Assess the Significance of the Role of Individuals in Reducing Racial Discrimination in the Period 1877-1981

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Assess the significance of the role of individuals in reducing racial discrimination in the period 1877-1981.

The post-civil war era of American history could be argued as one with great promise for African Americans. With the North winning the Civil War and Lincoln granting the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, surely the seeds had been sown for equality for all in America; blacks and whites included? Despite the foundations having been laid for equality, it may not be surprising that only small progress was made when Lincoln- the “saviour” of Blacks- had little interest in abolishing slavery in the first place; “if I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it”.

However, it cannot be disputed that, whatever his intentions had been, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation did provide just a glimpse of hope for African Americans; De Jure, the African Americans throughout America had freedom and were able to leave the slavery of Southern plantation owners. Why is it then, that De Facto, the years following the Civil War failed to provide this 'new hope' for Blacks and that racism & discrimination continued for many years to come?

The idea of Blacks developing the mind set they needed in order to fight for their freedom can be categorised as their 'developing consciousness'. Throughout the 19th and 20th century, it was evident that Blacks had begun to realise that they too had rights and were entitled to the same as the Whites. Through the work of organisations such as the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) and the Harlem Renaissance as well as individuals such as William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B) Du Bois; Blacks in American began developing their identity as a group and using this to fight back against the oppression of Whites. Du Bois was known as a vocal critic of Booker T Washington, being an educated Black- graduating from Fisk University in 1885 and studying history at Harvard University- he became the...
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