Between 1890 and 1910, the southern states government introduced the ‘Jim Crow’ laws, which allowed legal segregation. This created separate facilities for blacks and whites, these included education, healthcare, transport and public facilities such as; toilets, bus stations and drinking fountains. Jim Crow laws did not help improve the life of African Americans due to the segregating population; blacks did not have equal rights and opportunities the same as white people. The Jim Crow laws were challenged by Plessy vs Ferguson in 1896, as they believed it was a violation of the American Constitution and were therefore illegal laws. This case was not successful, as it changed nothing between black and white American citizens.
A major turning point for African American’s was the Second World War. Although segregation continued during the war, for example, black soldiers had different canteens and were transported to the battlefield in different vehicles, and many were employed as cooks and cleaners so overall there were denied the right to fight for their country. Black Americans who did make the front line were often not given enough training and worse equipment. In many cases they were sent to the more dangerous areas of the battlefield. The courage and heroic behaviour that the African American’s had shown during the War, began to change the attitudes of many white soldiers towards them meaning that they gained more respect.
In the southern states, African Americans were still employed in poorly paid agricultural jobs. However during the Second World War many African American’s migrated to the North in search of better working and living conditions, they found work in industrial cities such as Detroit, Chicago and San Francisco. By the end of the war, 48 per cent of the black population was urban. Jobs in the cities paid more than those in the country; this meant that African American’s were paid better than before, although it was unlikely that the pay was the same as their white colleagues. This implies that the life for African American’s had not yet fully improved due to the differences in pay and jobs. As the whites are better off in America, due to their well-paid life style
Education was also a major problem in the Southern states of America. It was heavily segregated, and black children only gained a poor education compared to the inferior education the whites received. The blacks were not happy with the fact that their children were being heavily discriminated against and they had to suffer because of their race
Under the fithteenth Amendment, African American’s were legally allowed to vote, however somehow the south managed to find ways of how to disenfranchise the black population. Voting was hard to complete due to the introduction of literacy tests, this made it difficult for the black population to take part since they didn’t have such good educations unlike the whites, so they were barred from voting before the war. However the war made a difference to some southern policies. For example; before the war less than 2 per cent of the black population in the southern states could vote. By 1945 approximately 15 per cent of the black population in the south had been registered to vote, although violence and intimidation were still used to scare black people away from voting and living free lives. These methods included the Ku Klux Klan.
The Ku Klux Klan was a radicalized group who targeted any black people that showed disrespect towards white people, including romantically involved or being challenging of the rule of segregation. They terrorized people by lynching their victims in public. The Ku Klux Klan was very powerful; many of the members included; senior politicians from the southern state, judges, policemen, and other local officials. This did not improve the life of African American’s because they were constantly living in terror of expressing their opinions because they knew that terrible consequences would result of it. Many African American’s were executing from expressing their opinions on the situation of segregation.
Although, segregation was still in action, over the southern states of America. Whites often relied on black people for domestic help. They were hired to teach children how to cook, clean and provided nursing care for the rich. Many people had intimate relationships with the African American’s and were dependant on them being around. This was important for the life improvement of African American’s as they would now be able to be around white people without living in fear of something bad occurring.
By the end of 1945, the life of African American’s in the northern states had improved due to there being little legally enforced segregation, jobs in the north were industrialized meaning that there was better pay even though they were still only earing 50 per cent of whites pay, and it was easier overall now for black people to vote in the north. However situations were still bad in the south they