African American and Their Rights Essay
African American and Their Rights
Since slavery, African Americans have gone through a lot to reach their current state. In the early 20th century, African Americans faced discrimination, isolation, and were segregated according to their skin color. It started when Europeans brought the first Africans to America, and continued throughout the Civil War. The American government made some changes in policies. A variety of leaders shaped the successful struggle toward black equality in America (Bowles, 2011). Ever since slavery begun, African Americans have been determined to end segregation, discrimination, and isolation.
Activists such as, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and others, joined together to put an end to segregation, discrimination, and isolation to attain civil rights and equality. Slavery had changed dramatically in the late 1600s. About this time the slave trade to American colonies also began increasing to meet the demand for cheap labor. Traders sold slaves to the Northern colonies, but English and other European immigrants satisfied the demand for labor there (Echerd, 2009). Slaves in America came from western and central Africa.
African tribes sometimes enslaved those defeated in intertribal wars and sold their captives to European slave traders. The tribes raided villages to obtain slaves to trade for European goods. Slave traders had even offered the Africans guns and other goods for the slaves. Slaves lived a rough, hard life. Cheap labor was a huge part of their lives. They had to work from sunrise to sunset. The work consisted of clearing land, tended to fields of tobacco, rice, and vegetables. They also performed many other tasks that had helped make plantations almost completely self-sufficient.
No slaves saw any money for their tasks that they had performed, but they did receive food, clothing, and shelter. The slaves had resided in small one-room huts, which had no windows and the floors were all dirt. Most slaves accepted their living condition, however, they knew no other way of life (Koehler, 2009). However, white Southerners regained control of state governments in the South during the late 1870s, however, and reversed most of the previous gains made by former slaves. For example: segregation. What is segregation?
According to Webster’s Dictionary, to segregate is defined as to separate or set apart from others; isolate or to require, often with force, the separation of a specific racial, religious, or other group from the body of society. Segregation has been a part of our American heritage, almost from the moment slaves arrived on the shores of the New World (Bowles, 2011). In 17th century Virginia, the theocratic government feared that racial mixing between freed and enslaved blacks and white indentured servants would become a means to usurp government power.
They passed laws in which the color line was clearly defined in any criminal punishments. By treating whites and blacks separately and unequally, these Virginian leaders set up a system of white supremacy that would become an essential component of American slavery. Separation and segregation was the order of the day, with African Americans being forced to ride in separate railroad cars, have their own hotels and courthouses, and even get water out of their own drinking fountains. Their children could not attend the same schools with the White children.
To further push the color-line, they then added in segregation with the Jim Crow Laws. This is mainly because the Whites were considered to be superior, and hence were thought to deserve better schools with better facilities. African Americans on the other hand were considered inferior, and hence their children attended low-quality schools that lacked adequate facilities (Sitkoff & Franklin, 2008). The Northern States, which had grew and prospered during the war, believed the former slaves to be equal as any other person.
The Southern States, still angry over the loss of the war and their firm belief in White superiority, took a different approach. They created and enforced what were known as the Black Codes. These were legislations passed in Southern states to control labor, migration and other activities of the freed slaves. Black Codes allowed legal marriage, property ownership and limited access to the court systems. It prohibited them from testifying against whites, serving on juries or militias, voting and publicly expressing any form of legal concerns ( www. history. com).
Any former slave that did not sign yearly labor contract with the plantation owners could be arrested and hired out. The Black codes in short allowed for the continued and legal discrimination against the former slaves (www. history. com). Congress quickly responded to these laws in 1866 and seized the initiative in remaking the south. Republicans wanted to ensure that with the remaking the south, freed blacks were made viable members of society. But the strong southern legislatures finally gave in; in 1868 they repealed most of the laws that discriminated against blacks. Things were starting to look up.
But by 1877 Democratic parties regained their power of the south and ended reconstruction. In 1882, southern states passed Jim Crow laws that enforced strict segregation between blacks and whites and limited African-American civil rights. This was devastating to the blacks. After all the strides they made were reversed. From holding political offices, the right to vote, and participating as equal members of society was changed. The south gradually reinstated the racially discriminatory laws. The two main goals they wanted these laws to achieve: disenfranchisement and segregation.
