Why was progress towards racial equality so slow in the period 1945 - 1955?

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Lee Turner

Why was progress towards racial equality so slow in the period 1945 – 1955?

The main reason that racial equality progressed so slowly was down to how the limitations of each attempt hindered both the efforts and progress made. These problems stem from different influences involved within the civil rights movement. Those involved include the Government and Legal means, alongside the American public and opposing organisations. In this essay I will be assessing the limitations of each effort made to improve racial equality and how these limitations slowed down the overall progress keeping in mind factors that are already in place such as tradition that may also have an impact.

Political factors play a critical role in the progress towards racial equality, mainly considering the opposition from senior politicians in the Southern states. The main problem lies deep within the structure of the American political system. Any laws made by the federal Government are first passed by a two third majority of states to enable a national law to be passed. Not only is this a slow process in itself, however the white, racist Southern states had more control of national laws in terms of racial equality. Any help towards racial equality that would come from the government would need the placement of politicians that are committed and more importantly willing to support the efforts towards racial equality. Under this structure, it is apparent that the need for support from the south is crucial for any major progress to be made. However, the lack of black voters in these states displayed clearly racist politicians that had no intention of changing the racist laws that governed their states. It is clear that this would slow the progress towards racial equality down dramatically as swaying the vote away from these racist Politicians would prove to be extremely difficult. The strongest example to demonstrate the struggle that the Civil Rights Movement came across was the Southern opposition that President Truman faced and how this hindered his efforts towards racial equality. In 1946, Truman set up at committee created to discuss Civil Rights which enabled him to commission a report examining the experience of racial minorities in America and the difficulties that they faced. This report, ‘To Secure These Rights’, highlighted the vast amount of problems African Americans faced and proposed radical changes with the aim of making America a more just society. Unsurprisingly, due to the problems faced by Truman concerning the support of the Southern States he was unwilling to implement the full recommendations of the report. This was due to the opposition from southern democrats, (also referred to as ‘Dixiecrats) who continued to support racial segregation. Their powerful position in Congress allowed Truman to recognise that they would use this power to block any plans he may suggest. We can judge the significance of this as without the Southern opposition; Truman would’ve had a much greater chance to pursue the changes which he had recommended.

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The Presidents in power during this time period equally play an important role in regards to limited progress made towards racial equality. President Truman (1945-53) had been committed to challenging Southern racism as he realised the growing importance of the black vote to the Democratic Party. Truman had very limited success as his initiatives were simply not comprehensive enough to deal with the racism that existed at all levels of American society. We can notice this through traits of unworkable and unrealistic recommendations within the, ‘To Secure These Rights’ report. An example is shown in the report as it recommended ...

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