Although slavery was formally abolished in the 19th century in the USA, it wouldn’t be until significantly later in the years that black Americans got treated equally to whites. The decade after the abolishment featured several profound changes for black Americans. It’s often referred to as the Reconstruction by Historians.
However, it wasn’t an easy journey toward equal treatment for blacks in America. Primarily, the actions of the American Civil Rights Movement and, to a lesser extent, others like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are to be thanked for the wealth of freedom and opportunities black Americans have access to in the modern-day United States.
Reconstruction (1865 -1877)
This period witnessed several ambitious campaigns by Black Americans in seeking equality. They attempted to get the same jobs as whites and also sought enfranchisement. However, despite the abolishment, African Americans were still relegated in many spheres. For instance, even though it was widely publicized that black Americans had been enfranchised, they couldn’t still cast votes due to deliberate limitations imposed by state governments.
The more liberal Northern states employed subtler tactics such as these in discriminating against black Americans. At the same time, the southern states were more direct and passed legislation aimed at keeping them working as helps for ridiculous pay rates. Other methods blacks were discriminated against were:
- Establishment of the Ku Klux Klan in the Southern States during the Reconstruction period. KKK members essentially were white supremacists who ran a series of campaigns aimed at repressing black Americans and, at times, as lethal as going on to lynch them without justifiable causes.
- Making legislation banning blacks from benefiting from public services such as schools and theaters.
- Laws were passed to enforce living segregation among the racial groups. As it happened, black Americans’ quarters were always worse off than whites.
- Established a prejudiced system that forced Black Americans undergoing prison sentences to work without pay. Several inmates were often sentenced for crimes that couldn’t be proved against them or were classified as mere misdemeanors under the law.
Precursors to the Civil Rights Movement
While the mistreatment continued well into the later years of the 19th century, the civil rights movement aimed at ensuring better living conditions for black people gained better traction in the 20th century.
- Through the actions of the then National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, some black people started getting better representation in courts as the executives hired and paid lawyers to represent black defendants during trials. The association was established in 1909.
- While there was an already declared protest in 1941 by the black community to march against discriminational policies, President Roosevelt’s endorsement of federal law in the military banning segregation influenced the protesters otherwise.
- Before the official establishment of the Civil Rights Movement, black activists spurred off a series of wide publicized campaigns to get incumbent presidents to implement a series of conditions to ban police brutality, lynching and the likes.
The Civil Rights Movement
The Civil Rights Movement was more of an extension of the earlier activism of prior crusaders. While most people feel the success of the movement was solely attributable to Martin King, inspections of those periods make it clear that the collective contributions from all concerned were more to be referenced. Key events in the course of the Civil Rights Movement include:
- Catholic Priest, Oliver Brown, successfully got the Supreme court to rule in his favor. His child subsequently was able to attend a school meant for whites.
- Rosa Parks disregarded the accepted norm of blacks sitting at the backs of public buses. She chose to stay at the front, exclusively reserved for whites, and in so doing sparked a protest that’d go down as one of the more notable examples of black activism in history.
- Some black students were featured in a debate competition in an all-white school in Arkansas. A feat having never been achieved before.
- Over 250,000 people participated in the 1963 mega rally tagged ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom ‘to listen to Dr Luther’s iconic speeches.
- The establishment of the Black Panther Party in California in 1965. The association went on a series of peaceful protests and rallies that sought to change the realities of the racial inequalities in California.
While it was never an instance of “easy walks to freedom”, the bulk of the rallies and peaceful protests that shaped the Civil Rights Movement all contributed in no small measures to the more relaxed, if not eliminated, discrimination laws.
However, these days, it’s safe to say there’re still some forms of discrimination in the United States and black people remain a disadvantaged race.