To take away the power that the blacks had gained, the Democratic Party began to stop Blacks from voting. There were many ways to stop blacks from voting. Some of these things were poll tax, which were fees were charged at voting booths and were expensive for most blacks, and the literacy test. Since teaching blacks were illegal, most adult blacks were former slaves and illiterate. And the other goal, segregation, causes the democrats to create laws that segregated the schools and public facilities. The Northern States, which had grew and prospered during the war, believed the former slaves to be equal as any other person.
The Southern States, still angry over the loss of the war and their firm belief in White superiority, took a different approach. They created and enforced what were known as the Black Codes. These were legislations passed in Southern states to control labor, migration and other activities of the freed slaves. Black Codes allowed legal marriage, property ownership and limited access to the court systems. It prohibited them from testifying against whites, serving on juries or militias, voting and publicly expressing any form of legal concerns.
Any former slave that did not sign yearly labor contract with the plantation owners could be arrested and hired out. The Black codes in short allowed for the continued and legal discrimination against the former slaves. Just like some African Americans activists fought this segregation, some Whites had some groups of their own to carry the segregation on and on. The Ku Klux Klan was one of them. The Ku Klux Klan, Knights of White Camellia, and other terrorists murdered thousands of blacks and some whites to prevent them from voting and participating in public life.
The KKK was founded in 1865 to 1866. They directed their violence towards black landowners, politicians, and community leaders. They also did this to people who supported Republicans or racial equalities (Anti-Defamation League, 2012). After the abolishment of slavery in the U. S. the KKK formed. They hated blacks and would commit crimes against them. Murders, hangings, and lynches are just some of the crimes against the blacks (www. kkk. bz, n. d. ). The Ku Klux Klan claims to be just defending their people like other races do. What is a lynching?
Lynching is a form of punishment with no legal permission. Most times lynching occurred against African Americans by hanging them. This was very popular during the Gilded Age after the American Civil War when African Americans were freed from slavery. Many White men would use lynching against Black men for being in a mixed relationship with a White woman. However, because lynching had no legal basis, it was thought to have been a tool that was used against freed slaves that had achieved financial stability and authority in order to remain a White-dominated nation.
Lynching was most likely performed by White Supremacy groups like the KKK. Lynching was done by hanging or shooting, or both. However, many were of a more hideous nature. Burning at the stake, maiming, dismemberment, castration, and other brutal methods of physical torture are all part of a lynching. Lynching therefore was a cruel combination of racism and sadism, which was utilized primarily to sustain the caste system in the South. Many white people believed that Negroes could only be controlled by fear. To them, lynching was seen as the most effective means of control.
Defending your people is one thing, but to torture another human being is inhuman. The KKK has several stories out there today on how they treated the blacks, whether they did anything wrong or not. For instance, a Louisiana woman is in critical condition after she was set on fire, resulting in burns on roughly 60 percent of her body, and her car appears to have had racial slurs written on it at the time of her attack (Mach, n. d. ). They had even gone as far as church bombings. The KKK launched a bomb into a church during a Sunday service, which left four innocent teenage girls dead.
The men responsible hid behind the cloak of secrecy, intimidation and the white robes of the oldest terrorist organization in the world, the Ku Klux Klan (Gado, n. d. ). Therefore, until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, racial discrimination is an issue that was not seriously tackled. The act was a successful result of most wide-ranging civil rights legislation and Civil Rights Movements for close to a century (Finkelman, 2009). The act declared discrimination on the basis of color, race, ethnicity, religion, and many other aspects as unconstitutional.
During the critical years from 1954 to 1963, a variety of leaders with different backgrounds, such as lawyers from the NAACP, women sitting on buses, ministers from southern black churches, militants from black power organizations, and youth from colleges had shaped the successful struggle toward black equality in America (Bowles, 2011). In 1896, the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision established that “separate but equal” facilities for whites and blacks were allowable under the U. S. Constitution. Local governmental officials could designate separate public facilities like drinking fountains, restrooms, and schools.
