American History Changes Essay

Pages: 9 (2934 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies

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In 1952, Malcolm X, a controversial figure, became a leader in a new movement. The editors of a timeline write, "Malcolm X becomes a minister of the Nation of Islam. Over the next several years his influence increases until he is one of the two most powerful members of the Black Muslims (the other was its leader, Elijah Muhammad)" (Editors, 2010). The Black Muslims believed that Blacks were the only ones who could resolve their differences with society, and that they should use any means to meet their goals, including violence.

In 1954, a landmark decision by the Supreme Court opened up education to blacks and white equally. The case, called Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka allowed black students to attend a previously all-white high school in Kansas. Later, in 1957, Little Rock schools desegregated in Arkansas, and the famous "Little Rock Nine" attended a white high school. Although they were taunted and there were protests, the students did attend the school, and segregation in education ended. This decision showed that segregation was not legitimate, and it gave hope to Black Americans that they could someday truly be equal under the law.

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Another result of these changes was the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. A famous champion in Black history, Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus when a white rider demanded her seat. After her arrest, the Black community rallied, and as a result, they created the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was extremely successful. The editors of another Web site write, "The boycott, more successful than anyone hoped, led to a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregated buses" (Editors, 2008). The Black leader that came to prominence during the boycott was Martin Luther King, Jr., who helped mobilize the community during the boycott. He would become one of the leading Civil Rights motivators in the country.

TOPIC: Essay on American History Changes That Have Assignment

In the arts, many Black entertainers (and many white ones, too), were also calling for the end to segregation. Black entertainers had to enter venues by back doors, while whites did not, and they could not stay in the same hotels as their white counterparts, even after performing there. Many were offended by these practices, and they called out for change. Protests, marches, and speeches all advocating Civil Rights were taking place around the country, and more people were becoming aware of the segregation taking place in many parts of the country.

Of course, the landmark case that leads this time is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, passed by Congress and signed by President Lyndon Johnson. It guaranteed rights for Blacks and all citizens, and outlawed segregation. It paved the way for sweeping changes around the country, and changed the lives of Black Americans forever. They no longer faced segregation in the South, but they still faced prejudice, and that, unfortunately, is still the case today. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed, which ensured all Blacks could vote, while many had been denied the right to vote through obscure Jim Crow laws that excluded them from the polls. As a result, thousands of Black voters began to really participate in elections. The editors continue, "During this same period in Mississippi, for example, African-American registration jumped from 6.7 to 66.5%. This increase in registration led to the election of African-Americans to federal, state, and local offices" (Editors, 2008). That meant that Blacks had more of a voice in their communities than ever before, and that meant the beginning of true equality.

The 60s and 70s were a time of protest and revolt throughout the country, and people's lives were changing. The Vietnam War ended in 1973, and thousands of Black soldiers fought and died in that war. When they came home, they came home to a country that had changed greatly, and that had vigorously protested the war in many areas. Their lives were forever changed by the war, but they had opportunities that previous generations had only imagined.

The most enduring Black American during this time had to be Martin Luther King, Jr. He advocated political and social change using non-violent means, and he marshaled protests, marches, and speeches throughout the country. Tragically, he was assassinated in April 1968, and Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965, which shows how powerful these leaders had become, and how frightening they were to some people.

During this time, African-Americans flourished in the arts. The Motown movement in Detroit offered many Black artists, from Diana Ross and the Supremes to the Four Tops, and African-American literature expanded, too. Another writer talks of a Civil Rights magazine developed by W.E.B DuBois and his wife in 1961. He says, "Freedomways lasted for twenty-five years, providing an internationalist perspective, a strong emphasis on the arts, and a deep sense of the history of black radicalism as it both reported and theorized black liberation movements at home and abroad" (Smethurst, 2005, p. 125). Black entertainers became much more common on television and in films, too, and in more relevant roles.

1977 through the present

From 1977 to the present, the lives of many African-Americans have continued to improve and even thrive. Another writer notes, "Despite the continuing oppression of African-Americans, the permanence of institutional racism, and the continued economic, political, and social underdevelopment of numerous African-Americans nationwide, ... African-Americans have attained and been granted most of their basic civil rights" (Dagbovie, 2006). Affirmative Action became a household word during this time, when laws required schools, housing, and businesses to hire minorities or house them to increase diversity.

However, many Blacks feel they still have a long way to go in society, and that they still face cultural and social prejudice and misunderstanding. Another writer notes, "We must insist, rather, on a kind of radical hopelessness, a sense that we cannot act under the sign of hope when history has repeatedly reversed the effect of that sign, making it a burden that stills social movement and personal accountability" (Stevens, 2003, p. 174). Today, a larger majority of Blacks live in poverty and populate our prisons than whites do, they suffer more unemployment that whites, and there is still underlying prejudice and hatred in many areas of the country, even though there are many highly educated and entrepreneurial Black leaders in society.

However, while there is still a wide area of improvement in society, Blacks have made many strides during this generation. Congress enacted a three-day holiday in January to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., and they created Black History Month in February each year. One youngster had this to say about the celebration. "Black History Month is...when Black people start to think about African-Americans and what they did for us in the past (Jwan, 5th grade)" (Stiler & Allen, 2006). It is a time for all Americans to think about the past and the future of African-Americans, and to salute their accomplishments.

There is also a national museum in Washington, D.C. devoted entirely to Black history. Another writer notes, "In 2003, Congress authorized legislation to create a national museum devoted solely to the documentation of African-American history and culture" (Adeboyejo, 2005, p. 7). This shows that more people are becoming aware of Black history and culture, and its important place in our society. Finally, President Barack Obama is the first Black president in the country's history, a high accomplishment that cannot go unnoticed.

In conclusion, African-Americans have faced numerous challenges throughout their history in this country, and they still face challenges today. While Black Americans have reached the absolute height of power and confidence, there are still many social and economic issues surrounding many Black Americans. Until those issues are properly addressed and rectified, Black Americans will continue to suffer, and that is something distressing in a nation as great as the United States.

References

Adeboyejo, B. (2005, May/June). Q & A: Curating African-American history for the nation. The Crisis, 112, 7.

Dagbovie, P.G. (2006). Strategies for teaching African-American history: Musings from the past, ruminations for the future. The Journal of Negro Education, 75(4), 635+.

Editors. (2010). African-American history timeline. Retrieved 15 Nov. 2010 from the Peterson Education Web site: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/bhmtimeline.html.

Editors (2008). African-American odyssey. Retrieved 15 Nov. 2010 from the Library of Congress Web site: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/exhibit/aopart7.html.

Parker, M.D. (2010). Reconstruction. Retrieved 15 Nov. 2010 from the Thomas' Legion Web site: http://thomaslegion.net/reconstruction.html.

Smethurst, J.E. (2005). The Black arts movement: Literary nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s. Chapel Hill, NC: University of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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