Voting Rights Act of 1965
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation banning any forms of slavery in designated states. This was during the third year of the American Civil war, and more Black Americans were enlisted in the Union army. The proclamation of freedom and the later defeat of the Confederate army ushered in the reconstruction period. Whereas the southern Whites received the message with mixed reactions, the slaves felt empowered and demanded equal rights as any other American (Guelzo, 2005). The demand for equal rights by Black slaves prompted the enactment and signing into law of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ushered in an era where Blacks and Whites enjoyed equal opportunities. Specifically, it overcame several legal hurdles that saw Blacks barred from enjoying basic rights such as the right to vote.
For a long time, slavery was the norm in many American colonies between the 17th and 18th centuries. The African slaves were used and played a vital role in the transformation of the new nation into an economic powerhouse through the farming of cotton and tobacco. However, towards the mid-19th Century, many abolition movements called for an end to slavery and other practices such as slave trade. The former slaves were unable to vote for more than 100 years even with the disbandment of slavery. This is because many former pro-slavery states devised measures aimed at proving that the Blacks had low intelligence levels thus they were not in a position to vote (Bush, 2015). They also enforced strict segregation laws that gave strength to supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Towards the first half of the nineteenth century, several Black and White abolitionists waged war against slavery and its proponents. For many years after reconstruction, the U.S. Congress did not pass any civil rights act thus making it difficult for any rights group to stop the discriminatory conditions that faced the Blacks (Bush, 2015).
Until 1961, protestors were still met with violence from the police despite the implementation of a civil rights section in the constitution. Protestors against segregation and job discrimination were whipped continuously, bit by dogs, hit by clubs, while others were shot at (Bush, 2015). However, staunch segregationists also swore to defend segregation. Birmingham, Alabama was one of the places the rights activists faced strong resistance. The city had closed its public playgrounds, swimming pools, and even the golf courses openly defying the Supreme Court (Bush, 2015). When Martin Luther King Jr led a match against the city, many activists were arrested. Through their persistence, the Birmingham Chamber of commerce agreed to disaggregate the region for a certain period (Bush, 2015). Although Martin Luther Jr. used peaceful means, extremists responded with violent confrontations. The extremists bombed their homes, churches, and shot at them, among other atrocities aimed at demoralizing them. However, such acts ended up strengthening the civil rights activists (Bush 2015). The degree of violence forced the then president, John F Kennedy, who initially delayed in supporting the anti-discriminatory measures, to act. Eventually, in 1963, he proposed a civil rights legislation to the Congress (Bush, 2015).
In Fayette County, Tent City, when Blacks registered to vote in significant numbers, the White Citizens Council would distribute the list of the voters to merchants who would then not sell them necessities (Bush, 2015). Some White doctors also withheld treatment to worsen the situation. This took place from 1959-1965 when the Voting Rights Bill was signed to law. This was a form of economic sabotage used in many White states to oppress the minority people, particularly (Bush, 2015). In August 1963, over 200,000 people gathered around the Washington Monument and marched to the Lincoln Memorial (Bush, 2015). In the demonstrations were key figures such as Marti Luther King Junior who were at the forefront championing for decent housing, integrated schools, and civil rights laws (Bush, 2015). It was during the demonstrations that the famous speech titled “I have a dream” was delivered by Martin Luther King Jr (Bush, 2015). After the assassination of J. F. Kennedy in 1963, President Lyndon took over and immediately took up the cause that would finally give all Americans, regardless of race, the right to vote. In 1964, the Congress passed the Civil rights bill with a two-thirds vote (Bush, 2015). In July 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it to law (Bush, 2015). Violence erupted in many Sothern states. The civil rights act banned segregation based on race or religion paving the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Bush, 2015).
