In XIX – XX centuries, segregation and discrimination of black Americans was enshrined in the laws of Southern states. The active struggle against racism in the United States began after the Second World War. The supporters of racist views felt they were supporting the just beliefs. The segregation was firmly established in the life of American society. It was observed both in the spiritual realms as well as in everyday life.
The separation of African-American citizens from white people was observed even during the War. Black and white people served in different military blocks and were placed in different conditions. Such infringement of the rights bothered many people, while most Americans were busy with the expansion of the state welfare and military operations. However, there were also those who tried to draw attention to the principle of universal freedom, equality and strived for boosting the capacity of the country’s power.
The problem of infringement of the black population has its roots in the history of the USA, and it intensified in the 20th century due to the desire of the African-American population to be equal in rights with other citizens of the country. In this case, African Americans went from servants at the beginning of the 20th century to the labor and freedom fighters and white-collars in the post-war period and 2000s because of rising concerns about the universalism and freedom in the American society.
At the beginning of the 20th century, African Americans were recognized as servants and did not have rights. However, they began to fight for their position and equality actively at the beginning of the postwar period.1 In turn, “the Congress of Racial Equality” was organized to support the rights of African Americans. 2 They made use of all the means available for them, ranging from literature to the litigation to oppose the principle of freedom and equality to the established tradition of racism.
However, their opponents sought to slow down and limit all the legislative and political changes, and they were successful in their actions. In the period from 1920 to 1940, the division of black and white did not gain any positive tendency. For instance, African-American children in the Southern states still could not go to school with white children.3 Simultaneously, local authorities responded with “the resistance” while “the protests escalated”. 4
In the 20th century, there were significant changes associated with political beliefs and public understanding of equality and freedoms. These modifications pertained to the situation when a black woman did not want to allow a white man to take her seat in public transport. It meant a violation of the law of segregation in public transportation resulting in the arrest of the woman.5 After this incident, the black women decided to boycott the bus lines, which subsequently led to the legal confirmation by authorities that segregation in public transportation in Montgomery was inappropriate.6
This kind of situation made it possible to bring the fight for the rights to a new level. The struggle became more pronounced and intense. Nevertheless, the situation with African-Americans did not change radically, and the problem of discrimination remained acute and constant. In this case, this period is associated with “the emergency of twenty-six-year-old Martin Luther King”. 7 This political leader was firmly entrenched in the history of the African-American fight for equality, and until the present, he is associated with a non-violent struggle for the rights of the black population of America.8
He called black citizens to fight oppression by passive resistance and disobedience to the civil authorities while paying attention to “the working class and the poor”. 9 He was highly devoted to his duty, and even after the imprisonment continued to express his opinions about the freedom movement and expressed it in “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. 10 He governed various organizations and movements and inspired the African-Americans to fight for their beliefs in a non-violent way. One day King called the people to a peaceful provocation that led to the fact that the wave of protests swept across the country. In 1963, a quarter of a million people participated in a protest march, and King delivered his famous speech about justice and fraternity.11
A series of protests contributed to the implementation of laws that gave blacks the voting rights and eventually led to the abolition of segregation. However, the black fighters for freedom and equality had to go through a fierce resistance of racists, which included the Ku Klux Klan, terrorist attacks, and bombings of their homes and churches, and the brutal murder of activists.12
Due to the Americans’ desire to increase the level of equality and rising concerns about universalism and freedoms, African Americans became freedom fighters and as a consequence white collars. Nevertheless, the fighters were not consistent in their beliefs and divided into those who wanted to follow the ideas of Martin Luther King Jr. and those who believed his actions were ineffective. The result of this separation was a series of street clashes that began in the mid-1960s.
These clashes took place in several cities and states and led to the appearance of separatist organizations. At the end of the 1970s, the African-American population was divided more intensely, and the economic side of life affected this division within the black community. By the end of the 1970s, almost a third of all African-American population could be considered middle class, and by the early 1990s, almost half of black employees could join the category of white-collar workers.13
At universities, there were many black applicants and, in general, the living standards of the black population has grown, which resulted in the greater division within the African-American population of the United States.14
Although at the beginning of the 1970s some reduction in the scope of mass demonstrations and other militant actions was present, the reasons for African-American protest did not only disappear, but they worsened in many ways. Since the 1980s, the protests were carried out under socio-economic, anti-war, and anti-racist slogans indicating the possibility of the revival of the mass movement for social justice. It is worth noting that in the period from 1970 to 2000 the movement of black Americans against discrimination has become more diverse than in the 1960s.
The black Americans have fought on many fronts: at the local and national levels, in state legislatures, in city municipalities, the workplace, trade unions, Congress, and in the black neighborhoods.15 They utilized both parliamentary and non-parliamentary forms of struggle trying to strengthen contacts with other units of the democratic forces. However, the quantity of participants of the struggle of the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s was inferior to the movement of the 1960s as it encountered much more resistance.
In conclusion, the discrimination of the African-American population has its roots in the middle of the XIX century after the slavery was abolished in the United States. The US government did not take any practical steps or drastic measures to change the situation. The neglect of the discriminated population by the government led to the intensification of the struggle for the basic human rights of African Americans. Despite the fact that this population was fighting for its basic freedom, rights, and universal equality, and many people have been suffering from harassment for decades, the issue of infringement of the black population in the US is still relevant. Until present, their civil and political rights are violated, which indicates that the society and the state still have a lot to improve to achieve social justice in the country.
- Oliver Stones, Untold History of the United States, Dailymotion. Web.
- Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty!:An American History (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014), 442-746.
- Untold History of the United States: Episode 3, Youtube. Web.
- Foner, Give Me Liberty!, 440.
- Jessie Smith, Handy African American History Answer Book (Canton: Visible Ink Press, 2014), 97.
- Foner, Give Me Liberty!, 443.
- Ibid, 407.
- Howard Zinn, A People’s History of United States (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005), 134.
- Foner, Give Me Liberty!, 442.
- Foner, Give Me Liberty!, 758.
- Callie Crossley & James DeVeney, PBS: Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965, Freedocumetaries. Web.
- James Campbell, Crime and Punishment in African American History (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 220.
- Philip Reiss, Blue Eyes on African-American History (Bloomington: Archway Publishing, 2013), 244.
- Thomas Borstelmann, The 1970s: A New Global History from Civil Rights to Economic Inequality (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), 282.
- Angela Jones, African American Civil Rights (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 213.