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To what extent had black Americans achieved equal civil rights by 1945?

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Introduction

To what extent had black Americans achieved equal civil rights by 1945? In 1776 the white American colonists demanded freedom from British rule in their Declaration of Independence. However few slave owners recognized the contradiction between the ideas of freedom and the fact of slavery. In 1783 this was recognized, and Americas had to establish their own form of government for the 13 ex-colonies or states. Delegates from the states discussed a new constitution. The issue of black slaves was debated. The southern states wanted their black slaves to count as human beings for the purposes of representation, so that although the slaves could not vote, the South would never the less have the maximum number of representatives in Congress. However, southerners were not prepared to pay more taxes for the slaves to have the right of being human. The dilemma resulted in the three-fifths compromise; this stated that five slaves were equal to three free persons for the purposes of taxation and legislative representation in Congress. The new America Constitution thus enshrined the inferiority of black slaves, and ensured the continuation of the slave trade until 1808. ...read more.

Middle

In the North conditions were better than the South but they were far from ideal. In some places blacks were allowed to vote freely. However, Northerners were general unwilling to give African Americans the vote unless they could be sure that they would vote the 'right' way. Many northern communities had laws prohibiting discrimination in public places but these laws were not always enforced and discrimination was common. The courts of the United States did nothing to block these developments. In the 1896 Plessy Vs. Ferguson decision, the Supreme Court confirmed that segregation did not violate the14th amendment as long as 'separate facilities were equal'. By 1930 black activism had increased and was better organized but activists were still a minority and it took the New Deal to bring about more dramatic change. In 1933 Roosevelt began a hitherto unprecedented programme of government intervention to stimulate the economy and help the poor. Before 1933 the federal government had appeared uninterested in black affairs. Now the New Deal programmes helped the blacks by providing jobs and housing. Although it benefited large amounts of people, it also discriminated and tended to help only a select few. ...read more.

Conclusion

Voters were required to pay poll taxes, which blacks could not afford. Voting districts were drawn n such a way that black votes were minimised. Voters were also required to sit literacy tests and also demonstrate that they owned property. These requirements were imposed and interpreted in such a way that African-Americans were often disqualified from voting. Another major requirement implemented by the state governments were the Grandfather clauses. The voter had to demonstrate that their grandfather had been a freeman if they were allowed to vote. Most, if not all could not do this. Blacks had a very different experience of life depending on whether they lived in the North or the South of America. In 1900 blacks constituted an economic and social under class throughout America, but particularly in the South where they lacked any political power. Blacks lacked nationally known and recognised organisations and leaders, apart from Booker T. Washington. By 1945 there had been a clear and dramatic increase in black consciousness and activism. Although segregation and political inequality remained in the South, Southern white supremacy was being slowly ebbed away by a series of legal decisions. M. Fell Page 1 5/1/2007 ...read more.

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