Change in Society 1868-1968 Term Paper

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Changes 1868-1968

Life in the United States in 1868 was though different from what it was a century later because racial discrimination was not as severely crippling as it was immediately after the abolition of slavery, still economic growth of blacks accelerated after the introduction of affirmative action and not exactly after the passage of Civil Rights Act of 1964. During this period, numerous political, economic and social changes were witnessed but civil rights for blacks a perpetually contentious issue. The status of women, however, improved significantly during this 100-year period, as they became a major part of American workforce and also gained suffrage rights.

Black men and women in 1868 continued to suffer at the hands of a weak proslavery government of Andrew Johnson and tensions between Democrats and Republicans was making life miserable for the blacks. Civil rights were though granted by the Congress, they were not approved by every section of the society especially the Southerners who continued oppressing blacks in every manner possible. Conditions in the South were still more or less the same if not worse. After the passage of 13th amendment in 1865, the slavery finally came to an end and reconstruction measures were taken by the Congress to grant blacks more financial and social security. However everyone did not approve these measures and it gave rise to extreme racial tension where one section of the white society staunchly opposed more rights for blacks. Suffrage right was not granted freely and even though blacks were allowed to vote in some states, their right to vote was not approved or sanctioned by the Congress. In 1866, two more bills were passed to ensure complete security of blacks in the free world. One was Freedmen's Bureau Bill, which gave government agencies more powers to extend better medical and educational facilities to the free blacks. The other was Civil Rights Bill, which ensured complete freedom of blacks, giving them the coveted status of a free citizen of American. However both these moves were opposed by Johnson's supporters and the President tried to veto them unsuccessfully. Later that year, 14th Amendment was designed which was meant to provide blacks with complete rights as an American citizen. But this amendment took another two years for ratification and even after that, blacks were not given the right to vote. Frederick Douglass and his Republican supporters started a movement for suffrage rights and this resulted in tensions between him and women suffragists like Elizabeth Cady. These women separated themselves from black suffrage movement as they felt Douglass was not helping women gain their due rights. Even though blacks were given vague suffrage rights, it was not until 1960s when their vote was finally recognized and sanctioned by all sections of the government and society.

Reconstruction was therefore a tough period for blacks. The right to vote was the main issue of their tussle with the government. Even apart from that, life wasn't exactly better in the South in 1868 because blacks were still barred from most high positions in government and other sectors. Discrimination existed in almost every line of work for blacks and both women and blacks were allowed to vote. Military was one area where blacks were discriminated against in the form of lower wages. Blacks were allowed to enlist in army as one law authorized governor: "To receive into the military service of the State all male free persons of color, between the age of 15 and 50, who would receive $8 per month, clothing and rations." (Wilson, 1890) " The wages for blacks increased to $10 few years later but discrimination still existed as Johnson (2000) wrote, "Even though African-Americans joined the Union Army, they continued to experience subtle and blatant discrimination. Men in these regiments received 10 dollars a month and no clothing allowance. In addition, African-American soldiers could not serve as officers. In practice, the African-American regiments often received inferior arms and ammunition."

Women suffragists won their battle very late, precisely in 1920 while blacks won it partially or in theory only after the passage of 15th Amendment in 1870. But even this Amendment couldn't grant full voting rights, which came only a century later with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The 1960s were the most problematic decade for blacks where civil rights issue was concerned. This was the time when the issue of right to vote and discrimination took birth again and that too with a vengeance. Though race relations had always been an issue with different governments even before the 60s but since the country was previously occupied with other issues such as two world wars and depression that little attention was paid to race relations. During and immediately after war years, the world witnessed changes in status of women as more and more women began entering the workforce and even in the political arena. This was due to women movement, which had gained momentum in the 1940s. In 1950s, the world again witnessed rise of capitalism and this led to rapid development in many areas. The most significant change was the death of agricultural economies in many parts of the world, which speeded up the process of urbanization. With this, the world witnessed rapid emergence of urban middle class. This was precisely the time when Japan started appearing as a major industrial force. During this time, United States also emerged as a major world power because of the victory of allies in the Second World War. But interestingly, United States was not recognized only as a major ally, but it emerged as an independent force, which could single-handedly mobilize its allies in case of any international conflict. In the 1960s, the United States and some western countries encountered hippie culture, which forever changed the social system and values of these countries. The rest of the world however did not face any problems of this magnitude and hence were not directly affected by hippie culture of the United States. The Civil Rights Movement was the most important factor responsible for wide political and social changes in the country between 1868-1968. It began in 1955 when the black community of Alabama decided they would not board the city buses unless they were allowed to sit anywhere they chose. In the South black people ere required to sit at the back as front seats were reserved for whites. This was a highly unfair law, which caused huge embarrassment, and humiliation to many blacks especially a professor named Jo Ann Robinson. Along with this, another similar incident in Montgomery led to Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. This was the very beginning of the Civil Rights Movements, which later made monumental advances in the United States during the 1960s under the leadership of people like Martin Luther King Jr. And Malcolm X In the beginning however, black activists did not find much support and thus it was quite a setback to those who wanted to aggressively speak against the injustices committed by the white society. The bus boycott played a significant role in the Civil rights Movements because it gave birth to some important and meaningful changes in the constitution as well as the general society. Commenting on the importance of this mini-movement, Roberta Wright wrote, "It helped to launch a 10-year national struggle for freedom and justice, the Civil Rights Movement, that stimulated others to do the same at home and abroad."

It was quite surprising that even one century after the official abolition of slavery, black people were not allowed to vote. Their right to vote was interfered with and the southern politicians saw to it that black voters stayed out of the election process. It was only done to make black people remain subservient to the white especially the white in the Southern areas. The government in 1957 passed a legislation, which prohibited any interference in registration process but this, and some other similar laws failed to work effectively. When in 1950s, new job opportunities emerged and the employment rate increased dramatically, black community was again hit with ugly realization that they were not being treated equally, and they came to the conclusion that Civil rights policies in the past had failed to give them equal opportunities and thus Kennedy administration was forced to pass the civil rights bill in 1963 that paved the way for Civil Rights Act of 1964. This was a major victory for the black community as this law finally gave them most of the civil rights that they had demanded.

The issue of voting however remained unresolved, as it did not find a place in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Johnson however realized this problem and soon took care of it with the voting rights bill. The achievements of the civil rights movement were numerous which included equal right to education, voting, jobs and rigid laws against racial discrimination in various institutions.

Life in 1968 was thus far better for blacks and women than it was a…

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