Race Relations

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  • Created by: Claraleo
  • Created on: 26-04-16 18:04

Brown vs Topeka board of education - 1954

In 1896, the US Supreme Court decided that 'separate but equal' schools were legal in the Plessy vs Ferguson case.

However, most white schools were better funded than African American schools. The NAACP challenged this inequality and fought the Topeka board of education in the Supreme Court in May 1954. The Supreme Court unanimously declared that segregated schools were illegal. Chief Justice, Earl Warren said that the concept of 'separate but equal' was unconstitutional and psychologically harmful to the children.

In 1955, the Supreme Court ruled that all states had to carry out the desegregating of their schools. Most southern states refused and made little or no changes. By 1956 very little progress had been made.

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Little Rock Central High School - 1957

In September 1957, nine African Americans tried to enter the Little Rock High School in Arkansas. They were met by a white mob and the national guard, who were sent by the state governor who was against integration.

After, 18 days of waiting the little rock nine got into the school through a back door and President Eisenhower had to send 1,100 paratroopers to protect them and enforce the law. Inside the school, the little rock nine were subject to abuse from many white students.
Only one student graduated because of the impossible working conditions.


The attitudes of many whites became more extreme.
Membership of the Ku Klux Klan grew.
The Arkansas state governor became a hero in the eyes of many southern whites.
A civil rights movement was growing.
The event was televised nationally and many saw the angry sides of the White mobs.

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The Freedom Rides -1961

CORE (the Congress On Racial Equality) wanted to test the Supreme Court's ruling of Boynton vs Virginia 1960 which stated the there was to be no segregation on interstate bus facilities.

A group of 13 people (7 black and 6 white) set off on a journey from Washington D.C. through to the Deep South. They set off on the 4th of May 1961. This was a new approach in the form of direct action. On their journey they were attacked by the KKK and other racist mobs, many of the riders were put in jail. The governor of Alabama was pressured by president Kennedy to protect the freedom riders, which he eventually did.

The Supreme Court's rulings on desegregated interstate travel were enforced in November 1961.
The rides gained lots of media attention and shocked many northern whites who were surprised by the violence and bigotry of the White south.
MLK was criticised for not taking part but he was on probation for a minor traffic offence.

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The Washington March - 1963

In August 1963, 250,000 black and white people marched on Washington to encourage the passing of the civil rights bill and to increase black employment. MLK gave his 'I have a dream' speech on the steps of the Abraham Lincoln memorial which was commemorating the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The speech emphasised the importance of non-violence and appealed to whites because of its references to the bible.

It was the first time all major civil rights leaders had collaborated.
The size impressed TV audiences world wide.
It included both whites and blacks.
President Kennedy supported the March and urged reform.
MLK became an internationally proclaimed leader.
It indicated concern for black economic conditions and segregation.

In September 1963, four young black girls were killed in a bomb attack on a baptist church in Birmingham. This led to race riots in Birmingham which led to the deaths of a black 16 year old and a black 13 year old. MLK King spoke at three of the girl's funerals.
The deaths shocked the American public and helped build support for the movement.

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Black Power protests at the Mexico Olympic Games

Tommie Smith and John Carlos were African American sprinters who came 1st and 2nd in the 200m race at the Mexico Olympics in 1968. At the medal ceremony they both did a black power salute with a clenched fist in the air. They wore black socks, no shoes, black scarves and black beads to symbolise the black community's social inequality and poverty.

They were both banned from the Olympic Games and were welcomed home by the black community as heroes but others disliked how they brought politics into the games.

EXTRA - Peter Norman was 2nd place and also wasn't allowed to compete in the games again as he wore a OPHR (Olympic Project for Human Rights).

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The Black Power movement - 1960s

The black power movement encouraged African Americans to be proud of their race, rely less on whites (separatism), increase awareness of Black culture and use violence when necessary.

Stokely Carmichael changed the SNCC into an all black organisation by expelling whites. He believed in a more violent approach as just like many he viewed that the non-violent approach was too slow and thought it wasn't making progress.

Malcolm X urged African Americans to reject their last names (slave names) and thought that violence and separatism was the way to move forward. He was a prominent member of the Nation of Islam and he forced black leaders to focus less on civil and legal rights and more on economic and social conditions.

The black panther party was formed by Huey Newton in 1966 as a response to police brutality in the watts riots. They had a 10-point program that called for education, healthcare, justice, jobs, housing and peace for all black people. They were labelled a 'black nationalist hate group' by MLK and many of its leaders were jailed, the party fizzled out by the 1970s. They set up health clinics, free breakfasts for ghetto children and an ambulance service.

