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Essay About African American History

What role(s) did African Americans play in achieving the “rights” outlined in this document by the late 1870s?

African Americans had an active participation during the Reconstruction era and worked hard to achieve rights that they deserved. African Americans acquired different roles, both as individuals and in groups to achieve their goals. One very important role of the African Americans was participation in voting during elections. After the 15Th amendment was passed in 1870 voting was not restricted by race. With this newfound voting power African Americans could control the future of their country. Thanks to this, other rights could now be gained through democratic election and rise of the African American leaders who represented their people throughout the years. Frederick Douglass is an example of one of the many black leaders, who worked as a spokesperson and activists for freed people. Douglass had a major role in helping shape Lincoln’s emancipation act, which in part gave freedom to the slaves. Later on he was a major supporter of Grant during the election of 1868. President Grant then signed the Civil Rights act of 1871, which helped combat the attacks against black voters and to control the power of white supremacists. African Americans also worked in groups to achieve their rights. An example of this can be seen in the newspaper article entitled Address by a committee of Norfolk Blacks. In this document it is clear how African Americans worked together. In the document they talk how they deserved basic human rights. They talk about how they’ve been in America since it’s colonization and because of this they are entitled to representation. Also how, as mentioned previously, African Americans were part of the union army and they deserve as much privilege for this as any other soldier. They also mention how they should be able to own land and how if they pay taxes they should be able to vote. This quote further shows their desire to vote: “All men having sufficient evidence of common interest with, and attachment to the community, have the right of suffrage and cannot be taxed or deprived of their property for public uses” (Address, p. 340). They appealed to white audiences to help them achieve this including their “Christian humanity” in an attempt to encompass a wider swath of readers. The final role of involvement was African American participation in government. The first African American to be in office was Hiram Rhodes who served in the U.S. Congress. Many blacks took power in the government, despite continuous struggles against white supremacists. The representation of African Americans in the government helped bring about equal rights and autonomy for this group of people. Sadly after the reconstruction’s end few African American’s were left in power in the government.

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To the extent that the world of the late 1870s did not reflect the victory of these principles, why was that the case?

The world of the late 1870’s did not reflect most of the principles talked about in the Declaration of Wrong and Rights. Around 1871 and 1872 Reconstruction started to decline. The main change of ideologies was presented thanks to the unpopularity of the Republican Party and the fear present mainly in the white societies. After the reconstruction acts; which represented an effort to crush anti-black sentiment and to assure black votes and the Federal Army was moved away southern whites feared the power that African Americans were acquiring and decided to act upon it. The fear can be seen in a quote General Gordon “Our people have always flet that if the white troops of the Federal Army could have been stationed in those negro belts we would have been safe” (Wish, p.162) During the reconstruction era, white supremacists groups such as the KKK came into play. They were dedicated to raising terror in black communities and challenged their political and social views as well as white people that supported the black cause; although many members of this organization believed they were acting as a “peace police”(Wish, p. 153). Later on, political power swayed towards political and social white supremacist views. This can be seen during the compromise of 1877. There was a great dispute during the presidential election of 1876. Republican Hayes and Democrat Tilden fought for the White House. Eventually they came to the agreement that Hayes would be president if he removed federal troops from the south. “The compromise of 1877 marked the end to any remaining federal effort to protect black citizens in the former Confederacy”(Egerton, p.316) This made many black people feel betrayed by the Republican Party and therefore started voting for the Democrats. He also had to appoint Democrats to his cabinet. New political leaders in the south gave new rules for the freedmen. Some of these rules or codes went against some of the main principles. An example was the Jim Crow laws that segregated blacks and whites from each other. This created an inferior treatment towards African Americans making racism and discrimination more common. Another main reason for the change was the Long Depression of 1873. This depression caused panic among the citizens of the United States. Fear rose among white and black people. The poverty caused some voters to turn against the Republican Party giving Democrats more control over the government. Furthermore the depression caused the Great Railroad Strike. Hayes sent federal troops to stop the strike, but this did not make him more popular. Also, the withdrawal of troops from the south gave rise to more aggression towards the black communities and their right to vote was affected as well. After all this blacks rights and equality showed little change or improvement from the years before the Reconstruction. White supremacists forces made sure that their political status was almost null, as it was before.

