History. Mr Lowish. Pursuing life and liberty: Equality in the U.S.A 1945-68. Keelin Scholes.
To what extent was the federal government responsible for improving the status of black people in the United States of America in the years of 1945-64?
The Civil Rights Movement as we know it started in 1945 due to the end of the second World War. After the racial atrocities carried out by the Nazis killing over 6 million Jews it showed how far racial abuse can be taken and convinced many people that racism should be opposed in all circumstances. There were clear signs of change for black Americans however progress was not equally shared across the united states. The Federal Government which is headed by the President, but also comprises congress and the supreme court each had a role to play in dismantling segregation. As well as the Federal Government there were other factors that attempted improving the status of black people in the U.S which are peaceful protests, and legal groups such as the NAACP (national association for the advancement of coloured people) and to conclude, analyze which group responded to change effectively and re-address the question.
Firstly the 4 presidents in this time period were Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. They each have different attitudes towards civil rights. Truman was born in the border state of Missouri and as a result experienced segregation first hand. As a young man Truman was racist, he used abusive language referring to African Americans as niggers. In addition at the age of 38 he paid $10 to join the KU KLUX KLAN, but Truman outgrew his prejudices and became the first American President to publicly challenge segregation and the first to pledge his support for civil rights. In 1946 Truman established the Presidents Committee on Civil Rights. He commissioned them to produce a report examining the experience of racial minorities in America. The report ‘to secure these rights’ highlighted a lot of problems and proposed radical changes to make America a more just society. This report was ground breaking, it both detailed the scale of racial inequalities in America and mapped out a radical reform programme for addressing these inequalities. Although Truman did attempt to change the lives of black Americans his actions were limited and his initiatives were simply not comprehensive enough to deal with the racism that existed at all levels of American society. Eisenhower believed that the position of black people would improve of its own accord over time. In this sense, he did not think that it was the governments job to improve conditions for black people. This general approach is evident in his reluctance to become involved in little rock in 1957. Nonetheless, towards the end of his presidency, Eisenhower proposed two Civil Rights acts (Civil Rights act 1957 and Civil Rights act 1960). Notably, both acts faced considerable opposition in congress and the terms of the acts were weakened a a result. This shows that Eisenhower supported the Civil Rights Movement because of the actions he took but due to his belief that it is not the governments responsibility to sort the Civil Rights movement made progress slow. The link between progress being slow and government not being involved shows that the Civil Rights movement needed the government to have any progress. JFK claimed that he was sympathetic to the plight of black Americans for example he made a highly publicised phone call to Coretta King who was Martin Luther King Jr’s wife while her husband was in prison during sit it protests of 1960. He also promised a civil rights act to end segregation. Despite his promises, Kennedy was slow to use his power to help black people. Kennedy created the committee on equal employment opportunity (CEEO) which was designed to ensure equal employment opportunities for everyone who worked for the Federal Government, yet few black people were employed and...
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