Even courthouses often had separate Bibles according to the defendant’s race. The problem was that separate usually meant unequal, and segregation subverted the freedom of every African American (Sundquist, 1993). Now, it is time for the African- Americans to fight back. The incident that made them want to make a difference was the Rosa Park bus ride. After a long day of work on December 1, 1955, Parks, feet hurt, looked forward to sitting on the bus for her ride home. At the time, there was a city ordinance stating that African Americans had to give up their seats on a train or bus if a white man asked for them.
When a white man approached Parks and told her that he wanted her seat, she simply said no. Although she acted as a private citizen, her response was as an informed, committed member of the NAACP movement. The bus driver had asked Parks to move. When she did not, the bus driver said, “Look, woman, I told you I wanted the seat. Are you going to stand up? ” When Parks again said no, the driver threatened, “If you don’t stand up, I’m going to have you arrested. ” She gave no reply but at the next stop, Rosa was arrested (Garrow, 2004).
A pastor known as Martin Luther King Jr., organized a boycott, the Montgomery bus boycott. King Jr. took this to a higher level and maintained and organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which coordinated similar bus boycotts in other cities. Shortly after the boycott, King had found a bomb on his porch. King went to Birmingham, Alabama, where he continued his nonviolent protests and marches. However, the police authorized force to disband King’s followers by using electric cattle prods, tear gas, and fire hoses (Bowles, 2011).
King was arrested with the others, but upon his release from jail he went to Washington, D. C., where he and demonstrators met at the National Mall and addressed them with his famous “We Shall Overcome” speech on August 23, 1963. King’s words at the capital that day were a defining moment of the Civil Rights movement. Other demonstrations and civil disobedience campaigns sought to increase African-American voter registration and win better jobs. Malcolm X actively promoted the Black Muslim cause. Even after speaking about non-violence and wanting peace, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The civil rights movement dramatically increased participation of African- American voters in both the South and the North today.
By the mid-70s some 4000 African-Americans have been elected to political office at all levels of government. Qualified African-Americans now have a wider range of opportunities than ever before. Whether you are White or African-American, each group has faced its own peculiar challenges on its approach to democracy (Rappaport, 2001). This racism is wrong and unconstitutional. The 13th Amendment is ratified, abolishing slavery, which some people still went against it. The 14th Amendment granted citizenship to the former slaves and forbade states from denying any person life, liberty, or property without due process of the law.
The 14th Amendment also guaranteed equal protection of the law for all citizens. The 15th Amendment barred states from denying citizens the right to vote based on race, color, or previous servitude (Hertz, 2009). In a perfect world, everyone would be equal. The color of one’s skin, religious beliefs or sexual preference would mean nothing. We would accept everyone for whom and what they are. We would rejoice in the differences between each other instead of belittling, hating and discriminating against those differences. We don’t however live in a perfect world.
We live in a world filled with distrust and hate. If we don’t know or understand it in our society, then it is wrong. It will be discriminated against in one form or another. We as a country have made major strides in overcoming racism, however we still have far to go. In conclusion, African Americans faced isolation, discrimination, and segregation during the post-construction period. Racial discrimination was also prevalent in the military where back soldiers were considered inferior to white soldiers and hence poorly trained and equipped.
The issue of racial discrimination, isolation and segregation was not seriously tackled until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted. Civil rights activists such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. organized the famous 1963 protest in Washington that eventually forced President John Kennedy to pass the Act. It is therefore, clear that the journey to end isolation, discrimination, and segregation to attain equality and civil rights has been hard but worthwhile. ? References Bowles, M. (2011). American History 1865- Present End of Isolation. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint. Retrieved at: https://content.
ashford. edu/books/AUHIS204. 11. 2 Finkelman, P. (2009) Encyclopedia of African American history, 1896-present, Madison Avenue, New York: Oxford University Press Rappaport, D. (2001). Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sitkoff, H. , & Franklin, J. (2008) The Struggle for Black equality. Hill and Wang Publication http://www. adl. org/learn/ext_us/kkk/default. asp? LEARN_Cat=Extremism&LEARN_SubCat=Extremism_in_America&xpicked=4&item=kkk http://www. history. com/topics/black-codes Civil Rights Act of 1964 http://www. ourdocuments. gov/doc. php? doc=97&page=transcript.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 17 December 2016
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