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Living standards of Black Americans

African Americans had many of the worst paid jobs and had to work under the worst conditions. However, they were better than before the second world war and so this gave them hope that things could get better. Black Americans were not allowed to live in the suburbs and had to build their own communities in towns. In 1957, the average income for an African American was 57% less than the average white worker's income. Also, unemployment for African Americans was twice as high than whites.

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Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

On December 1st 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested and fined 10 dollars.

African Americans then started a bus boycott and walked to work or carpooled. The bus companies soon started losing money as 75% of their passengers were African Americans.
Whites started to retaliate and bombed MLK's house but African Americans remained calm and did not fight back.
Over the next 12 months 17,000 Black Americans refused to get the bus in Montgomery.
The Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses was illegal on November the 20th 1956.

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Ku Klux Klan

The organisation was formed in 1866 after the civil war and its aim was to make sure that African Americans didn't become equal. In the 1950's klan groups were re-established to challenge the civil rights movement. They bombed, intimidated and murdered people. Klansman had close links with the local police and government and used this to continue their intimidation. They also lynched many people. In Atlanta alone, over 40 homes were bombed by klansman between 1951-52.

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Race riots 1965-67

African Americans were becoming impatient because of the lack of progress and were partly influenced by the black power movement. By 1965, 50% of African Americans lived in the north of the USA, this caused slum housing, high unemployment, poorly paid jobs, poor education and ill health. The local government and police were always run by white Americans. In the overcrowded cities there was much violence.

Watts riot - in August 1965 violence erupted because white police officers had allegedly subjected African Americans to some unnecessary violence. 34 people will killed and hundreds more were injured. 4,000 people were arrested.

This riot sparked riots else were. In 1966, there were riots in 38 cities including Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia. 

In 1967, there were riots in Newark and Detriot. The newark riots lasted for six days.

In 1968, the assassination of MLK provoked race riots in over 100 cities and caused 45 million dollars worth of damage. 

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MLK's Noble Peace Prize and assassination - 1964

MLK won a Noble Peace Prize in 1964 for his non-violent approach to tackling racial inequality. He was only 35 years old when he won the award, making him the youngest man to ever achieve the award. 

On April 4th 1968, MLK was assassinated by James Earl Ray who was a racist white who disagreed with his ideas. 

After his assassination riots broke out in 110 cities. 

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The Civil Rights acts

1957 act - it created a civil rights commission to investigate the obstruction of voting rights.

1960 act - it increased record-keeping and supervision of voting procedures.

Major success

1964 act - after president Kennedy's assassination (nov 63) civil rights became an important national issue and the new President Johnson made it clear he would be supporting civil rights.

The act meant that racial discrimination was outlawed in employment, entertainment and government agencies. Also, it was made illegal to give government funding to any organisation which still carried out segregation (including schools) and only private clubs could be 'white only'.

1965 act - the voting rights act meant that federal registrars had to enforce voting rights and stop dicrimination in terms of voting. 

1968 act - it ruled that nobody could refuse to sell or rent a house to someone based on the colour of their skin. As well, it stopped people from being able to refer to race while advertising the sale or rental of a property.

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Freedom marches

Birmingham March 1963 - Birmingham had a reputation for being incredibly racist, it was nicknamed 'bomingham' due to the extent of the KKK's violence towards the black community. The towns police chief Bull connor was an extreme racist and saw the protesters as a challegne to his authority. MLK organised for 1,000 school children to join the march. The police attacked with water hoses, dogs and batons and because of their burtality there was a media outcry. Many Americans were horrifed by the excess violence and they movement gained a lot of white support. 

Birmingham city authorities gave in and desegregated all restaurants and council facilities. 

The Selma to Montgomery March 1965 - The March happened because African Americans were still denied the right to vote, despite the Civil Rights Act. 600 people walked the 54 mile march from Selma to Montgomery and were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers. There was a national outrage when it was shown on TV.

The March was one of the reasons why President Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965. It outlawed literacy tests and poll taxes as a way of assessing whether or not a person was fit to vote.

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Pre-1950: Black soldiers and conditions

North vs South - African Americans could share the same transport and eating facilities in the North. Some northen whites weren't prejudice and showed friendship towards African-Americans. Both the North and the South black education systems were inferior to white ones. They both only gave the majority of blacks menial jobs even when the African Americans were highly educated. Black unemployment was high throughout the US. Everywhere in the US African Americans were discriminated against. 

Almost everything was segregated in the South e.g. public transport, parks, beaches and schools.

African American soldiers - black soldiers usually served in black only units with white officers in control. It was not until1944 that the US Marines allowed black soldiers into combat. Up until that point they were cooks or labourers. Many black women served as nurses but could only treat black soldiers. Black soldiers had to do the most dangerous jobs, normally. 

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order establishing equality of treatment and opportunity in the U.S. military regardless of race.

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