African American and Their Rights

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Since slavery, African Americans have gone through a lot to reach their current state. In the early 20th century, African Americans faced discrimination, isolation, and were segregated according to their skin color. It started when Europeans brought the first Africans to America, and continued throughout the Civil War. The American government made some changes in policies. A variety of leaders shaped the successful struggle toward black equality in America (Bowles, 2011). Ever since slavery begun, African Americans have been determined to end segregation, discrimination, and isolation. Activists such as, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and others, joined together to put an end to segregation, discrimination, and isolation to attain civil rights and equality.

Slavery had changed dramatically in the late 1600s. About this time the slave trade to American colonies also began increasing to meet the demand for cheap labor. Traders sold slaves to the Northern colonies, but English and other European immigrants satisfied the demand for labor there (Echerd, 2009). Slaves in America came from western and central Africa. African tribes sometimes enslaved those defeated in intertribal wars and sold their captives to European slave traders. The tribes raided villages to obtain slaves to trade for European goods. Slave traders had even offered the Africans guns and other goods for the slaves.

Slaves lived a rough, hard life. Cheap labor was a huge part of their lives. They had to work from sunrise to sunset. The work consisted of clearing land, tended to fields of tobacco, rice, and vegetables. They also performed many other tasks that had helped make plantations almost completely self-sufficient. No slaves saw any money for their tasks that they had performed, but they did receive food, clothing, and shelter. The slaves had resided in small one-room huts, which had no windows and the floors were all dirt. Most slaves accepted their living condition, however, they knew no other way of life (Koehler, 2009). However, white Southerners regained control of state governments in the South during the late 1870s, however, and reversed most of the previous gains made by former slaves. For example: segregation.

What is segregation? According to Webster’s Dictionary, to segregate is defined as to separate or set apart from others; isolate or to require, often with force, the separation of a specific racial, religious, or other group from the body of society. Segregation has been a part of our American heritage, almost from the moment slaves arrived on the shores of the New World (Bowles, 2011). In 17th century Virginia, the theocratic government feared that racial mixing between freed and enslaved blacks and white indentured servants would become a means to usurp government power. They passed laws in which the color line was clearly defined in any criminal punishments. By treating whites and blacks separately and unequally, these Virginian leaders set up a system of white supremacy that would become an essential component of American slavery.

Separation and segregation was the order of the day, with African Americans being forced to ride in separate railroad cars, have their own hotels and courthouses, and even get water out of their own drinking fountains. Their children could not attend the same schools with the White children. To further push the color-line, they then added in segregation with the Jim Crow Laws. This is mainly because the Whites were considered to be superior, and hence were thought to deserve better schools with better facilities. African Americans on the other hand were considered inferior, and hence their children attended low-quality schools that lacked adequate facilities (Sitkoff & Franklin, 2008).

The Northern States, which had grew and prospered during the war, believed the former slaves to be equal as any other person. The Southern States, still angry over the...
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