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The African Americans Struggle

For over twenty decades prior to the American Civil War, slavery was present in the United States.  However, when the war ended, situations worsened for the African Americans contrary to their expectations after taking part in the struggle. The term “segregation” refers to the cruel act of keeping separate racial, ethnic, gender or religious groups from a majority group (Massey and Fischer, 2006). It enforces the use of separate social settings and cruelly discriminates against a minority group often seen as inferior. Isolation, on the other hand, is a process where someone is separated from others due to a particular reason like racial reasons, political or religious affiliation among other reasons. Racial discrimination in its most simple meaning refers to any type and level of unequal treatment to an individual or a group due to their race or ethnicity (Massey and Fischer, 2006).

When giving a definition of racial discrimination, people, especially scholars, tend to make a distinction between disparate impact and differential treatment creating two definitions: Differential treatment takes place when people or groups of people are treated unequally due to their race. Disparate impact is when people or groups of people are treated equally in line with a given set of procedures and rules, and the latter is made in such a way that members of one group are favored over another. Very discriminative laws and legislations were passed that greatly limited the rights of the black society separating them from the whites completely (Massey and Fischer, 2006).

Although slavery had been officially abolished, this new kind of slavery was worse, since it made the blacks inferior to the whites. Segregation was applied in schools, taverns, theatres, hospitals, public transport systems, all social amenities and other public places. With political influences throughout the country, these new discriminative laws were abolished in the late 1860s only for them to resurrect in the late 1870s.

They could no longer hold public offices, vote or participate anywhere as equal members of the society. So, early in the 19th century, the African Americans went through a series of adversities no individual could have ever dreamed of. Since then up to date, they continue to work tirelessly to bring a permanent end to segregation, slavery, discrimination and isolation. In an effort to analyze the major social, economic, military and technological issues since the Civil War, this paper will show its significance and the role it played in bringing to an end an isolation in the United States. The paper will have a deep insight on how the African-Americans worked to end the segregation, discrimination, and isolation in order to attain equality and civil rights which are enjoyed in the current societal setting.

In tackling the above mentioned social evils, African Americans collaborated in the struggle for full freedom, equity of rights, and the end of segregation and discrimination. They formed several institutions of their own in education, fraternal orders, churches and the civil rights movement. The movements went on and on in an effort to end discrimination particularly in the 19th century. African Americans struggled hard with opposing movements, such as the Ku Klux Klan and other racial inequality advocators. This struggle was not a peaceful one, and it had to be fought. Often, there was a blood shed amongst the major campaigners and death too was rampant. Not only did the African Americans face abject poverty, but a combination of cruel disgracing and social racist system. The system of discrimination was commonly termed as the Jim Crow racial segregation system. Even though the emancipation was declared for the African Americans, nothing has changed much. The slaves’ freedom was postponed by the emancipation and the Jim Crow’s law. Due to these laws, abolishment of racism, slavery and segregation would continue for a little longer. However, the minority black community decided to gain education through working for the white land owners. They built churches and attended schools, so as to improve their position in the society. Such social gatherings were controlled by freed black slaves who coupled up as teachers. Despite the efforts and progress, the government continued to frustrate their development by the use of violence and intimidation. This pushed them further into protests against segregation and isolation.

The southern administration slowly reinstated the discriminatory laws that had been abolished. They intended to achieve disenfranchisement and segregation against the African Americans. The primary goal was to take all the power that the African Americans had achieved. They were, therefore, prohibited from voting and once more from holding the public office. Among the various methods that could prevent the African Americans from voting, the poll taxes and the literacy examinations were the most viable methods. The poll taxes were too expensive for the African Americans who then lived in abject poverty, and the literacy tests could not have been passed by then illiterate majority of the black community. Teaching blacks was illegal and, therefore, almost every former slave was illiterate (Donzaleigh, 2003).

The other goal of the Democrats’ government was to achieve the full segregation. This made them create laws that segregated schools, hospitals and other public facilities. The then government enjoyed support not only from the public, but other arms of the government, like the judiciary one. In the early 1880s, for instance, the Supreme Court in the civil rights’ case ruled that Congress had no power to prevent any private acts of discrimination. Justice Joseph Bradley explained that there was no way the African American would be made a favorite of the law, rather he/she should move up the elevation levels gradually from the mere citizenship through ordinary models of protection like other men (white people) go through. Other verdicts similar to the above followed, allowing the states to prevent African Americans from voting and carrying the segregation.

