Assessment Item Two: Minor Assignment
Chosen Question: (1)
Compare the two articles and comment on how the Cold War impacted upon African Americans during the 1950s.
Historically, the treatment of African Americans was atrocious: unfair and dehumanising. Throughout the 1950s, this racial discrimination was noisily protested against and the recognition from governments allowed the African American voice to reach its zenith. The Cold War and the intense ideological disputes between the United States and the Soviet Union aided in the strengthened awareness towards this inequality and led to a slight advancement of the societal position for African Americans. However, with the improvement of the African American voice, coinciding with the war at hand, came governmental fear, resulting in public manipulation and covert force. African American’s lived in a consciously limited and divided world, which stifled their individuality and independence. Richard Wright, a Negro who lived through this mistreatment, became the first Negro to highlight the injustice through protest writing. Wright “was the angriest, most honest and outspoken black writer”1 of the time and his books offer insight into the lengths of racial discrimination and inequality he and other Blacks were subjected to. He made it “clearer than any black American writer had ever done that as a black man he was not allowed and not able to feel that he was a ‘full-blooded’ American”2, but was expected to adhere to the enforced racial hierarchy and “live his life acting out a demeaning and ludicrous role”3. Life for African American’s consisted of constant degradation, with “daily insults and petty humiliations”4, and customary segregation – the Blacks of America were inhibited from employment opportunities, denied good education, forced to sit behind Anglo-Saxons (‘whites’) in public transportation, with enforced racially segregated public housing and most hotels and eateries being closed to those of African descent. Ultimately, the possibilities for African Americans were limited and they were generally treated as inferior beings. The Cold War tactically exposed the United States’ practice of gross inequality and discrimination. The conflict between political ideologies (Communism vs McCarthyism/Democracy) during the War established a central foundation for the movement towards racial equality. In an attempt to gain more party members, the Communist Party capitalised on the African American’s protests – “circulating petitions on police brutality, employment discrimination, and antilynching legislation… trying to gauge individuals’ openness (to the Communist Party)”5. They vigorously and passionately lashed the United States for their treatment of the Blacks while “actively promoting a racial justice agenda”6: pushing for unions to include Negroes, campaigning for the desegregation of housing, encouraging black writers and artists and providing opportunities for black leadership. With the promise to combat racism, and being “the only white organisation in the country that paid serious attention to the issues of race and civil rights”7, Communism attracted more membership, especially from those of African descent with the proportion of Black members doubling. With the numbers supporting the American government declining and the “difficulty sustaining the smooth image of racial progress”8, the government made every effort to counter the Soviet’s propaganda. The American politics depraved the Soviets assertions with a public declaration stating that “despite certain inequalities and conditions which exist, the American way of life provides ample opportunity to correct these conditions through democratic processes… The American Negro, down to the poorest sharecropper, is better off than the vast majority of Stalin’s subjects”9 while the “US embassies and consulates throughout the world distributed booklets showing the great progress that had been made on race...
Cited: Andrea Friedman, 'The Strange Career of Annie Lee Moss: Rethinking Race, Gender, And Mccarthyism ', The Journal of American History 94, iss 2 (2007): 445--468.
Hazel Rowley, “The ‘exile’ years? How the ‘50s culture wars destroyed Richard Wright,” Bookforum, Dec/Jan 2006, http://www.bookforum.com/archive/dec_05/rowley.html
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