USA 1929-2000

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  • Created on: 12-06-14 19:51

Segregation and the 'Jim Crow' laws

In the South:

In the states of the deep South there was strict segregation. This was imposed throught the 'Jim Crow' laws which segregated black people in schools,parks,hospitals,swimming pools,libraries,restaurants,cinemas and on public transport. Black people were prevented from voting and had to pass literacy or other tests in order to do so. The Scottsboro trials of 1931 showed the injustice when eight black boys were convicted of ****** to white females on very circumstantial evidence. 

In the North:

Northern states such as Michigan and New York did not have segregation laws but racism was still commonplace.During the 1920s thousands of black workers migrated from the south to cities like Chicago,Detroit and Pittsburgh in search of work. They were given low paid jobs and tended to live in squalid tenement ghettos.

However,there were improvements for some.Jazz brought fame to black singers and musicians such as Louis Armstrong.

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  • formed in 1909 by William Du Bois,the NAACP was active in fighting against racial injustice throughout the 1930s and 1940s mostly using the legal system.
  • During the 1920s it has campaigned against lynching and was the main opponent of the Ku Klux Klan.
  • In 1930 the NAACP successfully blocked the nomination of the judge John Parker, a kown racist, to be appointed to the Supreme Court.
  • During the war the NAACP pressured Rooservelt into ordering a non-discrimination policy in war related industries and federal empolyment.
  • The NAACP employed black lawyer Thurgood Marshall to fight against segregation in education; he secured equal salaries for teachers.
  • Through the pressure from the NAACP, the Supreme Court ruled that blacks had the right to the same quality of graduate education as whites.
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The Ku Klux Klan

  • Founded at the end of the Civil War in the mid 1860s,the KKK was a racist organisation which believed in white supremacy.
  • Its members had to be WASPS (White, Anglo-Saxon,Protestants)and they were all anti-Catholic and against all foreigners.
  • Klansmen dressed in white robes and white hoods to symbolise white supremacy and also to conceal their identity.
  • They used terror and violence to intimidate anybody who supported equal rights-acts of intimidation included cross burning ,beatings,multilations,castration,tar and feathering and lynching.
  • The Klan was strong in the southern states and membership reached a peak of nearly 6million in the mid-1920s,but a scandal surrounding the prosecution of a Klan leader, David Stephenson,in 1925 caused a sharp fall in membership;by 1920 membership stood at just 30,000.
  • The Klan had a powerful grip on how many southern states were run-its membership included police officers,lawyers and judges; many politicians in the south knew that if they opposed the Klan they might not be elected to Congress.
  • Despite its decline in members the Klan remained active and powerful;in the 1946, 15,000 people marched to Lincoln Memorial in Washington to demand that the organisation be made illegal
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The impact of the Depression and the New Deal

After the Wall Street Crash of 1929 America entered into the Great Depression of the 1930s. Black people suffered badly,being 'the last to be hired,the first to be fired':

  • By 1932 one-third of all black males were jobless
  • 2 million black farmers and share croppers had been forced off the land
  • Unemployment among black families claimed relief as whites in the southern states during the Depression.

Rooservelts 'New Deal' programme did not bring radical changes for black Americans but it did bring about some improvement in their economic condition: 

  • The New Deal provided 1 million jobs for black Americans and training for 50,000.
  • The Public Works Administration (PWA)allocated funds for the building of black hospitals, universities and housing projects.
  • The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) granted aid to 30 percent of all black American families.
  • The number of black Americans employed by the government rose from 50,000 in 1933 to 200,000 in 1945.

However,Rooservelt did little to eliminate unfair hiring practices and job discrimination.He also failed to support anti-lynching bills. 

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The Jim Crow Army

Following Americas entry into the war in 1941 many black Americans enlisted.They had to fight for their country in segregated units.

  • In the army there were black-only units which formed the Jim Crow Army
  • Before 1944,black soldiers were not allowed into combat in the marines-they were used only to transport supplies or as cooks and labourers.
  • The navy would only accept blcks as mess men (working in the canteens)
  • The US airforce would not accept black pilots until the formation of an African American 332nd fighter group known as the Tuskegee airmen;by the end of the war there were 1000 black pilots.
  • The 761st Tnk Battalion, nicknamed the 'black panthers',saw action in the battle of the buldge in France and Belgium in 1944.

In 1948,as a direct consequence of the contributions of black Americans to the war effort,President Truman banned 'seperate but equal' recruiting,training and service in the army,air force,navy and Marine Corps.

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Contribution to the war effort on the Home Front

Black workers made an important contribution to the war effort at home:

  • In 1941,fearing race riots,President Rooservelt set uo a Fair Employment Practices Committee which banned discrimination against black Americans in those factories used by the government in the production of war goods.
  • This was an important victory in the campaign for equality.
  • By 1944 nearly 2 million black people were working in war factories.
  • Black Americans began a 'Double V' campaign-victory over fascism abroad and victory over discrimination at home.
  • Membership of the NAACP rose from 50,000 to 450,000 during the war.
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Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, 1954

  • In 1952, 20 US states had segregated public schools
  • Linda Brown had to walk 20 blocks to her school in Topeka,Kansas even though there was a school for white pupils just a few blocks from her home.
  • In 1952 her father, Oliver Brown, with the help of the NAACP took the Board of Education to court. 
  • After losing the case in the state courts, the NAACP took the case to the Supreme Court.
  • In May 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public schools went against the US constitution.
  • However,the Supreme Court had no power to impose its decision and many southern states continued to ignore the ruling.
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Little Rock Central High School,Arkansas,1957

