To what extent did the situation of African Americans improve between 1945-55?

Authors Avatar by marykateoneil (student)

Throughout the decade of 1945 to 1955, most African Americans experienced both de facto and de jure discrimination and segregation in the USA, to a further and more extreme extent in the South. Whilst undoubtedly most African Americans did struggle in day to day life, there were some areas that did improve, for example landmark cases in education where brought about and the nation’s attitude to integrated transport. However, I believe that from 1945 to 1955 there was little progression as there was mostly not much change in the fields of voting, public facilities and employment, which include some of the most vital parts where change was drastically needed.

The first area in which change was needed for African Americans was political. Strict voting laws prevented the vast majority of African Americans in the South from voting, as white officials made it difficult and often impossible to register to vote. African Americans were faced with ‘literacy’ tests with impossible questions, the ‘Grandfather clause’, here people only had the right to vote if their grandfather had shared the same right, and an expensive poll tax which many African American families could not afford. Unfair representation was also present as the South, with a high African American population, was represented only by white people, so their views were not properly voiced or taken into account fairly. However, in the North African Americans were granted the vote in 1945. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (or NAACP) was involved in litigation to make voting for African Americans easier, as the number of registered black voters in the South increased to 12% by 1947. Another factor which defined politics for the African American population was the presidency of Harry Truman from 1945 to 1953.  In 1946, Truman established a civil rights committee whose task was to examine violence against African Americans within America itself. This committee was filled with known liberals who Truman knew would produce a report that would and should shock mainstream America. The report was issued in October 1947 and was called "To Secure These Rights". It was highly critical of a nation that appeared to tolerate the way African Americas were treated at the time. The report condemned the treatment of African Americans and demanded immediate change, for example the federal government to use its authority to end segregation in America, lynching to be made a federal offence, the poll tax to be abolished and interstate travel to be de-segregated. However, these recommendations were ambitious and Truman was not able to achieve everything that the report proposed due to a lack of support in congress. On the other hand, Truman did have some success including desegregating the armed forces in 1948 and promoting equality of employment in the civil service. Overall, I think that there was little change for political rights for African Americans between 1945 and 1955, as most were still denied the vote and President Truman, although promising a lot, did not back up his words with action and ultimately failed at achieving equal civil rights, despite this the report he commissioned did highlight key issues and bring them to the forefront of society.

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The second area in which change was needed for African Americans was social. The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 was an important event in changing the way the transport system was used by African Americans. Rosa Parks, an African American woman, was told to stand up on the bus home so a white man could sit down and refused, which caused her to be arrested and charged with violation of the Montgomery City bus segregation ordinance.  This sparked the bus boycott, where African Americans initially boycotted all Montgomery buses on the day of Rosa Parks’ trial. They did this by ...

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