Racism still exists all over America today. I see it on television, in the news, and I even hear about it at school. It seems that even after hundreds of years, people still feel like African Americans are inferior, as was demonstrated in To Kill a Mockingbird. We are making strides toward equality, such as electing the country’s first African-American president; however, at this point, it’s easy to think that racial equality could never fully be achieved.
The beginning steps towards racial equality began in the 1860s with the election of President Abraham Lincoln, who was against the enslavement of African Americans. The southern states felt that their way of life was threatened by the president, and they decided to secede from the Union and form the Confederate States of America. The American Civil War began in 1861 when secession began. President Lincoln’s goal then became to free all slaves. In 1863, he made the Emancipation Proclamation, stating that all slaves in states at war with the Union were free, and at the end of the war the 13th Amendment was made to the Constitution, abolishing slavery (Kirk 2). The 14th Amendment was also passed, which gave all Americans equal protection under the law. In addition, the 15th Amendment gave people of all races the right to vote (Mount 1). Despite all of the efforts made by Lincoln and abolitionists all over the country, there was a very long road ahead for black Americans.
A set of rules in the south known as the “Jim Crow Laws” worked around the Constitutional Amendments and took rights away from most African Americans. They could not vote, and every public place was segregated: “separate but equal” (Kirk 3). Lynching was also a common occurrence during this time. Many African Americans moved to northern cities, but other who couldn’t afford it were stuck in a circle of poverty in the south. This continued for many years with little progress. This is the time period in which “To Kill a Mockingbird” takes place.
The largest strides were made during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. President John F. Kennedy called for desegregation; he knew the practice was unconstitutional (Canady 1). As desegregation began in the south, some white citizens showed resistance, causing riots and protests. On August 26, 1963, a mass of 200,000 Civil Rights supporters rushed Washington D.C. to support President Kennedy’s equality efforts. Martin Luther King, Jr. gives his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on this day. In 1964, the poll tax prohibiting blacks from voting was lifted. Also that year, the Civil Rights Act is passed, prohibiting racial discrimination in most public places (Feldmeth 1). Finally, Civil Rights Activists were seeing the results and strides toward equality they had been working for.
Today, our country is being led by biracial Barack Obama. Did the election of a black president end racial inequality in the United States? In my...