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"To What Extent Had African Americans Acheived Equal Civil Rights By 1940?" A Reviw Of The Civil Rights And Treatment Of Blacks In Pre Civil War America.

973 words - 4 pages

To What Extent Had African Americans Achieved Equal Civil Rights by 1940?The civil rights of black Americans have improved greatly since the first pioneersof the civil rights movement began their quest for equality. Though most people associateblack civil rights with the radical movements of the 1950's and 60's, the African Americanfight for equal human rights had actually begun almost two hundred years earlier.In 1776, the white American colonists demanded freedom from the rule of theBritish Empire with their Declaration of Independence. However, few slave ownersrecognized the contradiction between their ideals about freedom and the fact of slavery.The Americas soon began to establish their own form of government - and their own lawsregarding the issue of African slaves and slave labour.From 1776 until the final signing of the American Constitution in 1787, theCommittee for Constitution debated the issue of black slaves. The southern states wantedtheir black slaves to count as human beings for the purposes of representation, so thateven though slaves could not vote, the South would still have the maximum number ofrepresentatives in Congress. However, southerners were not prepared to pay more taxesfor their slaves to have the right of being human. The dilemma resulted in the "three-fifths"compromise (A History of the Modern World, 8th Ed. 145), which stated that five slaveswere equal to three free persons for the purposes of taxation and legislative representationin Congress. This new American Constitution first enforced the inferiority of black slaves,Alana FletcherFletcher 2Ms. HigginsonENG 2D20th January, 2003and ensured the continuation of the slave trade. This would change, however, with theonset of the Civil War.The American Civil War was a major turning point for black slaves. Many slaveshad fought in the war and when it eventually ended, it was thought that blacks deservedgreater rights. In 1865 the 13th amendment was passed, abolishing slavery throughout theUSA, and the south's reconstruction period began. The year 1868 brought the 14thamendment, which stated that all blacks were citizens entitled to the same human rights aswhite citizens; and the 15th amendment, which gave blacks voting rights (The AfricanAmerican Almanac, V.4, 156). In theory, this was fair, but in practice the people of thesouth found many ways to get around these laws. The introduction of the "grandfatherclause" (The African American Almanac,V.4, 157-58) made it illegal for any personwhose grandfather was not a free man to vote, preventing most black people fromexercising their voting rights. ("Black Civil Rights," World Book Encyclopaedia).On February 12th, 1909, The National Association for the Advancement ofColored People was founded by a multiracial group of activists, who answered "The Call"(Exit to Eden 28). They initially called themselves the National Negro Committee. Theypublicly protested President Woodrow Wilson's introduction of segregation into...

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