Ayla Reau<br />HOA 6<br />March 27, 2011<br />To what extent had African-Americans in the U.S. gained their civil and poli...
Civil Rights Essay
Civil Rights Essay
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Civil Rights Essay

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Civil Rights Essay

  1. 1. Ayla Reau<br />HOA 6<br />March 27, 2011<br />To what extent had African-Americans in the U.S. gained their civil and political rights by 1968?<br />As African-Americans exercised their newly won political and social rights during Reconstruction, they faced hostile and violent opposition from whites. In the years that followed they fell victim to laws aimed at restricting their social and political rights that denied legal equality to African-Americans. In terms of voting rights, many states limited voting of African-Americans with poll taxes, literacy tests, the grandfather clause and violence towards the African-American community. At the same time as African-Americans were losing voting rights, Southern states were passing racial segregation laws to separate white and black people in public and private facilities, these laws were called the Jim Crow Laws. Racial segregation was put into effect in schools, hospitals, parks and transportation systems throughout the South. Eventually in 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in the Plessy v. Ferguson case that the separation of races in public accommodations was legal and did not violate the 14th Amendment, effectively establishing the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’. The African-American Civil Rights Movement, begun in the 1950’s, referred to the movement in the United States aimed at outlawing racial discrimination against African-Americans, winning the unrestricted right to vote and hold public office, desegregating all public facilities and greater economic opportunity for African-Americans. Although the fight for equal rights for African-Americans is not over today, by 1968 African-Americans in the U.S. had gained many of their civil and political rights. <br />By 1968, African-Americans had gained the legal right to education through the desegregation of schools and universities throughout the country. Dedicated to political equality and social justice, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1910 to promote civil rights through the courts as Congress resisted making such reforms. One of the NAACP’s most renowned victories was the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case led by NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall, in which the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional for it violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. This decision overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling and the ‘separate but equal’ philosophy. A specific example of school desegregation after the Brown ruling could be seen in 1957 and the Little Rock Crisis. Governor Faubus of Arkansas refused to follow the court ruling and the federal law to desegregate and in September 1957 he ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the “Little Rock Nine”, nine African-American students who had volunteered to integrate, from entering Little Rock’s Central High School. NAACP members called eight of the students and arranged to drive them to school but they could not reach the ninth student, Elizabeth Eckford, and outside the school she faced an abusive crowd. This forced President Eisenhower to act, and he placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal control and ordered a thousand paratroopers into Little Rock. Under the watch of the soldiers the nine students went to school and attended class; however, they were regularly harassed throughout the year and at the end of the year Faubus shut down the Central High rather than let integration continue. Yet, on September 9, 1957, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which was the first civil rights law since Reconstruction, it gave the attorney general greater power over school desegregation and gave the federal government jurisdiction over violations of African Americans voting rights. So, by 1968, African-Americans had gained the legal right to equal education and government enforcement of that right in the United States.<br />By 1968, African-Americans had also legally desegregated public accommodations throughout the country. The Plessy v. Ferguson case and subsequent Jim Crow Laws held the ‘separate but equal’ philosophy was constitutional so many public accommodations and institutions separated the two races by creating black only and white only areas. During the Civil Rights Movement, African-Americans fought for the desegregation of the races in public accommodations, such as was seen with the Montgomery Bus Boycott to fight the segregation on city buses. In 1955, a year-long bus boycott by the black community was launched in Montgomery, Alabama after an African-American woman and NAACP member, Rosa Parks, was arrested on December 1 for refusing to give up her seat to a white person. As a result, the Supreme Court outlawed bus segregation on December 21, 1956. African-Americans also attempted to desegregate lunch counters such as was seen with the Greensboro, North Carolina sit-in in which four black students from North Carolina’s Agricultural and Technical College begin a sit-in in 1960 at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter. The students endured beatings, jeering and harassment and this event triggered many similar nonviolent protests throughout the South and eventually spread to the North where students formed picket lines around national chain stores that maintained segregated lunch