An important thing about the 1964 Civil Rights Act is that it helped to eradicate the problem of discrimination that was prevalent in public accommodations and employment sectors. Despite this assurance, most blacks were denied basic rights such as the right to vote. To safeguard the voting rights of Black Americans, President Lyndon signed the Voting Rights Act into law. The act prohibited literacy tests, and federal examiners were sent to the South to register the African Americans. According to the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights, Black voter registration increased from 6.7 percent in 1965 to 59.8 percent in 1967 in Mississippi (Bush, 2015). This highlighted the degree of change following the passing of the voting rights. Second, the White supremacy complex, a product of the dark ages of post-slavery and Civil War era, is still rife in the contemporary American society. Many White people feel that they are privileged just by being White (Rodriguez, 2007). In August 2017, the world was awakened to shocking scenes of White people matching for their supremacist rights in Charlottesville. The sight of people wearing paramilitary gear and carrying shield, rods, and guns confirmed to the world the reality of racism. Another impact is that Blacks rank lower on the socio-economic ladder when compared to Whites (Kuehn, 2013). This is because African-Americans have fewer socio-economic resources as compared to other races. For a long time now, Blacks have had to struggle for essential commodities and services such as education due to the families’ low income. During the era of slavery, White farmers built their economic powerhouses through Black labor. While the financial returns empowered them in the society, the Black slaves had scars to show for their labor. The White farmers’ wealth has since trickled down to their generations through inheritance thus the reason many White families are often extremely wealthy.
The African-American civil rights movement borne in the 1950s continues to influence many campaigns presently. The movement was borne from the belief that all human beings are equal and that race should not be a divisive factor. However, even though new laws and constitutional amendments were carried out to eliminate racial profiling, the dark history remains with many Americans. Black Americans and Whites view each other with suspicion and contempt. Just like the Southern States rejected the call for equality in the 1870s and strengthened vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan, White supremacy groups are rising to reclaim their power in recent years. The “Black-lives matter” campaign was borne from inspiration by the past civil rights movements. The group arose in the wake of police brutality against many Black people (Gao, 2015). Discrimination against African-Americans is a racial problem caused by in-born ethnic factors.
Overall, the fight for voting rights exposes the root of historical injustices towards the Black people which enables people to change their attitude towards race. It is evident that Whites deprived Blacks of their personal rights since they had coercive power over them, like the literacy tests. I selected this event as I have always had an innate desire to discover the reason for the hostility between Blacks and Whites in America and the world over. This research has made me understand the cause of continued racial profiling. Economically, Whites often exploited Black laborers who could neither enjoy the fruits of their labor nor own the means of production. Whites also enjoyed the monopoly of tools such as education and religion while the Blacks struggled between complete assimilation and their consciousness. The south thrived through the free slave labor offered by the slaves. The civil rights movement freed the slaves. The heightened tension created by the civil rights movement led to the eventual disbanding of slavery and the passing of voting rights. Thus, this calls for further study on the role of the civil rights movements in creating a free nation for all Americans.
Bush, E. (2015). Because They Marched: The People’s Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America by Russell Freedman. Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books,68(5), 255-255. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/563876/summary
Gao, C. (2015). African Americans in the Reconstruction Era. Routledge. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=57ZACwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=African+Americans+in+the+Reconstruction+Era&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiU5u6F-M3bAhVMESwKHWsqChsQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=African%20Americans%20in%20the%20Reconstruction%20Era&f=false
Guelzo, A. C. (2005). Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America. Simon and Schuster. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=57ZACwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=African+Americans+in+the+Reconstruction+Era&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiU5u6F-M3bAhVMESwKHWsqChsQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=African%20Americans%20in%20the%20Reconstruction%20Era&f=false
Kuehn, D. (2013). The labor market performance of young black men in the great recession. Washington, DC: Urban Institute. Retrieved from https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/23311/412747-The-Labor-Market-Performance-of-Young-Black-Men-in-the-Great-Recession.PDF
Rodriguez, J. P. (2007). Slavery in the United States: a social, political, and historical encyclopedia (Vol. 1). Abc-Clio. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=4X44KbDBl9gC&oi=fnd&pg=PR21&dq=Rodriguez,+J.+P.+(2007).+Slavery+in+the+United+States:+A+social,+political,+and+historical+encyclopedia.+Santa+Barbara,+Calif:+ABC-CLIO.&ots=IwT9Ws0iX_&sig=eHbCuJlS9w91UI0s77icTYjm73U#v=onepage&q&f=false