During the period 1929 to 1990, the lives of the black people changed a lot, and overall by 1990, their lives had greatly improved.
In 1920, 10% of the US population was black and most of them lived in the southern states. As a result of the [i:5623715336]Jim Crow[/i:5623715336] segregation laws, they suffered the worst education, the lowest jobs, and they lived in separate areas of cities, known as ghettoes. There was a constant risk of attack by the Ku Klux Klan, and the lynchings of black people for petty crimes (without trial) were common public events.
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Black people lived lives totally apart from white people. Even in the army during the Second World War, the Jim Crow Army was for the black people and the main army for the whites. Despite the black people fighting for their country, they were still victims of bullying by most of the GIs in the army. During the Second World War, the membership of the NAACP, (the movement for black people’s civil rights) had increased by 9 times by 1945. As a result of this, extra pressure was put on the government to improve the situation of the black people.
Despite this, the only improvement made was the law which made segregation in weapon factories illegal. The black people of the USA still faced mass segregation economically, socially and politically. And although they had the right to vote, a written test had to be passed in order to confirm their right to vote. With poor education, this was virtually impossible for most African Americans.
Small victories were won all the time. One example is the Bus Boycott in 1956. Black people were forced to move to the back of public buses, in order to make room for the whites. In 1955, Rosa Parks, a middle-aged African American, refused to move to the back because of her tiredness. After causing outrage, she was arrested which drew much public attention. As a way of protest, for 13 months after, the black people boycotted the buses in Montgomery under the leadership of Martin Luther King, and since 75% of the bus users were black, this had a huge effect on the bus company. As a result, in 1956, a law was passed to make segregation on buses illegal. However, many of the transport companies refused to comply, so the law was passed in 1957 which enforced the enactment of 1956. This however was a small victory; they still suffered in nearly every other aspect of their lives.
A bigger victory took place than in 1954, where the Brown vs. Topeka act was passed, which made segregation in education illegal. Despite this, the aspiring black students still faced violence and crowds of angry white people at school throughout the ’50s and the start of the ’60s. Famous examples of this include Elizabeth Eckford and James Meredith who got shot on his way to school.
Martin Luther King played a big role in the civil rights issue. In 1955, he lead the bus boycott in Montgomery, as mentioned above, and in 1964, in Birmingham, Alabama, he leads the peaceful protest in this area of South America, where segregation was at its worst. However, Bull Connor, the racist chief of police in this area, started firing guns and setting dogs on the peaceful black protesters.
His aim was to show the rest of the world how ‘violent’ the black people were, but his endeavour actually had the opposite effect. With the media attention, this event caused, and the pictures broadcast around the world, people who hadn’t ever thought or cared about black people’s civil rights before, started to pay attention. As a result, the membership of the NAACP rose dramatically, and President Kennedy went about drawing acts to prevent racial segregation. It was famously, though slightly ironically said, “Thank the Lord for Bull Connor”.
It could be argued that the presidents during this period didn’t do a lot at all to help the situation of the black people. Truman and Eisenhower had only managed to prevent segregation in the army, which didn’t affect the lives of the African Americans after the war, or during, for most. But by 1964, after the leadership of Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, the statutes were in place to prevent social, economic and political segregation.
It may be assumed that the lives of the black people automatically improved after the ’60s, but the truth was that the law didn’t prevent racism, for a long time after this. After a long history of segregation, the white Americans’ ways were hard to change, especially in the Deep South. Although, since the ’70s, African Americans have been mayors and world-famous actors and musicians. The begging question now is whether America is ready for a black President.
To conclude, it has become obvious that the lives of the black people had improved greatly by 1990, compared to the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, although it wasn’t until 1969, that all the laws were in place to prevent segregation completely.
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