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The Context Of Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison

1223 words - 5 pages

The Context of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Civil Rights began with the ending of the American Civil war. In September of 1862 President Abraham Lincoln freed all slaves in the United States when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. “This action had little immediate effect, since it was impossible for the Federal government to implement it in those regions where it actually applied--namely the states in rebellion that were not under Federal control.”[1] This proclamation was far from a solution to the unequal treatment of African Americans. There were a set of laws called the Jim Crow laws that prevented African-Americans from having many of the pleasures of freedom. The term “Jim Crow” was coined in the 1830’s by a performer who impresonated a black man who danced and sang “Jump Jim Crow.”[2] Just before the Civil War, the term was synonymous with black, Negro and colored; “and by the end of the century acts of racial discrimination towards blacks were often referred to as Jim Crow laws and practices. Some states actually kept their slaves for another three years, until the 13th Ammendment was added to the United States constitution. Under this ammendment all states, even those still in rebellion, were declared free.[3]

Even though the slaves were freed, there was still prejudice against blacks across the country and largely in the southern states. No black person was given the right to vote, to stand on any jury during trial, to testify against a white man in court, to carry a weapon in public, or to work in any job they wished.[4] These were called the Black Codes and were put into place in 1865. Along with these codes were social injustices that were not set forth by law but implemented by society to restrict the involvment of black people within the white community. Some examples of unequal treatment were segregated schools, no universities for blacks, separate housing developments and public facilities… the list goes on.

In 1866, the Civil Rights Act was passed and it “declared that all persons born in the United States were now citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition. As citizens they could make and enforce contracts, sue and be sued, give evidence in court, and inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property.”[5] Injustices other than these types of legal matters (such as access to public facilities) went unaddressed and therefore continued to happen across the country.

A second Civil Rights Act was passed in 1875. This addressed those matters of public freedom. It said “all persons, regardless of race, color, or previous condition, w[ere] entitled to full and equal employment of accommodation in "inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement."[6] But it never took effect. By 1883 it was declared unconstitutional and did not have to be followed. This...

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