  • In September 1957,nine African-American students led by Elizabeth Eckford attempted to enter the white-only Central High School in Little Rock.
  • The Govener of Arkansas,Orval Faubus,surrounded the school with National Guardsmen to prevent the nine students from entering.
  • President Eisenhower responded by sending 1000 federal troops of the 101st Airbourne Division to protect the students for the rest of the school year.
  • Eight of the nine students graduated at the end of the year.
  • Little Rock is important because it showed that the President could and would enforce court orders with federal troops and it brought publicity to the injustices of segregation.
  • However,by 1964 fewer than 2 per cent of African American children attended multi-racial schools in the southern states.
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James Meredith and Mississippi University,1962

  • In June 1962 the Supreme Court upheld a federal court decision to force Mississippi University to accept the black student James Meredith.
  • When Meredith arrived to register for admission he was prevented from doing so by the Governor of Mississippi.
  • Riots broke out and President Kennedy sent in 2000 troops to restore order.
  • 300 soldiers had to remain on the university campus to protect Meredith until he graduated with his degree three years later.
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The Montgomery bus boycott,1955-56

This took place in Montgomery,Alabama,and is considered to mark the beginning of the civil rights movement.

  • In Montgomery a local law stated that African Americans had to sit on the back seats of buses and had to give up those seats if white people wanted them.
  • On 1 December 1955 Rosa Parks,an NAACP activist,refused to give up her seat and was arrested and convicted of breaking the bus laws.
  • Local civil rights activists set up the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA),led by the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King,a young Baptist minister.The group organised a boycott: they deliberately stopped using the buses,arranging private transport for people.
  • Civil rights lawyers fought Rosa Parks' case in court and in December 1956 the Supreme Court declared Montgomery's bus laws illegal.The bus company gave in.
  • This was the beginning of the non-violent mass protests by the civil rights movement.
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Non-violent direct protest gathers pace- sit-in pr

In the winter of 1959-60 civil rights groups stepped up their non-violent campaigns.They organised marches,demonstrations and boycotts to end segregation in public places.In February 1960 in Greensboro,North Carolina,the sit-in protests began at the lunch counter in the F.W. Woolworth store.By August 1961 the sit-ins in restaurants,libraries and movie theatres had attracted over 70,000 participants and resulted in over 3000 arrests.

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The 'freedom rides',1961

  • Segregation still exsisted on interstate buses and in May 1961 members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) began a form of direct protest in the southern states known as the 'freedom rides'.
  • They deliberatly rode on buses run by companies that were ignoring laws banning segregation.The first freedom rides began at Washington DC on 4 May 1961 with the plan of travelling down to New Orleans-once they reached the southern states the riders met with a hostile reception.
  • At Annison,Alabama,a bus was attacked and burnt.In Montgomery white racists beat up several freedom riders.At Birmingham there was no police protection for the freedom riders and they were attacked by an angry mob.In Jackson,Mississippi,27 freedom riders were jailed for 67 days for sitting in the white-only section of the bus station.
  • The freedom riders continued,against much violence,throughout the summer.By September 70,000 students had taken part and 3600 had been arrested.
  • The Attorney General Robert Kennedy was able to get the Interstate Commerce Committee to end segregation in all bus and rail stations and airports.
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The role and significance of Martin Luther King

Beliefs and methods

Kings ideas were based on non-violent civil disobedience.He thought violence was wrongand favoured sit-ins,boycotts,freedom rides and marches as a way of protesting.

Bus boycott,1955

King became the leader of the Montgomery Improvement Association and played a key part in the Montgomery bus boycott.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

The SCLC grew out of the bus boycott and was formed and led by king.He was a gifted public speaker and he quickly became the leading figure in the civil rights movement.

Birmingham march,1963

The SCLC challenged the city of Birmingham's decision to close its public recreation facilities in order to avoid de-segregation.It organised sit-ins and marches.The protestors faced water-cannon,dogs and baton charges.King was arrested and sent to jail.President Kennedy sent in troops and Birmingham was forced to desegregate.

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Martin Luther King ....continued.....

March on Washington,August 1963

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial,King delivered his 'i have a dream' speech to a crowd of 250,000.It put pressure on President Kennedy to draft legislation.The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.

Nobel Peace Prize,1964

This was awarded for King's work as a peacemaker,promoting non-violence and equal treatment for different races.

Selma to Birmingham marches,March 1965

Protest marches demanding voting rights led to marchers being attacked by police and state troopers.King was sent to jail.It resulted in the passing of the Voting Rights Act (1965).


King was assasinated in Memphis in April 1968 by a white racist,James Earl Ray

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The role and significance of Malcolm X

Malcolm Little was the son of an African American Baptist preacher who was murdered by white supremacists.In 1952 he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his surname to 'X'.He rejected Kings peaceful methods and believed violence could be justified to secure a seperate black nation.He was a good public speaker who attracted support from young blacks.In 1964 he left the Nation of Islam and formed the Muslim Mosque Inc and the black nationalist Organisation of Afro-American Unity.He encouraged the self-esteem of black Americans and his views and ideas became the foundation for the radical movements Black Power and Black Panthers. He was shot dead by three members of the Nation of Islam in February 1965.

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Stokely Carmichael,the Black Power Movement and th

  • The Black Power movement emerged out of the anger and frustration expressed by young black Americans over high unemployment and poverty;its leading spokesperson was Stokely Carmichael.
  • In 1966 Carmichael became chairman of the SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee)
  • He wanted blacks to have pride in their heritage and adopted the slogan 'Black is beautiful'.
  • In 1968 Carmichael joined the Black Panthers,a party formed in 1966 by Bobby seale and Huey Newton;its members wore uniforms and were prepared to use force to achieve their aim of a socialist society.
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