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August 7, 2012

Term paper on African American Struggle for Equal Rights


African Americans fight for equal right has the long history and journey. They have struggled to have the equal rights for all Americans without any differences among the White and Black Americans. The impact of this struggle was very long-lasting and because of this movement, the African Americans are now enjoying number of benefits as respectable American citizens. The key point is that, this struggle was overall legal in nature, to have the equal rights to all. As per the topic’s timeline, the key aspects and turn of this movement was the decision by United States Supreme Court (known as Plessy v. Ferguson) that was the catalyst to support equal but segregated racial differences as an authorized doctrine and Board of Education v. Brown that was the milestone of that time. Basically the era of late 19th century and early 20th century was the era of change, because in this time period different key activities ended and started like Universal Negro Improvement Association that was the successful movement of that era. (Niemen, 1995-96).
In the connection of late 19th century and early 20th century era, the period of 1870–1954 was an important time period where major development happened. The African American representative and leader Mr. Booker delivered his speech on 18th September 1895 and highlighted the issue with confidence and highly impressive manner. He expressed that:
One-third of the population of the South is of the Negro race. No enterprise seeking the material, civil, or moral welfare of this section can disregard this element of our population and reach the highest success. I but convey to you, Mr. President and Directors, the sentiment of the masses of my race when I say that in no way have the value and manhood of the American Negro been more fittingly and generously recognized than by the managers of this magnificent Exposition at every stage of its progress. It is a recognition that will do more to cement the friendship of the two races than any occurrence since the dawn of our freedom.
He further explained that:
There is no defense or security for any of us except in the highest intelligence and development of all. If anywhere there are efforts tending to curtail the fullest growth of the Negro, let these efforts be turned into stimulating, encouraging, and making him the most useful and intelligent citizen. Effort or means so invested will pay a thousand percent interest. These efforts will be twice blessed—blessing him that gives and him that takes.
Nearly sixteen millions of hands will aid you in pulling the load upward, or they will pull against you the load downward. We shall constitute one-third and more of the ignorance and crime of the South, or one-third its intelligence and progress; we shall contribute one-third to the business and industrial prosperity of the South, or we shall prove a veritable body of death, stagnating, depressing, retarding every effort to advance the body politic.
This soundness of speech acted as a catalyst to motivate the African Americans to boost their morals. He concluded this speech with the impressive notes that:
In conclusion, may I repeat that nothing in thirty years has given us more hope and encouragement, and drawn us so near to you of the white race, as this opportunity offered by the Exposition; and here bending, as it were, over the altar that represents the results of the struggles of your race and mine, both starting practically empty-handed three decades ago, I pledge that in your effort to work out the great and intricate problem…… you shall have at all times the patient, sympathetic help of my race; only let this be constantly in mind, that, while from representations in these buildings of the product of field, of forest, of mine, of factory, letters, and art, much good will come, yet far above and beyond material benefits will be that higher good…………
……….. coupled with our material prosperity, will bring into our beloved South a new heaven and a new earth. (Booker, 1895)
Struggle for Voting Right
Although the Journey of having equal right is very long but the phase of acquiring the right to vote is very important that gave the new shape of this struggle. Mr. Du Bois, W. E. B expressed his feeling that was the projection of voting right issue in his book “The Souls of Black Folk”:
Meantime, new thoughts came to the nation: the inevitable period of moral retrogression and political trickery that ever follows in the wake of war overtook us. So flagrant became the political scandals that reputable men began to leave politics alone, and politics consequently became disreputable. Men began to pride themselves on having nothing to do with their own government, and to agree tacitly with those who regarded public office as a private perquisite. In this state of mind it became easy to wink at the suppression of the Negro vote in the South, and to advise self-respecting Negroes to leave politics entirely alone. The decent and reputable citizens of the North who neglected their own civic duties grew hilarious over the exaggerated importance with which the Negro regarded the franchise. Thus it easily happened that more and more the better class of Negroes followed the advice from abroad and the pressure from home, and took no further interest in politics, leaving to the careless and the venal of their race the exercise of their rights as voters. The black vote that still remained was not trained and educated, but further debauched by open and unblushing bribery, or force and fraud; until the Negro voter was thoroughly inoculated with the idea that politics was a method of private gain by disreputable means.
    And finally, now, to-day, when we are awakening to the fact that the perpetuity of republican institutions on this continent depends on the purification of the ballot, the civic training of voters, and the raising of voting to the plane of a solemn duty which a patriotic citizen neglects to his peril and to the peril of his children's children, -- in this day, when we are striving for a renaissance of civic virtue, what are we going to say to the black voter of the South? Are we going to tell him still that politics is a disreputable and useless form of human activity? Are we going to induce the best class of Negroes to take less and less interest in government, and to give up their right to take such an interest, without a protest? I am not saying a word against all legitimate efforts to purge the ballot of ignorance, pauperism, and crime. But few have pretended that the present movement for disfranchisement in the South is for such a purpose; it has been plainly….” (Du Bois, 1903)
In the year of 1870, the passing of 15th amendment gave the right to vote to African Americans. Due to this, the twenty two African American candidates elected to congress and in the South Carolina the first African American that got the opportunity to have a seat in house.
Professor Niemen highlighted that USA was experiencing Revolutionary changes in United States Constitution that was because of African American awakening to strengthen the struggle to have the equal right for all. Prof Niemen paraphrased this changed as a dramatic departure from antebellum constitutional principles, because the 14th amendment was the evident to formalize the color-blind or race-blind society in the United Sates.
He further elaborated that after the decades the nation moved from slavery to freedom by the sound backup of constitutional amendment that was the license for African Americans to have the equal Political and Civil rights. (Kaczorowski, 1995-96)
Randall Kennedy also supported the view point of Prof. Niemen that minorities in the United States, especially the African Americans, participated in the development of Legal institution in America. Moreover, the Niemen’s remarks on legal development activities by Minorities are the linchpin of insight on the United States’ legal history. (Kennedy, 1995-96).
If we look at the past and above mentioned points, the struggle reaped the benefit for African Americans as now the President of Unites States is an African American and this journey has still a way to discover more positivity.

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