Historical Progression of African Americans Thesis

Pages: 10 (3045 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies

Progress of African-Americans

Historical Progress of African-Americans

"Progress of African-Americans…"

"Progress of African-Americans Through Time"

The historical progress of African-Americans has been peppered with both successes and obstacles. Yet, as we have seen through the development of this course, broken down in units thusly, Unit I 1865-1876, Unit II 1877-1920, Unit III, 1921-1945, Unit IV 1946-1976 and Unit V 1976-Present there are consistent themes of progress political, economic, social/cultural and literary in each of these periods that have brought the culture to where it is today. This work will address one of these themes in each of the units of time and discuss ways in which each led into the other in a system of progress.

Unit I 1865-1876

During the period between the close of the Civil War in 1865 and 1876 life for African-Americans was reflective of a transitional reformation period. One economic issue they faced was the development of ways to make a living, starting from only the experience they had as slaves. In response to that issue many chose, during the period to resettle in areas where economy and opportunities were better. The outcome of that issue was an influx of African-American migration to the north.

It is the habit of many to think of history as if it is a progression of linear events and actions that are demarcated by specific dates and times. Though this is hardly the case the need to simplify information for the consumption of people who did not live in the time of the events, history is often written in this manner. It is for this reason that many people forget issues such as post war struggles to redefine institutions and even in the case of the Civil War in the U.S. A whole traditional society. The era following the civil war was by no means an example of a smooth transition from slave owning to free-black society nor was it not marked with conflict over the needs of the Southern states in the reconstruction of their ruined lands and fragmented social and political order. (Golay, 1999, p. 262) The period is significantly important to subsequent African-American history because on a social political level, for blacks it was an example of taking one step forward and two steps back and it enabled later periods of de facto segregation and traditional issues of daily prejudice to proceed. Yet it also marked the beginning of a constitutional move to demand freedmen's rights equal to those of white men. The black codes, as they were called eventually to be popularly named the Jim Crow Laws allowed for officially sanctioned freedoms as well as restrictions that created legal segregation, on many levels all over the South and reinforced those that already existed in the North. ("Reconstruction," 2004)

Like many other political periods in American history the fight for freedman rights was marked by two apposing political forces that demanded on the one hand security for traditional prejudices and on the other the right of freed blacks to opportunity and rights equal to those of whites. ("Reconstruction," 2004) The period was also marked with further depravity as the devastation of the war on the south was substantial and seeking to obtain the simplest items for consumption was a daily concern for many, and especially newly freed blacks. The period was even a period of federal military occupation in the Southern states. Constitutional changes for freed blacks occurred, but not without a fight and not without the additional regional adoption of "protection" for fearful whites. ("Reconstruction," 2004)

Unit II 1877-1920

Reformation fears of a growing African-American influence were the mark of the period between 1877 and 1920. One political issue African-American's faced was the pervasive segregation laws known as black codes, but more informally known as "Jim Crow" laws. In response to these laws many African-Americans began to developed their own institutions wherever possible. The outcome of this was a whole subculture of infrastructure that included black owned businesses, black churches, black run organizations some of which were unique to the African-American community and others that ran parallel to white offerings.

The black codes of the reconstruction era gave way almost directly to the Jim Crow laws that later marked the existence of blacks and whites as a period of stark segregation, that included most public places and often determined where blacks could live, work or even eat. This response was a fearful one as whites began to see the social and political consequences of abolishing slavery. Though blacks were still largely marginalized, these federal and local laws and codes created a system that offered whites protection from potential competition for crucial and often scarce resources and blacks an official set of sanctions for daily life and cemented their marginalization, segregating them to the lesser status in nearly every public and sometimes private opportunity.

The Supreme Court ruling in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson that separate facilities for whites and blacks were constitutional encouraged the passage of discriminatory laws that wiped out the gains made by blacks during Reconstruction. Railways and streetcars, public waiting rooms, restaurants, boardinghouses, theaters, and public parks were segregated; separate schools, hospitals, and other public institutions, generally of inferior quality, were designated for blacks. By World War I, even places of employment were segregated... ("Jim Crow Laws," 2004)

Though it is often stated that WWII marks the beginning of desegregation in the south it must also be remembered that the north was in many places equally segregated and the demand for change did not easily transpire. On a federal level there were many constitutional and Supreme Court rulings that had to occur before the local laws were challenged and remanded and in most cases resistance was intense even to constitutional demands, as can be seen by the need to send National Guard troops to Arkansas to allow the admittance of a few blacks to an all white school. (Klarman, 2004, p. 4) (Klarman, 2004, p. 345)

In 1950 the Supreme Court ruled that the Univ. Of Texas must admit a black, Herman Sweatt, to the law school, on the grounds that the state did not provide equal education for him. This was followed (1954) by the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans., declaring separate facilities by race to be unconstitutional. Blacks in the South used legal suits, mass sit-ins, and boycotts to hasten desegregation. A march on Washington by over 200,000 in 1963 dramatized the movement to end Jim Crow. Southern whites often responded with violence, and federal troops were needed to preserve order and protect blacks, notably at Little Rock, Ark. (1957), Oxford, Miss. (1962), and Selma, Ala. (1965). The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 finally ended the legal sanctions to Jim Crow. ("Jim Crow Laws," 2004)

The validation of civil rights came slowly and not without violence and death for many, as people who attempted to assert even previously granted rights such as the constitutional guarantee of every black man the vote and eventually black women as well was often marked first with blocking by fines and fees as well as testing and intense social pressure, that sometimes included beatings, jail time (for minor or even fabricated offenses), drive by shootings of homes and even lynchings. (Klarman, 2004, p. 365) These occurrences coincide with the new face of the civil rights movement as it tried to lobby from both the federal and local levels for laws and traditions to be changed to incorporate blacks into a legal and actual enfranchisement.

As is suggested there were many forms of what is termed the African-American freedom movement during Jim Crow and later. As black abolitionists shaped a bolder and more autonomous movement in the 1840s and 1850s, they developed new measures to combat racism and force the issue of slavery to the center of American political life. (Ripley, Finkenbine, Hembree, & Yacovone, 1993, p. 15) The loose associations of individuals who had fought for emancipation were transformed into institutional fighters for black rights that took many forms. As the laws of Jim Crow era segregation were many and varied initial groups fought tirelessly to eradicate segregation laws, in a sense one at a time. National movements that marked the concerted effort by many to eradicate laws on a more sweeping level included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), probably the most successful of organizations on a legal level, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Committee on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) all of whom had different sometimes convergent roles in eradicating segregation and all utilizing different tactics. (Jonas, 2005, p. 1)

Unit III 1921-1945

Despite the development of African-American businesses and institutions seen in the previous time period there were still many disparities in the period between 1921 and 1945. One serious literary issue they faced was the lack of ability to express… [END OF PREVIEW]

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