the 1950s was a time of racial segregation in America (mainly in the southern states, where the slave trade had been based).

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This meant that the 10% of Americans who were black (African-Americans) were generally prevented from sharing in America’s prosperity, were excluded from the democratic process, endured racial discrimination and severe economic inequality, in spite of the abolition of slavery. Segregation was imposed on the blacks to keep them apart from and worse-off than whites due solely to racial prejudice. One example demonstrating how real segregation actually was in society is an event known as the ‘bus boycott’.

On December 1 in Alabama, Rosa Parks, a black woman, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white male (as was required by law). She was arrested and fined, but her friends and family staged a 24-hour bus boycott, which was so successful that more of the black community joined in and the boycott extended until the bus company (whose business was highly damaged as blacks made up 75% of bus-users) agreed to treat all passengers on a first-come basis.

In November 1956 the Supreme Court in America eventually ruled segregation on buses illegal and black Americans were able to celebrate this one victory over segregation. A group that extremely strongly advocated segregation was the Ku Klux Klan, founded as a terrorist organisation based on racist ideas immediately after the Civil War, determined to prevent newly freed black slaves from gaining equal rights. Member wore white masks and cloaks and used violence and terror to intimidate black Americans, or whites who supported the idea of blacks having equal rights.

By 1925 the Klan had five million members including police officers, judges and politicians, and was a powerful influence in several states. Despite the extreme nature of the Klan’s ideals, these ideas were supported and held by a lot of the white public, especially in the southern states. The view of the Ku Klux Klan member in Source G is that Elvis is bringing himself down to the level of the blacks, and is extremely dangerous to white culture. This was said in public to intimidate black Americans (this is the Klan’s purpose) and to get more public support as well as more members.

The Klan wanted to have Elvis stopped because he was spreading black music (rock and roll has roots originating from black blues music), and many people were beginning to enjoy the new style. They though that Elvis ‘eat away’ at and pollute superior white culture, which should be kept pure, by popularising their type of music, and behaving in ways which white racists at the time associated with black people. The spokesman describes Elvis as a “Cannibalistic, Negro-loving rock and roller”, showing that the Klan had ideas about Elvis exhibiting himself as the stereotypical red Indian who would eat white men that entered his territory.

In the 1950s religious organisations were starting to employ the same advertising and marketing methods as businesses used to successfully. Advertising boarding and TV commercials carried messages such as “a family that prays together stays together”. Evangelists (religious preachers who tried to make other believe in God) purchased time on TV and radio to broadcast powerful sermons. Billy Graham was an evangelist who was friends with several presidents and conducted many huge crusades, who along with others provided a moral way of thinking about the affluent American way of life.

Billy Graham is opposed to Elvis because as a Christian evangelical preacher, he believed in keeping families together (“families that pray together stay together” according to the religious slogan), and in parents having authority over their children. He would have felt that these values were being threatened by Elvis’s influence over teenagers as Elvis’ style encouraged them to develop their own tastes and rebel against authority and what is expected of them.

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