‘To what extent, was the Black Civil Rights Movement successful in bringing about social and political change for Black Americans between 1880 and 1990?’
Despite the 13th Amendment being passed in January 1865 declaring that slavery was illegal in the United States in reality it had no effect to solve racial issues as white superiority was maintained through legal loopholes. The creation of legally enforced segregated societies through the Jim Crow Laws treated Black Americans as second class citizens. Furthermore, the establishment of Black Codes in the Southern States were designed to keep the blacks inferior to whites economically, socially, politically and legally as they (1) ‘were excluded from occupations where they might be in competition with whites.’. In spite of this, Whites claimed that they saw Black Americans as ‘separate but equal, albeit the Supreme Court ruling that it was legitimate through the case of Plessey vs. Ferguson and ’this created a ’halfway house between slavery and freedom that satisfied no-one.’ The 15th Amendment gave black Americans the right to vote however due to ‘Literacy Tests,’ ‘Property Qualifications,’ and ‘Grandfather Clauses,’ it wasn’t feasible. Legal constraints were further aggravated and Southerners took this to advantage knowing that Federal authorities’ attitudes towards this cause were ambivalent.
The Civil Rights Act off 9 April 1866 was made as a response to Black Codes. This ensured that all citizens of the US would enjoy equal treatment under the law. However in reality this wasn’t the case as the whites argued that it gave no reference to the right to vote. (2) ‘At the same time that the amendment was passed Congress authorised segregated black and white schooling in Washington, DC.’ This summarised the fact that the Congress wasn’t in favour of social and political integration and was in a sense an obstacle in the way of black Americans obtaining civil rights. The Military Reconstruction Act of 1867 gave Blacks significant power and this can be supported by Johnson saying that the South was beginning to become Africanised. Education for Blacks improved during the reconstruction era however due to a lack of funding and intimidation of groups such as KKK meant that by 1877, there was still 80% illiteracy among African-Americans. Legalised segregation meant that it blacks were deprived (3) ‘of their hard-earned civil rights and created a radical caste system that was to last until the 1950’s.’
During the early 20th century key pioneers such as Washington, Dubois, Wells and Garvey began to emerge who sought about real change for the Civil Rights cause. Leadership qualities in Blacks were being showcased for the first time and they adopted different tactics to achieve the (4) ‘ultimate goal’ which was equality for Blacks. Ida B. Wells was a pioneer of the early struggle and consequently established one of the first black civil rights movements the NAACP. The NAACP was to become extremely influential in the future of black civil rights and therefore its establishment was a key factor for Black civil rights. In the case of Dubois his prestigious post, publications and aberrations that blacks were a chosen people with qualities increased Black pride. Washington focused on accommodationism and avoided protests and aggression ass it would lead to alienation of the Whites. Washington however was frequently criticised by fellow black figures such as W.E.B Du Bois, who criticised his ‘soft’ approach towards whites. Washington favoured (5) ‘separate but equal’ and believed that blacks had to improve their economic position first and then civil rights would come. On the other hand Dubois sought (5) ‘rapid integration,’ Washington through his work at Tuskegee, (7) ‘increased the self-confidence and economic opportunities’ of black Americans. Violent aspects such as lynching were opposed by Wells and were adopted by subsequent activists. Garvey was the first person to bring about a (8) ‘Black mass movement in the USA, emphasising racial pride, self-respect and self-reliance,’ and his work influenced radical leaders such as Malcolm X. These ideas to bring about equality set the foundation for future civil rights activism. Consequently, Black Americans on the whole began to realise that they had to fight to gain social and political change for Black Americans.