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African American Equal Rights 1865 to Present

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African American Equal Rights 1865 to Present

Cathie Baumgarden

His 204

Instructor: Kimberly Roff

June 21, 2012

In the United States African-Americans have been fighting to end racial discrimination. They have strived for equality and to obtain their civil rights given to them by law. It has been a long and hard fought battle. From the time of slavery to emancipation to boycotts, marches and riots, from the time of Reconstruction African-Americans have fought to gain these rights to bring us where we are today. This fight for Equal rights for all Americans no matter the color of their skin or their nationality is where we reflect on today.

After the American Civil War men of color has won their emancipation from slavery. For many this was a time for celebration. For others it was a time of fear of the unknown. No longer the property of others they were left to find their place in the world. Most could not read or write. Black codes were becoming popular in the states at this time. "The Black Codes codified some of these feelings into law when in 1865 southern state governments created legislation that restricted and controlled the lives of the ex-slaves. These differed among states, but the Black Codes all shared some general provisions. African Americans could marry, but they outlawed intermarriage between the races. State governments prohibited African Americans from carrying guns, and they could not engage in work other than farming. Some of the codes restricted their travel. The most devastating aspect was the vagrancy clause, stating that if a freed slave did not perform work in accordance with these laws, they could be put in jail or "loaned" out for enforced work, which was another term for slavery."(Bowles)

The black codes caused quite the uproar in the northern states. People were uncomfortable with the codes that were being enforced in the south and decided that action needed to be taken to counter those codes. It was at this time that the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments were ratified to the constitution. The thirteenth amendment stated, " Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States."(Bowles) this put into law the end of slavery. The fourteenth amendment "granted citizenship rights so that all persons born in the United States (including ex-slaves) became citizens of the state in which they resided."(Bowles)

To many people of color this was a giant step in their fight to become an equal to their white brothers. Unfortunately although these amendments we ratified overwhelmingly it still wasn't the answer African-Americans were looking for. Men of color were forbidden to vote which in turn kept them in their place. "When the Fifteenth Amendment became law, it mandated that states could not use race as a reason to prevent someone from voting. Ratified in 1870, it specifically stated that "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."(Bowles)

As time progressed through the reconstruction phase of American history African-Americans had gained quite a lot in way of their rights in America. However, during this time it was difficult for men of color to make any sort of gains on becoming truly equal with their counter parts. In America at the time possession of land was and indicator of wealth and influence. To keep men of color in their place plantation owners came up with the idea of sharecropping. "Sharecropping (or tenant farming) was the labor system that replaced slavery. It got its name because the ex-slaves paid landlords a "share" of the crop to tend it. Most ex-slaves preferred this over wage labor and-- in theory--it offered ownership and more control over the work process. In reality, sharecroppers could not earn enough money to ever purchase the land."(Bowles)

At the end of reconstruction the stock market failed and the country entered into the depression era. Again because of the lack of political control of African-Americans their state of equality was again put on the back burner. It was during this time that new laws were being put into place that would prevent men of color from voting. Poll taxes and Jim Crow laws were taking hold. These were basically laws that stated if you couldn't read or write or has money to pay to vote you couldn't do so. Again another blow to African-American rights as many was poor and couldn't read and write.

Through the next several years African -American rights were put on the back burner due to the expansion to the west. It was here that rights of the American-Indians were being looked at. It was also a time of mass immigration to the united stated from other countries and the time of building up of American business and an age of invention.

African-American rights were brought to the forefront again until the 1950's and 1960's. "Separation and segregation were the rule of the land, with African Americans riding in separate railroad cars, getting water out of their own drinking fountains, and even having their own courthouses and hotels. These facilities were of a far lower standard than the ones enjoyed by whites. But worst of all, voting regulations virtually eliminated the African American political voice. The color line was firmly established in American culture, and there was infrequent crossing of the divide."(Bowles)

During the 1950's and 1960's it was a variety of people who brought the civil rights movement back into the forefront of the American people's lives. "...lawyers from the NAACP, women sitting on buses, ministers from southern black churches, militants from black power organizations, and youth from colleges--shaped the successful struggle toward black equality in America."(Bowles) At the time there was a mass mind set across the nation about anyone not of white color being able to partake in the everyday happenings, separate but equal was the thought of the day.

In 1954 a break through happened for African Americans. It was a land mark decision made by the Supreme Court on the separate but equal issue facing America. It was the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. "Many consider this one of the most important decisions ever made by the Justices as they debated whether or not the state of Kansas could legally segregate



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