To What Extent Was War a Catalyst for the Development of Civil Rights in the United States in the Period 1877 to 1981?

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  • Topic: United States, Cold War, World War II
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  • Published : March 3, 2013
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TO WHAT EXTENT WAS WAR A CATALYST FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE UNITED STATES IN THE PERIOD 1877 TO 1981? At the beginning of the 1870s Blacks had caught a glimpse at the end of the tunnel for the development of Civil Rights. With the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 followed by the 13th and 14th Amendment freed slaves could now travel freely, own property and become educated, some of the most fundamental of civil rights. However after the release of three and a half million slaves into American society it would be some time before this declaration would become reality. In the south slaves continued to work for white landowners under new share cropping scheme, education and political activism remained low resulting in not a single senate holding a black majority. Blacks remained, in the eyes of many southerners ‘a perfectly stupid race’ that ‘can never rise to a very high plane’ President Thedore Roosevelt. However over the following centaury Civil Rights changed dramatically with the Spanish – America War, First World War, Second World War, Cold War and the War in Vietnam. Further change was also due to the rising support for Negro rights groups and the pushing by congress for an increase in Civil Rights. The Spanish American war of 1898 was the first major conflict after the Emancipation. Twenty five thousand troops were used with two thousand five hundred ‘Buffalo Soldiers’. Blacks sought to prove their bravery to the nation and in doing so strike a blow against the Jim Crow laws forced on them in the south. These segregated whites and blacks in all aspects of political and social freedom, although meant to be treated with equality to all other citizens a second rate race. Black soldiers marching across Northern America were greeted by mixed cheering crowds but when crossing the south by train they were spat on and insulted showing the huge divide remaining after the civil war. The African-American community showed strong support for the rebels in Cuba and the black cause gained awareness after 33 Blacks were noted to have died in the Maine explosion. Booker T Washington explained that his race was ready to fight ‘to render service to our country that no other race can’ as they were accustomed to a dangerous climate. Blacks thought that service for their country would lead to rewards of further civil rights with ‘at least ten thousand loyal, brave, strong Black men in the south who crave an opportunity to show their loyalty to our land, and would gladly take this method of showing their gratitude for the lives laid down, and the sacrifices made, that Blacks might have their freedom and rights.’ Gatewood. However after the war very little changed, in fact the blacks situation went into decline as aggression came from Rifle Clubs, Red Shirts and the Klu Klux Klan. There were 2734 lynching’s from 1885 to 1917. In 1900 a literacy test was introduced to gain eligibility to vote, with only 35% of the southern black population literate by this time only 3% of the Black population qualified to vote. However the war provided an opportunity for Blacks to realise the injustice of fighting for a nation who at the same time suppresses your race provoking the beginnings of the Civil rights movement. The First World War was to affect the entire American nation. During the war workers unions gained better rights under the National War Labour Board guaranteeing the maintenance of working conditions and an eight hour day, in return for a no strike policy. Membership increased from 2.7 million in 1916 to five million in 1920. In the armed forces 350,000 Blacks served with only 40,000 seeing active service and 1,300 holding an officer rank. While in Europe Blacks were surprised by the welcoming attitude of the French colonial troops they fort alongside. At the same time in America the Great Migration was underway. The movement of Blacks from the south up to the North doubled most major cities populations and caused critical...
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