Lesson Objectives:- Ending inequality in the Constitution
- Barriers to voting
- The end of separate-but-equal
- The civil rights movement
- Modern civil rights legislation
Because of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and certain amendments that were passed after that, inequality in the Constitution was over.
The 13th Amendment ended the institution of slavery. The 14th Amendment made it clear that anyone born in the United States is a citizen of the United States. And the 15th Amendment gave all citizens the right to vote.
The Civil Rights Acts from 1865 to 1875 were passed in addition to the Amendments to further implement their power and outline punishments for going against them.
Inequality may have been removed from the Constitution, but things were not changing so quickly in practice. The Civil Rights Acts were pretty much ineffective. In fact, what was to come next would nullify all that work.
The Civil Rights Cases of 1883 did not reverse the enforcement clause of the 14th Amendment, but they did establish that it only pertained to official actions of the states. The clause was not meant for private citizens; they could still abridge the privileges and immunities of other citizens.
Separate-but-Equal was put to the test when Homer Plessy from Louisiana boarded a train and was sent to the African American car even though he was only 1/8 African American.
The Separate-but-Equal doctrine held that separate-but-equal facilities do NOT violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
When Homer Plessy challenged Separate-but-Equal, he lost because it was decided that offering separate facilities did not imply that any race was more or less inferior than the other. That is when it pretty much became the rule and facilities were allowed to offer separate water fountains, public toilets, and seats in restaurants, among other things.
Even though African Americans had the right to vote, white supremacist politicians found ways to keep them from voting.
A White Primary would be held restricting voting to whites only. The Grandfather Clause restricted voting to those whose ancestors had voted before 1867.
There was also a Poll Tax, which was a special tax that had to be paid as a qualification for voting. And then there was the Literacy Test, which was administered as a precondition for voting, often used to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote.
The climate was very different back then. Even though there were laws in place, they did not seem to be effective.
Lynching was against the law, but the law was not being enforced. Therefore, African Americans were forced to live by a code of behavior when interacting with white people, for fear of being lynched.
When Oliver Brown decided that it was ridiculous to send his daughter 21 blocks away to a school with no white kids when there was a perfectly good school just down the street, he changed history.
In 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, it was decided that the 14th Amendment was being violated by segregation. Chief Justice Earl Warren actually reversed the Separate-but-Equal decision when he said that it was in fact implying inferiority.
Of course, this ruling did not go unchallenged. In the 1957 incident at Central High School in Little Rock, President Eisenhower had to send in the 101st Airborne to enforce integration. In another incident in 1962, President Kennedy had to send 30,000 troops to the University of Mississippi to make sure an African American by the name of James Meredith was allowed to attend classes.
But as we mentioned earlier, laws are not the only factors at play when it comes to social issues. There are different types of segregation and one concerns laws while the other concerns social practices.
De Jure Segregation is racial segregation that occurs because of laws or administrative decisions by public agencies. Brown and Meredith both experienced De Jure Segregation.
De Facto Segregation is racial segregation that occurs because of patterns of racial residence and similar social conditions. This happens when landlords of certain districts are the only ones who will rent to African Americans or realtors will only show houses in those areas.
Even though the Brown decision desegregated schools, that was about the extent of its effects. It would take the courage of a lady named Rosa Parks in 1955 to take a seat on a bus and refuse to move to the back. She was arrested, and that is when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a protest, and in 1956, public buses were desegregated as a result. That also set a precedent showing how effective civil rights protests could be.
Martin Luther King Jr. became a huge part of the civil rights movement. He advocated nonviolent protest even though violence was often brought against the protesters. This form of protest is called Civil Disobedience and is a nonviolent, public refusal to obey allegedly unjust laws.
Civil disobedience was not the only way African Americans and sympathetic whites fought for change.
In 1963, the March on Washington was monumental because millions of people around the nation heard Martin Luther King Jr. say those famous words, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
A new era was about to begin, often referred to as the Second Reconstruction period. It began with a series of acts designed to end discrimination of any kind.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would be enacted to ban discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.
It specifically focused on voter registration and public accommodations. Plus, the federal government was authorized to sue to enforce desegregation. One very important issue was that it extended to employment.
With African Americans being denied the right to vote through discriminatory acts rather than law, Congress knew something had to change.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed voter-registration tests as well as established federal registration and federal procedures for voting.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 brought about many changes the country needed. With laws put in place to ensure voting rights to all, voter-registration drives led to a significant climb in the number of African Americans registered to vote. When Barack Obama was voted into office in 2008, the African American vote made a significant difference.
10,000 African Americans are in office across the United States. 49 in Congress in 2014. Of course, Barack Obama became the first African American president.
There are still issues, though, that America has to overcome. The poverty level in the African American community is high when compared to that of whites. Also, African Americans are arrested and thrown in prison at a higher rate than whites.