African American’s perception during the 20th Century
HIS 206: United States History II
Over the course of American History, there has always been a very thick line that has separate races and social equality. It’s been a stressful time full of hardships and endeavors journeys. After the turn of the 20th century many races, genders and even ethnic backgrounds were facing different forms of social inequality. In the mist of the roaring 20’s and into the great depression America was faced with a war that resulted in a boom in urbanization of immigrants, African Americans, and other racial backgrounds. Due to high population and low job rates, there were always different aspects of racism between whites and African Americans. You can only oppress something for so long, before a crack can turn into a subtle break. The information imposed in this essay will bring perspective thinking and inertia towards the momentum that African American’s had endured during the 20th century.
In the 1920s, the great migration of blacks from the rural South to the urban North sparked an African–American cultural renaissance that took its name from the New York City neighborhood of Harlem but became a widespread movement in cities throughout the North and West. Also known as the Black Renaissance or the New Negro Movement, the Harlem Renaissance marked the first time that mainstream publishers and critics turned their attention seriously to African American literature, music, art and politics. This created different forms of hardship for African Americans, and Hartt can best explain it as an overall prospect “For three centuries, we have suffered and cowered. No race ever gave passive resistance and submission to evil longer, more piteous trial. Today we raise the terrible weapon of self-defense. When the murderer comes, he shall no longer strike us in the back. When the armed lynchers gather, we too must gather armed. When the mob moves, we propose to meet it with bricks and clubs and guns. If the United States is to be a land of law, we would live humbly and peaceably in it; if it is to be a land of mobs and lynchers, we might as well die today as tomorrow” (Hartt, 1921). During the Great Depression, the market has taken a turn for the worse. Most banks have closed, due to the downfall of the market and their shareholders, but this wasn’t the only problem. We still faced issues from both the North and the South when it comes to work force and social injustice. The Dustbowl had a huge impact on Agricultural and Industrialization because of the lack of demand, which resulted in over half of African American’s being unemployed. After years, decades, months, weeks and days of hardship there was a light at the end of the tunnel towards the amount of suffering that African American’s had endured.
In June 1905, a group led by the prominent black educator W.E.B. Du Bois met at Niagara Falls, Canada, sparking a new political protest movement to demand civil rights for blacks, in the old spirit of abolitionism. As America’s exploding urban population faced shortages of employment and housing, violent hostility towards blacks had increased around the country; lynching, though illegal, was a widespread practice. A wave of race riots particularly one in Springfield, Illinois in 1908 lent a sense of urgency to the Niagara Movement and its supporters, who in 1909 joined their agenda with that of a new permanent civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Among the NAACP’s stated goals were the abolition of all forced segregation, the enforcement of the 14th and 15th Amendments, equal education for blacks and whites and complete enfranchisement of all black men (though proponents of female suffrage were part of the original NAACP, the issue was not mentioned). First established in Chicago, the NAACP had expanded to more than 400 locations by 1921.
On December 1, 1955, an African American woman named Rosa Parks was riding a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama when the driver told her to give up her seat to a white man. Parks refused, and was arrested for violating the city’s racial segregation ordinances, which mandated that blacks sit in the back of public buses and give up their seats for white riders if the front seats were full. Parks, a 42–year–old seamstress, was also the secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP. As she later explained: “I had been pushed as far as I could stand to be pushed. I had decided that I would have to know once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen.” Four days after Parks’ arrest, an activist organization called the Montgomery Improvement Association led by a young pastor named Martin Luther King, Jr. spearheaded a boycott of the city’s municipal bus company. Because African Americans made up some 70 percent of the bus company’s riders at the time, and the great majority of Montgomery’s black citizens supported the bus boycott, its impact was immediate.
About 90 boycotters, including King, were indicted under a law forbidding conspiracy to obstruct the operation of a business. Found guilty, King immediately appealed the decision. Meanwhile, the boycott stretched on for more than a year, and the bus company struggled to avoid bankruptcy. On November 13, 1956, in Browder v. Gayle, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision declaring the bus company’s segregation seating policy unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. King, called off the boycott on December 20, and Rosa Parks known as the “mother of the civil rights movement” would be one of the first to ride the newly desegregated buses. This sparked a movement that could be heard for miles and even across seas to show the determination of a silenced race of social inequality.
The beginning of the civil rights movement, the racial segregation and discrimination in the southern United States that came to national prominence during the mid-1950s. This movement had its roots in the centuries-long efforts of African slaves and their descendants to resist racial oppression and abolish the institution of slavery. Although American slaves were emancipated as a result of the Civil War and were then granted basic civil rights through the passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, struggles to secure federal protection of these rights continued during the next century. Through nonviolent protest, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s broke the pattern of public facilities’ being segregated by “race” in the South and achieved the most important breakthrough in equal-rights legislation for African Americans since the Reconstruction period (1865–77). Although the passage in 1964 and 1965 of major civil rights legislation was victorious for the movement, by then militant black activists had begun to see their struggle as a freedom or liberation movement not just seeking civil rights reforms but instead confronting the enduring economic, political, and cultural consequences of past racial oppression. On August 28, 1963, some 250,000 people both black and white participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the largest demonstration in the history of the nation’s capital and the most significant display of the civil rights movement’s growing strength. After marching from the Washington Monument, the demonstrators gathered near the Lincoln Memorial, where a number of civil rights leaders addressed the crowd, calling for voting rights, equal employment opportunities for blacks and an end to racial segregation. The last leader to appear was the Baptist preacher Martin Luther King Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), who spoke eloquently of the struggle facing black Americans and the need for continued action and nonviolent resistance. “I have a dream,” King intoned, expressing his faith that one day whites and blacks would stand together as equals, and there would be harmony between the races: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” King’s improvised sermon continued for nine minutes after the end of his prepared remarks, and his stirring words would be remembered as undoubtedly one of the greatest speeches in American history. At its conclusion, King quoted an “old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’” King’s speech served as a defining moment for the civil rights movement, and he soon emerged as its most prominent figure.
The fight for African American social equality has been a long and strenuous one. African Americans did everything from holding protests to attempting to fight court systems. However, no matter how strong the fight, and no matter how strong the endurance, African Americans have little to no chance of beating the United States Supreme Court. This body of judges has proven to be the enemy of African American Civil Rights seekers with their flawed interpretations of the 14th Amendment. the events in the 1920s contributed to the developments in the later decades, as it provided African Americans with case law and research for which they could build their arguments. The events provided African Americans with a history. It also provided them with a list of things that will not work, as well as a list of things that may be successful
Hartt, R. L. (1921, Jan. 15). “The new Negro”: “When he’s hit, he hits back!” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. Independent, 76, 59-60. Retrieved from http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5127
Crosby, E. (2005). A taste of freedom. In A little taste of freedom: the Black freedom struggle in Claiborne County, Mississippi (pp. 15-27). Retrieved from the ebrary database.
MCWHIRTER, C. (2011). Carl Sandburg’s Reporting Foretold the Chicago Race Riots of 1919. Nieman Reports, 65(3), 31-34.
Vernon J., (2008, Vol. 40, No. 1) Jim Crow, Meet Lieutenant Robinson A 1944 Court-Martial Retrieved from: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2008/spring/robinson.html
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