How Far Had African Americans Progressed in Gaining Better Civil Rights by 1960?

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Although there was a significant amount of progress for African American civil rights by 1960, there were still problems to be dealt with: only 800,000 out of 20 million black people were registered to vote in 1963, although it was a slowly rising number; in 1962, President Kennedy signed an executive order to end discrimination in federal housing construction, but there were still black ghettos in cities such as Chicago, Detroit and New York.

Firstly, despite the high enlistment rate of black people in the army during the second world war, they were not treated well. Segregation was enforced in nearly all aspects of military life, from military parades and church services to being transported and when in the canteens. The Red Cross even segregated the blood of black and white people, as the General Surgeon to the Assistant Secretary of War claimed it was ‘inadvisable to collect and mix Caucasian and Negro blood’. In 1941, journalists came up with the idea of comparing southern racists to Hitler, which sparked the idea that there was no point fighting racism abroad when there was racism in their own country. This gave way to the ‘Double V’ black press campaign: victory against racism abroad and at home. The Navy was the first branch of the services to desegregate in 1946, as it found it difficult to maintain segregation on its ships - black people gained promotions due to the need for more sailors.

The Smith vs. Allright case of 1944 outlawed the so-called ‘white primary’ in Texas, which had meant that only white people had been allowed a preliminary vote to choose the Democratic Party candidates that would stand in the general election. As a result of this outlawing, the number of black voters rose from 2% in 1940, to 12% in 1947, and about 25 black people were elected for state legislatures, although none were in the Deep South. In New York, Adam Clayton Powell was elected to the Federal House of Representatives. Despite this newfound ability to vote,...
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