Progression of African Americans
The historical progression of African American community
was accompanied by the permanent struggle of African Americans
for civil rights and equal opportunities. The Civil War targeted
at the liberation of African Americans, who were enslaved
by the dominant white Americans. However, the idealistic struggle
of the Civil War did not bring a consistent improvement of
the position of African Americans. Instead, African Americans
had to spend over a hundred years in the permanent struggle
for their rights and equal opportunities with the white population
to partially realize ideals of the Civil War both white and
African Americans had been fighting for during the war.
In fact, after the end of the Civil War, African Americans
were liberated, but the change of their social status did
not bring a considerable relief for them because they still
suffered from economic and political oppression. The period
from 1865-1876 was probably the most dramatic period in the
history of African Americans because it is during this time
their dreams of the liberation and new life had reached the
apogee and it was by the end of this period their dreams had
been totally ruined. At first glance, the progress in the
position of African Americans was obvious. After the Civil
War African Americans were freed, the 13th amendment of the
US Constitution, ratified in 1865, outlawed slavery in the
US, while the 14th amendment, ratified in 1868, granted full
US citizenship to African Americans Moreover, in 1870, the
15th amendment extended the right to vote to black males (Franklin,
However, such a progress proved to be illusory and changes
were rather formal than real since, the real position of African
American population had failed to improve consistently after
the end of the Civil War and the decade to follow. In fact,
African Americans were constantly oppressed, their election
rights were limited, numerous frauds deprived them of an opportunity
to influence political life of the country and get their representatives
in the legislative, judicial and executive power of the US.
In such a situation, “in face of mounting violence and
intimidation directed at blacks as well as whites sympathetic
to their cause, the US government retreated from its pledge
to guarantee constitutional protections to freedmen and women”
(Goldenberg, 1999, p.129) Moreover, they faced a problem of
physical extinction. For instance, in 1867, the Ku-Klux-Klan,
the clandestine organization, was founded which made the racial
terrorism its main ideology. This organization simply slaughtered
African Americans. In this respect, it is worth mentioning
the Colfax and Coushatta massacres in Louisiana in 1873 and
1874 (Weiner and Knopf, 2004). The anti-freedom movement grew
stronger and resulted in the appearance of numerous racist
organizations, such as the White League, which were similar
to the Ku-Klux-Klan, and the formation of white militia, which
actually represented a military wing of the racial terrorist
Within the period from 1877 to 1920, the situation has hardly
changed for better. The discrimination of African Americans
and massacres were ongoing. From 1890 to 1908 many states,
namely ten of eleven Southern states, adopted new Constitutions
or amendments that affectively disfranchised most African
Americans as well as many poor whites (Goldenberg, 1999).
As a result, African Americans voter registration and turnouts
decreased dramatically and in some cases were equal to zero.
Naturally, in such a situation, African American could not
have an opportunity to be represented in either branch of
power in the US. At the same time, the growing mob violence
led to thousands of deaths and millions of African Americans
were forced to move from their land and migrate to other states,
where they could feel safer, though, even in the North, the
socioeconomic position of African Americans was very poor
because of the low educational level and low qualification
of African Americans, which made them less competitive compared
to white Americans. Moreover, the situation was deteriorated
in the early 20th century because of the immigration of relatively
well-qualified labor force from Europe which decreased economic
opportunities of African Americans even more. In response,
African Americans developed their civil right movement that
resulted in the creation of the Niagara movement and other
secret civil rights organizations. For instance, founders
of the Niagara movement “produced a manifesto calling
for an end to racial discrimination, full civil liberties
for African Americans and recognition of human brotherhood”
(Black, 2005, p.135).
However, in 1921-1945, the situation has started to improve
and the civil right movement of African Americans had started
to grow stronger. The 1920s were the period known as the Harlem
Renaissance. In the result of the Great Migration of African
Americans from South to North their number in Northern states
increased consistently. They got larger opportunities to exercise
their rights since oppression in the North was less severe
than in the South. As a result, the cultural movement, known
as the Harlem Renaissance, spread nationwide and became a
powerful movement which proved the power of African American
community and their ability to achieve success in the US.
Outstanding artists of that epoch, such as Langston Hughes,
Claude McKay, Jacob Lawrence, and others, supported this movement
and African American civil right movement. The economic crisis
of the late 1920-s -1930s deteriorated the position of African
Americans. Nevertheless, they contributed consistently to
the victory of the US and allies in World War II (Goldenberg,
In the post-World War II period, from 1946 to 1974, the Civil
Right movement had reached its highest point of the development.
Its leader, Martin Luther King, as well as other prominent
leaders, such as Malcolm X, managed to organize the social
resistance movement which forced the dominant white group
to provide larger opportunities for African Americans to exercise
their rights. For instance, one of the achievements of the
civil right movement was the elimination of school segregation.
The racial discrimination was formally forbidden. The violence
against African Americans decreased, though it did not prevent
M.L. King from being killed in 1968 (Braude, 2002).
Finally, the late 20th century was marked by the growing representation
of African Americans in the political power of the US. In
fact, larger opportunities allowed African Americans be elected
to the legislative power, get position in the executive and
judicial power. For instance, in 1989, Douglas Wilder became
the first African American governor in the US and, in 1992,
Carol Moseley-Braun became the first African American woman
elected to the US Senate (Franklin, 2001). However, even today
the position of African Americans is far from perfect and
absolutely equal. The ruling elite of the US is still predominantly
white, while many African Americans live in poverty stricken
neighborhoods. Moreover, even modern public schools return
to the epoch of segregation since often the share of non-white
students in some public schools exceeds 99% (Braude, 2002).
Nevertheless, the civil right movement paved the way to the
better life of African Americans.
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Racism and Slavery. Is Religion Moral?” Annals: History,
Social Science, vol. 22.
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