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W.E.B. DuBious once said: “The Problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.” To what extent have the lives of the African-American and other racial minorities reflected this statement in the years since Reconstruction? How did leaders and communities challenge racial discrimination and, in the process, profoundly transform American society? To what extent were their efforts resisted, and the color line maintained?
The American Constitution at the moment of its signing and after hundred years was a document which consolidated slavery officially. Black men were officially declared to be owned by whites. In 1857 one of Supreme Court Decision stated that even black men who had freedom had no right that white might respect.
Only after the destroying Civil War, in 1865 the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution was approved and it abolished slavery. In 1868 the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution was approved and stated that nobody can rob somebody of his rights, end every man deserves to be protected by the authority of any state. In 1870 an attempt of giving right to participate in election to black people was undertaken. Though the legal abolition of slavery did not mean that it was the end of it. (Peter B. Levy)
Slavery abolishment. By the 1830 slavery was abolished at the greatest part of Northern states, but in the Southern parts of the country nothing changed, because the economy of those areas depended on cotton plantations. All this caused the protest of Blacks against their oppressors.
For the centuries of slavery a collective memory of oppressed people began to appear. That was the thing with which many generations of Americans with black color of skin lived. The collective memory became one of the factors which influenced the active struggle for civil rights in the second half of XIX century.
Segregation system. In 1868 the Congress of the USA approved the law which allowed black people to take part in elections and to be elected. Though there was a system of everyday segregation in the South. In 1887 Florida became the first state where the conditions for both Whites and Blacks were equal. Later the first blackmen’s organizations appeared, they tried to struggle for the rights of colored people. One of such organizations was the National association colored people’s progress. This organization called people to discuss the blackmen’s problem throughout the country. Among the goals the organization wanted to achieve were – speech and critics freedom, universal suffrage, segregation abolishment based on race and color of skin and others. (Peter B. Levy)
While the National association of colored people’s progress and some other like this one considered that Blacks and Whites should cooperate to get improvement for the colored people, Marcus Harvey suggested another variant. In 1917 Harvey created the association of Negroes life improvements and many black people from different cities joined the organization. Many demonstrations and parades were organized.
The first World Was caused a real industrial boom in the North of the country and it attracted many black people who moved there. Black people hoped to get better wage and treatment, while the Whites in South showed their hatrid toward Negroes. Many black citizens were cruelly killed. The number of Ku-Klux-Klan members increased to 3 – 5 millions of people (Breen).
Only after the beginning of war in Europe, when industry situation of the first World war repeated, the Blacks got more chances to find job. Nevertheless the descrimination and protests against it were keeping on. After the Second World War the racial problem in the USA became international. Cold war began.
The people, who were struggling for the civil rights for the Blacks considered that one of the conditions of the quality achievement would be the common system of education. There was no educational system for colored people. Black teachers were paid twice less than the White. The National association of colored people’s progress decided to protest against this because they considered it to be against the 14th amendment of Constitution.
Martin Luther King’s activity played a great role in the movement and had positive influence on the life of many Black people. He said that it was wonderful that passive and obedient Blacks had awaken. His adherents believed that one of the democracy properties was protasting against the things which were considered to be unfair. Boycott in Montgomery made Martin Luther King famous all over the country. (Breen)
“Protest C”. In the early 60s Civil Rights movement was transferring to the Southern part of the USA. The other great event was “Protest C” (C – confrontation) which took place in Birmingham. The Black people wanted the desegregation of local shops and wanted to get jobs. “Protest C” caused demonstrations around the country and President Kennedy interfered. He suggested passing a Civil Rights Act. This act was passed after Kennedy’s death. This act forbade any discrimination in right to vote, in education and in everyday life.
“Black Panthers”. The whole country was experiencing the moves of protest. The principles of non-violence popularized by Martin Luther King were considered to be very kind and his methods seemed to doom to continuous humiliation. As a result of this new party appeared. It was called “Black Panthers”, they had guns but according to the rules of their party they could use arms only if they are provoked. They tried to improve the conditions for living for black people. State authorities considered them to be dangerous and soon they passed the law according to which it was illegal to have guns (Breen).
One of the worst days of Civil Rights Movement was the day when Martin Luther King was killed. Before his death he spoke much about the economical situatoion of the USA and said that American economy requires great changes.
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Today’s situation. The problems which exist today in the USA are not less important than those were in the past. But there were great changes in the methods of struggle. For example, one of the organizations for Blacks negotiates with the companies which get good income working with black people. This organization takes care about proportion of number of black workers and income. Boycotting the companies which don’t keep the proportion is not a rare case in America now.
In conclusion we must admit that there are no separate drinking fountains and separate schools in America now. The war is not over but goals are changed. The struggle that is taking place today is even more important because it will show if the Blacks and Whites can live in harmonious world or it will be destroyed by rasism and fear.
Peter B. Levy ” Civil Rights movement” Greenwood Press Guides to Historic Events of the Twentieth Century Randall M. Miller, Series Editor.
Greenwood Press Westport, Connecticut London.
Richard H. King “Civil Rights and the Idea of Freedom” New York Oxford OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 1992.
West Cornel “Race Matters”: Beacon Press; Revised edition, 2001.
Nasaw David, Going Out: The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Breen T. H., The Power of Words, Volume II: Documents in American History (Power of Words Vol. 2) : Longman, 1997.