Civil Rights Movement in America
The struggle for the Civil Rights of the African-Americans have their roots in the slave trade era and the resulting pressure to let go the slaves in the southern states increasing every passing year during the emancipation of slaves period. The movement can be traced to as early as 1800 when Absalom Jones and several other blacks living in Philadelphia petitioned Congress against the notion of enslavement and slave trade and challenging the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.
The heat for recognition of civil rights took centre stage with the Court ruling that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which sought to give “all full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement; subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law, and applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous condition of servitude” (Teaching American History, 2006).
Shortly after, in 1909 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was formed in New York City by a bi-racial group of activists consisting of W.E.B. Dubois, Oswald Garrison Villard, Ida Wells-Barnett, William English Walling, Henry Moscowitz and Mary White Ovington, (a descendant of William Lloyd Garrison) who made afresh push for the struggle for political and civil liberty (About.com, 2011).
The conception of NAACP was a very significant time in the history of the Civil Rights movement since is sent a message across all the American states for the equal treatment of all citizens, the “call” as was known was intended for the Northerners to find a way of forming social equality. Though originally known as national Negro Committee, it was changed to NAACP so as to encompass a wider range of states and a more profound effect at the end of it all.
This rule affected mainly the Southern States since they are the ones who had held tight to the idea of slavery as a source of labor. It is noteworthy that the northern states had abolished slave trade as early as 1830s and it is with the realization if the gross cruelty that slavery subjected the subjects to that the 13th amendment was brought to the front discussion row. The amendment was poised against the background of slavery as an institution in the 18th and 19th century.
The 13th amendment never came easy though it is one of the most significant amendments that have ever been applied to the American constitution and one that propelled the Civil Rights movements’ momentum. It was proposed in January 31, 1865 under the presidency of Lincoln.
Many states viewed Lincoln’s administration and the proposal of the 13th amendment as a threat to their slave trade and as a consequence a total of eleven states seceded from United States and formed Confederate States of America (CSA). This proposal came amid a civil war that began in 1861. In 1865 the Congress passed the amendment in pursuit of abolishing slave trade in the entire USA. Upon the absolute defeat of the CSA the ratification was faster, as a matter of fact towards the end of 1865, of the eleven members of CSA, eight of them had ratified the amendment. Finally on December 6, 1865 the 13th amendment was fully ratified. A span of 309 days and at the end of the day, when the war ended, all the CSA members ratified the amendment except Mississippi which only came to ratify it in 1995 effectively illegalizing slave trade in the entire United States of America.
The racial discrimination against African-American population went as deep as denying them the voting rights in the Southern states and hence the civil rights movement was more intense in the Southern states between 1954 to 1968, with the most significant time in the epoch being the 1966 Black Power Movement which interlaced with the former period and ran from 1966 to 1975. This face strived to expand the push for the dignity of the African-Americans in term of political, economic and self sufficiency as well as freedom from the oppressive white Americans brutality.
There was subsequent lobbying that followed the passing of the acts but these lobbying were also followed by resistances from the white supremacists. For instance one of the earliest assassinations was that of leader of National Equal Rights League, Octavius V. Catto which was an attempt to derail the pressure and discourage the entire black community. Ironically, his funeral attracted the largest attendance in Philadelphia since that of Lincoln and all blacks throughout the country mourned his death. This lifted the spirit of the blacks to push for Civil Rights recognition even more (U.S. History.org, 2010).
The 13th Amendment was followed fast by the 14th Amendment (Civil Rights Act of 1875) which had provision that “all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement; subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law, and applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous condition of servitude” (Case Briefs, 2011)
The Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883) however provided an interpretation that this Act applies and must be implemented in the private sector but it was only as far as illegalizing ownership of slaves. The display of discriminatory behavior was not prohibited by the Act as the court argued and every person was free to entertain his guests as he deemed fit, a position that was challenged by Justice Harlan as a narrow interpretation of the 14th Amendment. Blackmon D, (93), also argued that by the court giving the local authorities the jurisdiction over the 14th amendment, in a de facto manner accepted that the southerners could do as they wised with then African-American population among them after slavery period. He was determined to see an America that is color-blind and a society where there is no clique of special dominant class.
The lobbying was highly composed of civil resistance, with lots of acts of nonviolent protests and civil disobedience that paralyzed government operations in several states, stalled businesses and interrupted community normalcy. This made the federal state to respond immediately to the issue that affected the African-American population.
The protests manifested in various forms depending on the issue at stake, the venue, state and the protagonists in the duel. One of the methods of protest was boycotts for instance the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 to 1956 in Alabama sparked by Rosa parks (Montgomery Advertiser, 1997). There were also several instances of sit-ins like the well-known Greensboro sit-ins of 1960 in North Carolina (North Caroline History Project, 2011).
Marches were also a prominent form of protests during that period for instance the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965 which were in Alabama (Wesleyan, 2011). Though these were the most famous among the forms of protests, there were several other non-violent forms of protests that were employed in the Civil Rights Movement.