As afore mentioned, African Americans could no longer sit back and watch their rights being abused. Several leaders came out strongly to oppose the ways of the government. The phrase “African Americans civil rights” and fight against racism and racial segregation often conjure hopeful images of Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his renowned soul-stirring “I Have a Dream” speech at Lincoln Memorial to a very huge crowd of yearning African Americans (Stewart, 2004).

On an even darker note, most people recall media footages of peaceful African Americans marchers beset snarling police dogs and fire horses, or the unwavering faces of African American student, as they waged big civil rights’ campaigns at the American southern Lunch counters. Among the most trenchant and severe sets of activism images, certainly depicting the nadir of the civil rights movement – are the striking images of four young African American school girls killed when a severe bomb ripped at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where the girls had been attending Sunday school. These are just but a few images; there are many others which serve as a testament of the intense burst of African Americans’ activism against racism, racial segregation and equality for everyone and the resulting backlash by the whites, which characterized African Americans’ civil rights in the mid 20th century.

Despite all this, African Americans have always fought and struggled for their civil rights as Americans. Though most people consider the civil rights movement to have begun around 1950s, the fight can be traced back to the time when Africans were brought to the American shores as slaves in chains a few centuries before. More specifically, those brave blacks who fought against their enslavement and demanded to be accredited fundamental American citizenship rights laid key foundation for later African Americans civil rights movement mainly evident from the mid-20th  century.

First African slaves are reported to have been brought to the American shore around 1619. It was not until the 19th century that the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and slave trade after the major Civil War against it did the African Americans get their freedom.  However, the newly freed African Americans were largely poor, immensely illiterate and bereft of property or money. Far worse, inequality and racism were rampant all over America, particularly in the South America, where slavery had been predominant for a very long time. Firstly, to aid assimilation of African Americans into the white society, American federal and state government implemented major democratic reforms during the reconstruction era, around 1865 and 1875. The Fourteenth Amendment of the constitution guaranteed African Americans equal rights with whites that are federally protected followed by the Fifteenth Amendment that granted African American men the right to vote.

However, despite these amendments and many other measures undertaken to safeguard the African Americans new found rights and freedom, the promising Reconstruction era gains were short-lived.

With extreme climate of white hegemony in the South, many whites employed diverse means to keep African Americans from enjoying or obtaining any benefits or gains from the newly earned citizenship rights.  Some whites, for example, strategized to keep African Americans completely disenfranchised and segregated through intimidation and harassment.  Particular racist groups like Ku Klux Klan (KKK) sought to use even more devastating methods, such as lynching, hanging and other forms of active violence to terrify and brutalize African Americans fighting for their rights or advancing their standing on racial segregation and equality.

In 1896, the United States Supreme Court gave perhaps the most crippling blow to African Americans’ fight for equality following its ruling in Plessy v. Fergusonthat whites and blacks could be legally separated or segregated if the facilities for all were “equal” (Williams, 2004). However, the facilities for whites and blacks were rarely equal. The United States Supreme Court rule or “separate but equal” doctrine legally backed racial segregation which was a huge weapon or tool used by the whites to keep African Americans from enjoying even the basic rudimentary rights of American citizenship. This meant that the Supreme Court had reinforced the southern whites’ racial segregation practices. An environment of extreme white racism gave birth to the so-called Jim Crow racial segregation custom, practices and laws that kept restaurants, car parks, street cars, theatres and other public places and facilities rigidly racially segregated.

By 1900, the racial segregation customs and practices had extended into almost every sphere of public life. Several African American leaders responded to the Jim Crow by stepping up the political debate strategies to fight racial segregation, inequality and injustices.  Among the main dominant figures in this quest are a renowned civil rights’ fiery fighter and intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois, who inspired African Americans to fight for their rights and equality, which they deserved according to the American constitution. His campaign in part led to the formation of a civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that rallied educators, lawyers, and activist together to collectively or with one voice campaign for the rights of African Americans people. Through a legal action, agitation and lobbying, the NAACP continued steadfastly in its campaign to fight racial segregation in education, housing, parking, theatres and other public places.

