United States: How some whites have viewed racial wealth and equality before and after 1968
How some white Americans view racial equality can be seen in these historical newspaper articles. This could reflect why some white Americans, during the 2016 presidential election, have a view that America is not as great as it use to be.
The Emancipation Proclamation executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863 freed enslaved people in the designated areas of the South from “slave” to “free”. The Thirteenth Amendment, passed by the U.S. Congress on January 31, 1865 and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865 abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime in the United States Constitution.
During Reconstruciton, The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868 The amendment addresses citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866, enacted April 9, 1866, was the first United States federal law to define citizenship. It was mainly intended to protect the civil rights of persons of African descent born in or brought to America. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 granted citizenship and the same rights enjoyed by white citizens to all male persons in the United States “without distinction of race or color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude.”
President Andrew Johnson’s veto of the bill was overturned by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, and the bill became law. President Johnson’s attitude contributed the growth of the Radical Republican movement, which favored increased intervention in the Democratic South and more aid to former enslaved African Americans, and ultimately to Johnson’s impeachment.
In 1870, African American men were granted the right to vote under the 15th Amendment. All women (of any race) could not vote. This was a beginning for political equality for black men with white men. At this time, economic equality for all African Americans was not part of the progress.
Soon after African American men would become disenfranchised.
In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the U.S. Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of a Louisiana law passed in 1890 “providing for separate railway carriages for the white and colored races.” The law, which required that all passenger railways provide separate cars for blacks and whites, stipulated that the cars be equal in facilities, banned whites from sitting in black cars and blacks in white cars (with exception to “nurses attending children of the other race”), and penalized passengers or railway employees for violating its terms.
The Court ruled that, while the object of the Fourteenth Amendment was to create “absolute equality of the two races before the law,” such equality extended only so far as political and civil rights (e.g., voting and serving on juries), not “social rights” (e.g., sitting in a railway car one chooses). As Justice Henry Brown’s opinion put it, “if one race be inferior to the other socially, the constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.” Furthermore, the Court held that the Thirteenth Amendment applied only to the imposition of slavery itself.
George Henry White (Republican) was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district serving between 1897 and 1901. He was the last African American Congressman to be elected in the late 1800s from the South and the only African American serving in Congress during his tenure.
Women gained the right to vote, in 1920. This would mainly be white women. The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920. It prohibits any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. Prior to its passing most states disenfranchised women.
Oscar Stanton De Priest (Republican) was the first African American to be elected to Congress from outside the southern states and the first in the 1900s. He was the only African American serving in Congress from March 4, 1929 – January 3, 1935.
Arthur Wergs Mitchell(Democrat) from Illinois was the first African American to be elected to the United States Congress as a Democrat. Arthur Mitchell studied at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) and practiced law. He had entered political life as a Republican, but with President Roosevelt’s New Deal switched to the Democratic Party.
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On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a unanimous (9–0) decision on Brown v. Board of Education stating that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” and racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
In 1954, much of the United States had racially segregated schools, made legal by Plessy v. Ferguson. Brown v. Board of Education overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which allowed state-sponsored segregation or American Apartheid / Jim Crow.
On September 9, 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (Republican) signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1957. This was the first occasion since 1866, post Civil War Reconstruction, that the U.S. federal government undertook significant legislative action to protect civil rights.
The 1957 Civil Rights Act was aimed to allow Americans to exercise their right to vote. At the time only 20% of African Americans were registered to vote.
The new act established the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department and empowered federal prosecutors to obtain court injunctions against interference with the right to vote. It also established a federal Civil Rights Commission with authority to investigate discriminatory conditions and recommend corrective measures.
The final act was weakened by the U.S. Congress due to lack of support among the Democrats, who controlled much of the southern states.
As reported in the New York Times-
The Eisenhower proposal had four main parts. The first two — the creation of a civil rights commission to investigate voting irregularities and a civil rights division in the Justice Department — survive to this day. The other two pillars, unfortunately, became victims of politics. Part 3 proposed to grant the attorney general unprecedented authority to file suits to protect broad constitutional rights, including school desegregation. Part 4 provided for federal civil suits to prosecute voting rights violations.
Senator Richard Russell of Georgia (Democrat) led the attack on Part 3, accusing the attorney general of conspiring “to destroy the system of separation of the races in the Southern states at the point of a bayonet.” Johnson eventually told Eisenhower he had the votes to kill the entire bill unless the president dropped Part 3. Eisenhower reluctantly capitulated.
The reasoning behind the fourth part of the proposal, providing for civil suits, was that in 1957, civil rights prosecutions were carried out by the criminal division of the Justice Department, and offenses would be subject to jury trials. Given the all-white juries of the South, prosecutions were acts in futility. Thus Eisenhower and Brownell wanted to open these cases to civil suits, without a jury, that could result in a court order and, if resisted, a contempt citation.
Southerners insisted that these civil suits would be criminal trials in disguise, denying defendants their constitutional right to a trial by jury. So on Aug. 1 Johnson and his fellow Southerners succeeded in passing an amendment to the bill requiring juries in such civil trials.
Eisenhower refused to accept this outcome. He threatened to veto the amended bill and blame the Democrats. His pressure resulted in a Democratic retreat and a compromise, based on a Justice Department proposal to allow civil suits before a judge without a jury so long as the projected punishment did not exceed a $300 fine or 45 days in prison. The compromise bill passed the U.S. Senate on Aug. 29.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson (Democrat) on July 2, 1964, prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. This document was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.
Under the Civil Rights Act, white women and women of color who had been fired because they became pregnant, or were not hired because they had small children, now had recourse. Title VII made “male only” job advertisements illegal.
More Republicans voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act than Democrats.
Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson. It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting. This “act to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution” was signed into law 95 years after the amendment was ratified.
The law had an immediate impact. By the end of 1965, a quarter of a million new African American voters had been registered, one-third by Federal examiners. By the end of 1966, only 4 out of the 13 southern states had fewer than 50 percent of African Americans registered to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was readopted and strengthened in 1970, 1975, and 1982.
The legislation outlawed literacy tests and provided for the appointment of Federal examiners (with the power to register qualified citizens to vote) in those jurisdictions that were “covered” according to a formula provided in the statute. In addition, Section 5 of the act required covered jurisdictions to obtain “preclearance” from either the District Court for the District of Columbia or the U.S. Attorney General for any new voting practices and procedures. Section 2 applied a nationwide prohibition of the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of race or color.
Because the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the most significant statutory change in the relationship between the Federal and state governments in the area of voting since the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, it was immediately challenged in the courts. Between 1965 and 1969, the Supreme Court issued several key decisions upholding the constitutionality of Section 5 and affirming the broad range of voting practices for which preclearance was required.
On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which was meant as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The 1968 Civil Rights Act expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap and family status. Title VIII of the Act is also known as the Fair Housing Act (of 1968).
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