During these civil disobediences, there were many achievements that came with them. Among them are the legislative achievements for instance the ratification of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act banned any form of discrimination in the U.S.A. As would be based on race, color, religion, or nation of origin in the employment sector as well as the public utilities. This meant that the coloreds could after that access public area that hitherto were out of bounds like schools, hotels, hospitals and several other public accommodations.
The other significant step was the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. There were 18 provisions in this Act that were all geared towards making it possible for all those eligible to vote do not kiss the chance to. It also opened ways for the colored population and the women to exercise their voting rights and participate in decision making in the U.S.A.
The precipitant to the final push for the enactment of this Act ironically was due to the brutality of the racists Birmingham police commissioner called Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor who instructed his men to attack the protesters violently with police dogs, water hoses and nightsticks. These photos appearing on TV stations and newspapers awakened the conscious of the white population as well (Congress of Racial Equality, 2011).
The other significant achievement of the Civil Rights movement was the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965. It was this Act that immensely opened up the U.S.A. To immigrants other than conventional European immigrant groups that used to come to the U.S.A. This Act was further strengthened by President Kennedy and President Johnson who had a more global view that encouraged the interweaving of dependency among the nations and routed for the liberalization of the U.S.A. policies on immigration. Kennedy used this tactic during the cold war as a psychological tool to tame the communists such as Cuba, China and other authoritarian regimes.
The milestone that the Civil Rights Movement made as concerns the property ownership is encapsulated in the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which is also more commonly referred to as the Fair Housing Act, or as CRA ’68. This was as a follow-up or reaffirmation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discussed above.
It is apparent that the Civil Rights Act of 1866 outlawed discrimination in property and housing there was lacking any provisions for the federal government to enforce it. This Act came in to put more weight on the previous Acts and ban discrimination on the sale, rental, and financing of housing pegged on race, religion, and national origin. This was further expounded upon in 1974 on gender as well as 1988 protecting the disabled under the same Act.
With the passing of these fundamental Acts and several others that augmented it, there was an upsurge in entry into politics and civil activism by African-Americans from the Southern states. Across the states and the entire USA more and more young people were inspired into taking action to push for implementation of the Acts and balance in society in accordance to the Acts that concerned human rights.
The truth about the Civil Rights Movement in the American context is that the push for civilian rights are endless, they keep coming back as the needs arise with each generation having different and dynamic needs for the passing of new Acts that enable an equality-based society. Right from the days of Marcus Garvey, through the generation of Malcolm X and Martin Luther to date with the current USA president Obama, the needs keep changing prompting different angles to problems. For instance the Health care Bill was another form of ensuring that everyone in America has the chance to get a decent medical service which is a basic right for each one of us.
Most of the provisions of the Acts that push for equality have all along been actually interpreted, and directions on implementation given by the courts. This is the branch of government that has played a very significant role in the bringing to completion of the Acts as passed by the Houses. The courts to date still act as a vital link in interpretation of the law to suit the prevailing situations. One instance that still puts the courts on edge to date is the downsizing of companies in the recession period. Several cases of disproportionate layoffs in America have been reported though the onus has been upon the courts to determine whether they were driven by racist notions or economic factors (International Socialists Review, 2003)
Though still a tall order, the quest for equality is on the right track and various supplementary clauses in individual companies, government offices, NGOs, civil society and all other stakeholders in the economy have been drafted to cater for the specific unique situations, where equality may be violated. It is worth noting that even with all the individual organizations provisions to ensure equality, they all point at the Acts that are inscribed in the constitution and the Bills passed. There have been more equal provisions of job opportunities in USA, Desegregation of schools, public facilities, restaurants equal and fair treatment realized all over USA.
The recent picketing by the immigrant population in a push for more recognition and equality in allotment of jobs, the civil society urging the government to clamp down harder on the drug cartels, various prison strikes for better living conditions, the gay rights movements picketing for adoption rights, and many more are all continued portrayal of continued push for recognition of Civil Rights in America.
About.com, (2011). 1909 – NAACP Is Founded. Retrieved March 12, 2011 from http://history1900s.about.com/od/1900s/qt/naacp.htm
Blackmon D. Slavery by another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, Anchor Books (2009)
Case briefs, (2011). Civil Rights Cases. Retrieved March 12, 2011 from http://www.ecasebriefs.com/blog/law/constitutional-
Congress of Racial Equality, (2011). Voting Rights Act of 1965: Blacks in the south finally get to go to the polls. Retrieved March 12, 2011 from http://www.core-online.org/History/voting_rights.htm
International Socialists Review, (2003). Civil rights and civil wrongs: Racism in America today.
Retrieved March 12, 2011 from http://www.isreview.org/issues/32/racism.shtml
Montgomery Advertiser (1997). They Changed the World. Retrieved March 12, 2011
North Caroline History Project, (2011). Greensboro Sit-in. Retrieved March 12, 2011
Teaching American History, (2006). Civil Rights Act of 1875. Retrieved March 12, 2011
Wesleyan (2011). Voting Rights: Selma to Montgomery Marches: February 18th-March
25, 1965 Retrieved March 12, 2011 from http://www.wesleyan.edu/mlk/PDFs/selma1.pdf
US History.org, (2010). American Anti-Slavery and Civil Rights Timeline. Retrieved March 12,
2011 from http://www.ushistory.org/more/timeline.htm
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