Although tens and thousands of African American essays dedicated to the history of the civil rights movement have already been written, this topic will never lose its relevance. The history of African Americans enslavement, freedom fighting and liberation is simultaneously both everlasting admonishment of human injustice, narrow-mindedness and cruelty and undying monument of bravery, power of will and spiritual strength of the large ethnic group that literally changed the whole world in their struggle to take the decent place in the society. So let us have a look at the African American History from the age of slavery to inauguration of the first black President of United States.   

African American History. From Slave Labor to President Chair

Martin Luther King Junior once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. With the benefit of hindsight, we can certainly say that injustice, repression and fear were exactly those words that followed African Americans hand by hand throughout the long centuries of fighting for civil rights and liberties. Although the history of African Americans establishment as meaningful members of society had been long and full of bloodshed, the decades of desperate struggle for justice and liberty were fully rewarded for the African American civil rights movement is a rare example of conservative society admitting and apologizing for its mistakes. After the long and rough way, the African Americans managed to make the whole world listen to them, recognize that they do exist and let them take their place in society.                   

The Age of Slavery

Now, let us go back to XVII, when the British Government imported the first African slaves to the New World. Although from our modern point of view, the slavery is totally unacceptable and shocking phenomenon, in 1713 England officially legalized the slave trade. This period may be considered as starting point of tragic African American history in the slavery age. The people were caught, bought, sold, locked in the cargo holds and forcedly brought to America. Famous philosopher and sociologist Karl Marx called the events of that age “the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins” and he was more than correct. The historic evidences state that by 1830, almost 5 million of 13 million American population (more than one third) had been the slaves.

Civil War and Emancipation

The Civil War has become the turning point in African American history launching the gears of freedom fighting machine. However, the African Americans were not just the passive recipients of freedom gift. Black soldiers fought in the Union Army on the Civil War battlefields, the slaves on South committed risky attempts to cross the frontline and escape into Union lines. Finally, on January 1st, 1863 Abraham Lincoln signed the executive order known as Emancipation Proclamation changing the legal status of more than three millions of slaves to ‘free people’. However, although this being a large step forward towards the liberation and equity, the African Americans still had a great way to go to overcome the racial prejudgment and achieve their final goal of freedom and equal treatment. The so called ‘contraband camps’ established by Union Army for fugitive slaves from the South still employed the refugee slaves in military and physical labor, and their name itself were the flagrant misnomer posing the people as ‘confiscated enemy property’.

Civil Rights Movement of 1950-1970s                  

The 1950s have become the reference point for new life for African American citizens in USA. In 1954, the Supreme Court of United States banned the separate education in schools.  And a year after that, in 1955, the black civil rights activists led by young Baptist minister Martin Luther King Junior achieved the prohibition of segregation in public vehicles at the legislative level. For many decades, American laws had not allowed the black people to take the seats in the first four rows of the bus, as those seats had been intended for the white part of population, and obliged the African Americans to give up their seats to the white passengers, if all the ’white seats’ were already occupied.

The major Africa American protest was triggered on the first day of December 1955, when Rosa Parks (who was later called “The Mother of Freedom Movement” and “The First Lady of Civil Rights” by US Congress), African American activist from Alabama, refused to give up her seat in the ‘black section’ to the white passenger, for which she was immediately arrested and imposed with penalty. African Americans riding the same bus were not able to tolerate such over-the-top injustice and announced the campaign also known as Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

The few black car owners drove the protesters to work and back home, but most were forced to walk by foot. This boycott, which lasted for almost a year, united all the black community in a single strive for civil rights and equity. Despite the multiple threats from authorities and KKK racists, the Boycott participants adopted the ‘do-or-die’ position. Finally, the Supreme Court of United States passed a judgement prohibiting the public vehicle segregation.

Although the satisfaction of black protesters’ demands was followed by the long string of threats and violence, it was one of earliest major victories in the history of African American civil rights movement.  

The Culture of Freedom Fighting

Despite all the twists and turns on the way towards the free life, the African Americas gave this world many gifted musicians, writers, artists, scientists, sportsmen, politicians and other eminent personalities. Although this is an essay on African American history rather than African American culture essay, it’s impossible not to mention the unique cultural contribution made by the African American freedom fighters into the world’s heritage, such as, for example, Spiritual Music, or simply Spirituals – the Christian hymns created by black slaves in America.  

In conclusion I'd like to say that that the history of African American civil rights movement is a unique example of people preserving the hope, when all the hope seemed to be gone, people being brave enough to rebel, when the whole society was against them, people, who although being in minority, changed the whole world they lived in and made it a better place.

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