counters in the South. By the late 1960s, students had descended on and desegregated lunch counters in some 48 cities in 11 states. Six months later the original four protesters were served lunch at the same Woolworth's counter and other student sit-ins were effective throughout the Deep South. In 1961, student volunteers set out to test the implementation of new laws desegregating interstate travel facilities. Sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) these student volunteers began taking bus trips, called Freedom rides, through the South but many of these rides were attacked by angry mobs along the way. This violence was responded to when President Kennedy arranged to give the freedom riders direct support and the attorney general and the Interstate Commerce Commission banned segregation in all interstate travel facilities, including waiting rooms, restrooms and lunch counters. After the 1963 Birmingham demonstrations, President Kennedy demanded that Congress pass a civil rights bill that would guarantee equal access to all public accommodation and give the U.S. attorney general the power to file school desegregation suits. In support, the African-American community organized a march on Washington D.C. where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his now famous speech “I Have a Dream”, which appealed for peace and racial harmony. Finally in 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination because of race, religion, national origin, and gender and it gave all citizens the right to enter libraries, parks, washrooms, restaurants, theaters, and other public accommodations. So, by 1968, discrimination of African-Americans had also been legally prohibited and African-Americans had gained right to public accommodations. <br />Furthermore, by 1968, African-Americans had also gained the legal right to vote throughout the country. After reconstruction, many states limited the vote to people who could read and required registration officials to administer a literacy test to test reading and often African-Americans were asked more difficult questions than whites or given a test in a foreign language. Other requirements such as the poll tax, which asked for an annual tax that had to be paid before qualifying to vote, and the grandfather clause, which stated that any man was entitled to vote if he, his father or his grandfather had been eligible before January 1, 1867, purposely restricted the African-Americans vote as often African-Americans could not pay the poll tax and the eligibility date in the grandfather clause was before the African-Americans were freed as slaves. In 1964, the 24th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified and this abolished the poll tax in federal elections. This poll tax as said before restricted the African-American vote as most often they were unable to pay this tax and consequently unable to vote. Also in 1964, CORE and SNCC workers in the South began registering as many African-Americans as they could to vote. They hoped that this campaign would receive national publicity and in turn influence Congress to pass a voting rights act, this project became known as Freedom Summer. At the start of 1965, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) conducted a major voting rights campaign in Selma, Alabama where SNCC had been working for two years to register voters. The end of 1965 saw the arrest of more than 2,000 African-Americans in SCLC demonstrations. After a demonstrator named Jimmy Lee Jackson was shot and killed, Martin Luther King Jr., leader of the SCLC announced a 50-mile protest march from Selma to Montgomery, the Alabama state capital and on March 7, 1965 about 600 protestors set out. Violence ensued as the march was set upon by police. Ten days after, President Johnson presented Congress with a new voting rights act and asked for its swift passage. The marchers set out again on March 21 with federal protection. That summer, Congress finally passed Johnson’s Voting Rights Act of 1965, this act eliminated literacy tests, poll taxes, and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting and stated that federal examiners could enroll voters who had been denied suffrage by local officials. So, by 1968, African-Americans had legally gained the right to vote, which was enforced by the federal government. <br />Although, even today the fight for equality between the races in the United States continues, by 1968, African-Americans legally had the right to equal education, the right to vote, had desegregated public accommodation and discrimination on the basis of skin color had been outlawed. During the Civil Rights Movement, African-Americans did gain many of their civil and political rights through protest and sheer determination. The federal government instituted many laws that protected the African-Americans rights, such as the Civil Rights Act’s and the Voting Rights Act. Moreover, the federal government also helped to support the efforts of the African-Americans during their protest over segregation. So the federal government helped the African-Americans end de jure segregation by the passing of many protective laws and amendments to the Constitution; yet, de facto segregation did not end, as can still be seen in present day America. Therefore, it could be said that African-Americans did in the U.S. gain their civil and political rights by 1968 in terms of the law but de facto segregation still existed. Although, discrimination, racism and hate still lead to the segregation of people today, African-Americans in the United States of America continue to fight and hope that one day all men shall truly be equal. <br />

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