THE USA AFTER 1950
16.1.1.The Reconstruction failed to solve the problem of racial inequality. Blacks still had separate schools, transportation, restaurants, and parks, many of which were poorly funded and inferior to those of whites. Over the next 75 years,
Jim Crow signswent up to separate the races in every possible place. The system of segregation also included the denial of voting rights. During
World War I, black soldiers were segregated, denied the opportunity to be leaders, and were subjected to racism within the armed forces. The
Great Depressionincreased black protests against discrimination, especially in Northern cities. Blacks organized school boycotts in Northern cities to protest discriminatory treatment of
black children at schools.
16.1.2.More complicated was the educational situation in the South in the 1950s. White opposition had grown into massive resistance to the desegregation orders. Tactics included firing school employees who showed willingness to seek integration, closing public schools rather than desegregating, and boycotting all public education that was integrated. In
Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, the Governor refused to admit nine black students to Central High School, and President Eisenhower sent federal troops to enforce desegregation. The event was covered by the national media, and the fate of
the Little Rock Nine, the students attempting to integrate the school, dramatized the seriousness of the school desegregation issue to many Americans. The same situation took place in
the University of Alabama.
16.1.3.Despite the threats and violence, the struggle quickly moved beyond school desegregation to challenge segregation in other areas. On
December 1, 1955,
Rosa Parks, a Black woman, was told to give up her seat on a city bus to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama. When Parks refused to move, she was arrested. Montgomery's black community organized a boycott of the buses. It lasted for more than a year and dramatized to the American public the determination of blacks in the South to end segregation. It ended in triumph.
16.1.4.A young Baptist minister named
Martin Luther King, Jr., was president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization that directed the boycott. The protest made King a national figure. Later he led more than 200,000 women and men from all over the United States to Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963, for
a peaceful civil rights demonstration. The protesters gathered to show support for a broad civil rights bill. During the demonstration, King delivered his “
I Have a Dream” speechin front of the giant sculpture of the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, in which he expressed the ideals of the civil rights movement. King, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, was assassinated in April 1968.
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