Victory in the Civil War

African Americans have had a long and painful encounter with subjugation, oppression and brutality. Their history is undeniably plagued with inhumane treatment and violence simply on the basis of their skin color. Man stooped to its lowest possible status when he began discriminating against people on color and race. No single race has had as unfortunate a history as African Americans who were rudely denied their rights during slavery era and were arrogantly kept away from the same after emancipation.

Many blacks were hopeful of a better life when Abraham Lincoln declared emancipation for every black slave in the country. However since he himself died soon after, Blacks faced an uphill task getting their due share of public place during Reconstruction and prior to the Civil Rights Movement in 1960s. Victory in the Civil War of 1860s had assured African-Americans that they would get equal rights in the United States which however was one promise that did not materialize for very long. African-Americans were looked down upon in the South and they did not even have the right to sit next to white people in public buses.

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In the South black people were required to sit at the back as front seats were reserved for whites. This was a highly unfair law, which caused humiliation to many blacks especially a professor named Jo Ann Robinson. Blacks who were desirous of equal rights started the civil rights movement in 1950s to uphold Thomas Jefferson’s democratic ideals, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
“[1]) Reconstruction should have been a time to rejoice and celebrate for blacks in the South. But that was not the case. Blacks suffered immensely at the hands of severe racial differences that plagued the country and had sharpened with the proclamation. The administration did little or nothing to ease the transition process. Frederick Douglass expressed his disappointment in these words: “You say you have emancipated us. You have; and I thank you for it. But what is your emancipation?
When the Israelites were emancipated they were told to go and borrow of their neighbors—borrow their coin, borrow their jewels, load themselves down with the means of subsistence; after, they should go free in the land which the Lord God gave them…But when You turned us loose, you gave us no acres. You turned us loose to the sky, to the storm, to the whirlwind, and, worst, of all you turned us loose to the wrath of our infuriated masters. ” A long series of struggles began when reconstruction failed to make the dream of liberty come true.
Voting rights were not yet granted to blacks and to make matters worse racial segregation had not been abolished in schools and other departments. Racial segregation in schools was a major sign of discrimination because young generation of blacks who were born free was forced to encounter unfair treatment without their being any legal support for the same. Slavery was no longer there in practice but it could still be felt in such actions of the people.
Discrimination on the basis of race was reflected by things such as black people riding at the back of the bus, racial segregation in school, equal and separate principle and no voting rights or job opportunities for blacks. Before 1950s, things were not even moving in the right direction. Everything was intensely unequal for blacks including access to education and jobs. But 1950s and following decades changed the fate of black community as more than a century after initial emancipation, they were finally given some of the civil rights they had dreamt of.
But these rights were not offered on a silver platter. Blacks had to consistently fight for their rights and there were a series of court cases that upheld the democratic ideals and opened doors to more freedom and equality for blacks. One such prominent and irreplaceable in significance was the Brown vs. Board of Education case of 1954. There is no case in education board’s history that has played a more important role or has served as a bigger judicial turning point than this case. In the history of important cases, Brown vs.
Board of Education occupies a top slot because of its impact not only on education system in the country but on the fate of African Americans in United States. It just changed the way Americans handled issue of human rights. In 1950s, racial segregation in schools was a norm. While schools were required to be equal in quality of education, they were also meant to be separate. It was found that even equality principle was not followed in spirit since most black schools offered education which inferior in quality. In 1849, a similar case Roberts vs.
City of Boston surfaced to challenge the education system of racial segregation but nothing concrete came out of this. In fact Benjamin Roberts and other African American parents were denied the right to enroll their children in selected Boston schools. In other words, this case upheld racial segregation. A few years later, in 1855 segregation in schools was abolished by Massachusetts legislature. However it was more in theory than practice. In 1896 came the important case of Plessy v. Ferguson where United States Supreme Court called for separate but equal access to various facilities to African Americans.
This landmark case however denied blacks a chance to achieve complete equality because based on this declaration; blacks were offered separate facilities in restaurants, public transport, hotels and education. Several other cases surfaced since the Roberts case in 1849 and by 1949 court had made little or no effort to strike down racial segregation. Brown vs. Board of Education case was filed from Kansas. Before this case, some eleven school cases had emerged between 1881 and 1949 in Kansas. None however managed to bring about any real change in school segregation system.
In 1908, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded and this organization helped black people achieve equality by providing them with legal counsel and funding whenever needed. Linda Brown was a third grade student whose father Oliver Brown wanted to admit her to a white school in the neighborhood since Linda had to walk miles everyday to reach her black school. She was denied admission in the white school and this resulted in Brown seeking help from McKinley Burnett, the head of Topeka’s branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
NAACP was more than willing to assist since they finally had the “the right plaintiff at the right time. “[2] In his testimony, Dr. Hugh W. Speer, an expert witness explained that segregation was unhealthy and unfair to black students: “… if the colored children are denied the experience in school of associating with white children, who represent 90 percent of our national society in which these colored children must live, then the colored child’s curriculum is being greatly curtailed. The Topeka curriculum or any school curriculum cannot be equal under segregation. “[3]
The case continued for several months and in May 1954, the court in its landmark decision struck down separate but equal clause and called for school integration. In his ruling Chief Justice Earl Warren said: “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment”.
[4] The case was seen as a colossal step in the right direction as it gave more encouragement to civil rights movement which ultimately resulted in a much better world for the blacks.
[1] Dr. Howard O. Lindsey, “A History of Black America”, pg. 34-35 [2] Edward W. Knappman, ed. , Great American Trials (Detroit: Visible Ink, 1994) 467. [3] Knappman 467. [4] Benjamin Munn Ziegler, ed. , Desegregation and the Supreme Court (Boston: D. C. Heath and Company, 1958) 78-79

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