African Americans Fight for Equality and Freedom Term Paper

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African-American Civil Rights Struggle

African-American Civil Rights

How Have African-Americans Worked to end Segregation, Discrimination, and Isolation to Attain Equality and Civil Rights?

Background to the Movement

Discriminatory Laws

World War One and the intensification of the Problems

The American Civil Rights Movement

Rosa Parks

Other measures

Civil Rights Act 1964

The modern world talks about no racial discrimination, no gender disparity and equality for all strata and ethnicities of society. Discrimination is seen as a complete and utter no-no, with discriminators being classified as insensitive, ignorant brutes deserving some form of punishment.

Sad as it is, but this same taboo was a norm some years back when the African-American community in America was, at times, treated even worse than slaves. At least the slaves knew that they were somehow bound to their masters, but African-Americans who were equally educated and belonged to similar backgrounds were discriminated against on public buses, in public places, were given demeaning jobs that in some cases were the only option even for highly educated people.

African-Americans have had a misery-worn history where the race has been segregated into isolation and has been discriminated against in various manners in different walks of life.

But before the paper looks at how the community fought against these injustices, we need to look at some of the incidents and events of discrimination by the white community, in order to understand the magnitude of issues involved and the pressures that fermented into the rage that helped African-Americans break away from the societal shackles forced upon them because of their skin color.

Background to the Movement

1789, was the year when the constitution of America came into force. The power was vested in the states, and as the new states joined America, (Kelly, n.d.) There were differences of opinion in various aspects of the legal and regulatory activities. That is the reason why, even though slavery was abolished in the Northern states, it continued in the Southern ones. The reason for this can be cited as economic as the Sothern states had plantations and cheap labor was needed to run it, and slaves of course were the cheapest form of labor available. Doing away with slavery for many plantation owners meant that their livelihood would be hit.

This issue created a rife between the northern and southern states, so that the new states that joined in were faced with two extremely convincing arguments with regards to abolishment or non-abolishment of slavery as each wanted to strengthen its own camp. Moreover, the contentious Fugitive Slave Act awarded slave owners with the right to chase after, capture and bring back any of the slaves who had escaped to the north in a bid to save themselves. This act was demeaning and meant that slaves were not people but objects who had to be owned. For those working against slavery, this act was a severe blow and was much criticized especially in the northern states. Then in 1861, nearly 72 years after America's constitution was formed, Abraham Lincoln came into power, at a time when there was disunity among the states and some ten of these states had broken away to form the Confederation States of America. And Lincoln, nearly one month into office, the civil was started, ending in 1865, where the confederates were defeated and the process of reconstruction had to be started. And as Lincoln was against slavery, he abolished it all over America and made amendments to the constitution in order to help in uplifting freed slaves. There was a lot of work done in this era where the Blacks got rights as citizens and were free to purse education and livelihood as they deemed fit. However the reality was not as utopist as it was meant to be. In spite of the fact that the African-American community was freed from slavery, and were American citizens there were discriminatory practices that were carried out against the blacks as they were considered to be beneath the whites.

This was an important era, as a harbinger of the Civil Rights Movement as the African-American community realized that they too were equals and had the same rights as any white would have.

Discriminatory Laws

Even though slavery was legally abolished there were laws and political influences and undercurrents that were deterrents to anti-discriminatory values. This was the time when the judiciary too was not convinced of equal treatment of humans from all ethnicities as this discriminatory practice had become a norm, and any changes, especially some as influential as these take time to be implemented.

A few court case rulings such as the Plessey v. Ferguson ruling worked in the opposite way, by reinforcing discrimination and gave discrimination a legal go ahead. This was the ruling that created the statement of equal but separate which in essence recognized that while the blacks were not slaves anymore and were humans, in society they were a separate caste and creed and needed to be kept at an arm's length, away from the enlightened, first class white population. (Cozzens, 1998)

Then came about a plethora of other rules where there were separate gates for the white people and the black people as well as the fact that there was a segregated educational system where blacks and white studied separately. And it was this segregation of the educational system that served a blow to the education opportunities allowed for blacks. The reason for this is simple. Very few white teachers were willing to teach the black students and at that time due to the discriminatory laws there were very few blacks who were educated enough, what they imparted to the children was also of substandard quality and in the absence of the better educated white teachers at that time, or access to the same resources as main stream schools, schools for black children were not equipped nor appropriate enough to raise their living standards substantially.

Other discriminatory practices include the fact that in public places and in restaurants the blacks were not allowed to be served food from the same counter. Therefore the community was treated worse than slaves, where at each level and at each interaction point they were looked down upon and treated as slaves by the whites they encountered as this was encouraged by the judicial system as well. This treatment meted out to the African-American community served to injure the people's ego so that there was an environment of a collective feeling of repression which was accumulating as frustration.

Another factor that counted towards the community coming forth with a rights movement was due to the extremely oppressive and torturous situation in the South. As mentioned earlier, the Southern states were forced to comply with the abolishment of slavery and for that reason resented the fact that this law had been imposed on them. Moreover their plantations were suffering, first from the war and then from the fact that they had no free labor to help them reconstruct. And it is for this reason that extreme reactions came about from the southern states. Here the blacks were treated inhumanely and were not given a fair chance at justice where a majority of whites had their way and could get away from punishment from the law as the police and the judiciary too was on the whites' side.

What was worse for the community was that they were facing social as well as economic hardships as they were not hired as employees and they had to resort to lowly jobs, even if they were highly qualified in order to survive.

It should be noted here however that the people in the black community were plenty in number and with them being isolated into their own selves; the community developed an infrastructure of schools, newspapers, and businesses that catered only to them. And these businesses and media companies prospered as they had their niche of the market which was slowly gaining momentum and becoming profitable.

In addition to this, the community found itself increasingly getting into the teaching positions, where there was a dearth of teachers and they then started professions in the academic fields, which in turn lent them a voice and a literacy background which made them aware of their rights as well as equipped them with the skills to be able to compete with the Whites when the time came.

This was the also the time when the community started realizing that the judiciary too was biased and that the laws and the regulatory framework that had established the law of equal but separate widened the gap between the white and the blacks, and that there needed to be a change from the legal front for them to be able to live their life as an American citizen rather than a third grade citizen. (Levy, 1998 )

World War One and the intensification of the Problems

This too was an important factor as the need of the time was a large…[continue]

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