How far was peaceful protest responsible for the successes of the civil rights movement in the years 1955-64?

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How far is it accurate to describe black Americans and other ethnic minorities as second class citizens in the period 1945-53?

A second-class citizen is a person who is systematically discriminated against within an area and to some extent, black Americans and other ethnic minorities were treated as second class citizens, not only socially but within politics, legislation and economically too. Black and white Americans were segregated against, however in the years between 1945 and 1953, there were several improvements to their position but by the end of 1953 they were not seen as equal still and therefore still second class citizens. The Jim Crow laws ensured that blacks were not seen as real Americans and were to be treated differently. Blacks were not denied the right to education or to vote, but the quality of education was much poorer for them, and the possibility of registering to vote was so low that it was almost impossible. The geographical divide in America however shows how there were different levels of treatment to blacks, but how far they were treated as equal citizens is debateable.

The social issues are probably the most obvious in showing how black Americans were treated as second class citizens because social inequality caused segregation in restaurants and other public places, on public transport, educational opportunities and importantly the ghetto and overcrowded housing. Blacks and whites were not allowed to sit in restaurants, cinemas or on public transport with white people and the superiority of the white man was even that if a white was on a walkway and there was only room for one, the black man must move off the pavement and allow the white to continue on his way. CORE began introducing sit-ins in segregated restaurants and did begin to fight off the rules of separation between the two ethnicities. Blacks had accepted their position in society and in the south, to begin with at least, there were very few activists and people were not prepared to publicly challenge the Jim Crow laws. Though life was, generally, better in the North, there was still great inequality there too and therefore schools in both areas of the US were segregated and the black schools were inferior, with usually about 5 times more money being spent on the white schools. It wasn’t until 1954 that the inequality of the school system was brought in a highly publicised law case to the Supreme Court (BROWN v BOARD OF EDUCATION). However, northern schools were generally better, shown by King as he moved North to Philadelphia and Boston to complete his education, plus both Thurgood Marshall and Adam Clayton Powell gained qualifications to become a distinguished lawyer (Marshall) and a minister, journalist and a councillor (Powell). Whites were unwilling to live near blacks and black housing was generally built poorly, with no heating and often rat-infested. Black homes were of less value to the state too, for example in Washington DC’s black community, 100 black homes were demolished to make way for the War Department’s Pentagon building and for the extension of Arlington Cemetery during WWII. Segregation on buses and other public transportation was common nationwide too, with the drivers often being rude to blacks and if there was no room left in the white area of the bus, the blacks would have to move and stand up. There was a lot of tension in the workplace as from 1943, companies had to employ blacks and white workers often lashed out at black workers with any ‘weapons’ they could find in some cases. Some white men were outraged that black men could work alongside white women and thought it wasn’t morally right for them to be placed together. However, the GI Bill of Rights did reward returning servicemen with free college education – though the quality of this education varied. Also, due to the migration during the period, blacks gained not only greater safety (as it was easier for white supremacists to intimidate rural blacks whereas large numbers congregating in a town or a city were less vulnerable) but also better economic and political power.

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Blacks were poorly, if at all, represented in politics which is why their situation was so difficult to change as if they had no-one of their own in parliament then they would always be seen as second class. Not only were they unrepresented in parliament, it was made almost impossible for blacks to be able to vote due to the unaffordable poll tax of $16.50 and ridiculous “literacy” questions which even included questions such as ‘How many bubbles are there in a bar of soap?’; this meant that few registered to vote, as little as 3% could vote in ...

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