The Fight for Equality and Civil Rights
HIS 204 American History Since 1865
Prof. Steven Brownson
May 4, 2012
The Fight for Equality and Civil Rights
A long journey that has been fraught with unimaginable struggles and tribulations has taken us to a time of history in the making, a time when we as citizens of a great nation, bear witness to the first African-American appointed to the position of President of the United States of America. This has been a journey that has seen intermittent successes and numerous setbacks. The African-Americans persevered over many generations. Let us take a look at the progress they have made over time and how they have worked to end segregation, struggled to overcome discrimination, and fought against isolation. I will be discussing events that in my opinion reflect their fight for equality and civil rights. The time period that I will be covering will be from 1865 when the thirteenth amendment came into fruition continuing through to the present. I will show how these determined people have progressed from being someone’s “property” to holding one of the highest positions attainable in the nation.
African-Americans were sold to white traders for transport across the Atlantic. Once the slaves arrived in America they were auctioned off and sold to the highest bidder, becoming the purchaser’s personal property. Slaves were viewed as an economic commodity. They were forced to work in the fields or in the kitchens from sunrise until sunset getting little rest. They were provided the bare necessities and given no luxuries. Their masters treated them no better than farm animals. The resistance to slavery began almost as soon as the first slaves arrived in the early seventeenth century. James Sweet explains that “some of the more common forms of resistance were those that took place in the work environment” (Sweet, 2010). The slaves would break tools, fake illness, or disrupt production. Slaves would steal fruit, vegetables, and other items from their masters in retaliation for their harsh treatment. The most dangerous resistance would be when a slave would try for freedom by taking flight. Sweet further tells us of the punishments dealt out by the slave’s master “If the slave were caught then severe punishment was inevitable, suffering punishments such as whippings, branding, and even the severing of the Achilles tendon” (Sweet, 2010). Slaves also risked the chance of being hung or burned for being insubordinate. Even with the knowledge of what would be in-store for them should they get caught, many slaves attempted a flight for freedom towards the free states of the American North. They were often helped by sympathetic whites or groups of free blacks who would send them via the so-called Underground Railroad (Sweet, 2010). As you can see, the African-American slaves began fighting to attain equality from the very beginning. The Civil war came to an end in 1865, sparking the hopes of four million freed slaves for a life of their own making. The ending of the Civil war did not stop racial discourse or uprising in the South. As stated by Mark Bowles “in 1865 southern state governments created legislation that restricted and controlled the lives of the ex-slaves, they called these the Black Codes” (Bowles, 2011. Sec. 1.1 par.10). These Black Codes were different for each state. They were established in response to the emancipation of slaves. The Black Codes put a restriction on newly freed slaves as explained by La Shawn Barber of the Washington Times, she wrote that “they restricted their rights to own or rent farmland, vote, sit on juries, testify against white men, sue, and enter into contracts” (Barber, 2002. Pg. B.05). Some other restrictions that the Black Codes imposed were that they could not carry guns and could not engage in work other than farming. A major event in 1865, that brought the Emancipation Proclamation into law and put...