It’s very late, and I have to write this article. I’ve searched my brains for things to write about – from Tories to animal rights, nuclear power to feminism, nothing has sparked enough insight to warrant an article.
So I’ve had a idea. Tomorrow morning I’ve got to present to my History class ‘major setbacks to the progress of civil rights in the 1920 and 30s (USA)’. And I am going to use this article to practice. Sorry, but you might just learn something It was either this or factorisation. Note that this is not an essay, or anything like one, but rather a few prompts for speaking.
I’m going to go through eight points, the first of which was the President himself, Woodrow Wilson. He supported segregation laws and even began to remove African Americans from the civil service. This lack of leadership from the top hampered political process as the 1920s began and confirmed the entrenchment of racist policies in the political process.
Another highly disturbing setback was the re-emergence of the Ku Klux Klan. Lynchings, beatings and murder became common again in some areas, and their intimidation made is much more difficult for black activists to organise ordinary members of society. By the mid 1920s it had millions of members and large political influence in states such as Oklahoma and Oregon.
The ‘roaring 20s’ may have been prosperous for some, but in the South incomes for African Americans actually fell to below $200 a year. Clearly the demands of poverty would come before campaigns for progress on civil rights for more people, as they struggled to survive in the harshness of segregated America.
There was also growing resentment from soldiers who returned home after fighting in World War One, who wanted their old jobs back from blacks who had filled in while they were away. The unemployment caused contributed to the inner-city ghettos such as Harlem, and removed the hope of increasing prosperity through employment in urban areas that many migrants had hoped for.
The Great Depression of 1929 was a major setback to everyone in the country, but as with all disasters in any country, it is the poor and disadvantaged who suffer most. Some claim that around 20 million people, the majority African Americans, were starving in the subsequent years, and many also suffered from disease. These conditions affected whites too, and the bitter environment as people competed desperately for jobs would only entrench hatred further.
As a result of the Depression public spending was cut back massively, and one of the worst affected areas was black schools. If education was the key to solving America’s race problems, this was disastrous, and condemned a generation to be restricted to only the lowest paid unskilled jobs.
While President Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ tried to cure the country of its economic problems, he was not especially interested in the case for civil rights, and therefore the political situation continued to stall. Even the case of Rubin Stacy, a black man executed by a mob while white families brought their children to watch the spectacle, failed to convince him of the need for anti-lynching laws. (Or at the least, he was still afraid of a white backlash at legal reform.)
Finally, the civil rights movement itself began to be divided. As the development of the black middle class began, different sections of the society concerned themselves with very different objectives. The NAACP at this time, for example, was considered too intellectual and not especially relevant to the needs of ordinary, poor African Americans.
OK, I’m done, and I need to sleep. My thanks to the ‘Civil Rights in the USA’ textbook, and I hope anyone still reading realises how interesting AS level History can be. If not, tune in on Friday when I’ll be writing a special DomSez to tie in with the ‘day of kindness‘ as supported by Ruberyvillage.co.uk
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