With the onset of World War I, an estimated over a quarter African Americans joined the American military, though they were relegated to racially segregated units within the military. At the same time, many African Americans travelled to the North to take immense advantage of the burgeoning and rapidly growing defense industries.  However, this massive migration of African Americans aggravated immense unemployment and other major problems that were already predominant in the Northern America urban centers. After World War I, the racism and racial segregation continued unabated. With the outbreak of World War I, the American forces still subjected African Americans as before to rampant segregation and discrimination in the military units and defense industries overlooking their intense willingness and desire to risk their lives in a combat. The experiences of the war, coupled with immense redistribution of African Americans populace, resulted in a powerful surge of African American protests which brought the racial segregation practices and customs or the Jim Crow under the immense national scrutiny.

Two incidents that occurred in the 1950s largely brought the issues of the civil rights of African Americans into the national public spotlight. In 1954, the NAACP won a major legal victory ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Educationagainst racial segregation in American public schools claiming it was unconstitutional (William, 2004). This dealt a major blow to the “separate but equal” doctrine which had been set forth by the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson. However, the racial segregation continued to be adamant in most Southern States and the implementation of brown remained very slow. Most white school officials refused to comply with Brown and this fierce resistant prevented many black bright students from enrolling themselves in white schools. The second incident that brought the civil rights’ issue to the lime light unfolded in Montogomery, Alabama, where Rosa Parks, a black seamstress refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. She was defying the law which demanded black to relinquish their seat to white passengers if the front section reserved for white was full. Immediately, Parks was arrested and this sparked black Americans to launch a one day boycott of Montgomery’s public bus system. NAACP took advantage of the boycott enlisting the aid of Martin Luther King Jr., a relatively unknown preacher to organize the black resistance that would challenge the racial segregation and Montgomery’s racist laws.  The boycott went ahead to last for more than a year until December 21, 1956 when the federal courts intervened into the matted and desegregated the public bus system. In 1957, American Congress passed the Civil Rights Act to establish a civil rights’ division in the American Justice Department which would enforce African Americans’ voting rights among others (William, 2004).

NAACP continued steadfastly to underpin the racial segregation with a number of new organizations being put in place to lift the banner of civil rights. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) led by Martin Luther King and a Christian-based organization founded in 1957 became major forces in campaigns and organizing the civil rights’ movement to fight racial segregation in America. The continued demonstration and campaign made President John F. Kennedy intervene and direct the enforcement of new regulations barring racial segregation in an interstate travel.

Far more in 1963, the president aligned his presidency with the demands and cause of the civil rights’ groups for constitutional amendments that would ban racial segregation in America and the protection of all civil rights of Americans whether black or white (Donzaleigh, 2003). In response to this positive trend, Martin Luther and other veteran activist organized the march to Washington which rallied an estimated quarter of a million people at the Lincoln memorial to listen to the most famous “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther. In his speech, Luther described his dream describing a world where both blacks and whites lived in harmony and shared equal rights. This speech generated a lot of hopes to black Americans and left a permanent mark in the fight for liberation and equal rights for the African Americans.

Since then, most overt and abusive forms of racial discrimination and racism against African Americans have come to an end. Today, in the United States, African Americans can freely exercise their civil rights to vote and live anywhere they want and African Americans are being elected on leadership positions and in public offices. The most outstanding landmark of change and equality was signified by the presidential election of Barrack Obama as the first African American President of the USA in 2007. Millions of African Americans have waxed out of poverty, and many opportunities have been created for all races. The fight against racial segregation by civil rights’ groups acted as a good model in the advancement of the rights of minority groups, such as women equality rights, the disabled Hispanics, gays, among others. It is clear that African-Americans have worked to end segregation, discrimination, and isolation in a bid to attain equality and civil rights. The fight has been tough, and most people lost their lives in the struggle. However, isolation can be seen to have reduced significantly and has come to almost zero levels.

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