African American civil rights have come along way since the days of slavery. First with the emancipation of African Americans from slavery, and in the twentieth century, from segregation. Through over 200 years of struggle African Americans have gone from slavery to full citizenship. James Madison felt it was important to concentrate on slavery seeing that it was a test for democracy in America. African Americans faced two obstacles in securing rights. The first was the constitution itself. (pg. 05)
It reserves important authority for the states, such as the power to determine voting eligibility, and separate powers among the three branches of government, making it difficult for national majorities to have a say in our national government. (pg. 105) Emancipation changed the issue of “life and liberty” rights to those of full citizenship. Years later the fifteenth amendment was created which gave former slaves the right to vote. (pg. 106) Another century would pass before African Americans could exercise this option without feeling threatened. Reconstruction after the Civil War took place from 1865-1877.
During this time period slaves were emancipated (Thirteenth Amendment), granted citizenship (Fourteenth Amendment) and guaranteed the right to vote (Fifteenth Amendment). (pg. 109) Barely any states gave equal access to the ballot box of black citizens after the civil war. The Fourteenth Amendment states that anyone born on United States soil is considered a citizen. It also states that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws,” (pg. 111) Reconstruction was a failure due to rioting all over the south.
The Jim Crow Laws were also created in the 1890’s to try and segregate blacks from whites. These laws would make it very hard for blacks to vote. Laws such as the white primary which would allow only whites to vote in primary elections, and literacy test which were almost impossible to pass discouraged African Americans from voting. The only guaranteed you had of voting was if your grandfather voted before the civil war, this was known as the grandfather clauses. You began to see black civil rights emerge in the 1940’s and 50’s. With the case of Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, and the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Although important periods of history you really wouldn’t see results until the next decade. Having established “separate but equal” in the Brown v. Board of Education case Oliver Browns daughter was allowed to attend a all white neighborhood public school. (pg. 119) The Civil Rights Act of 1957 made it a federal crime to attempt to prevent a person from voting. Civil Rights Act of 1960 denied the right to vote by practices of discrimination. Civil Rights Act of 1964 barred discrimination on basis of race, color, religion, or nationality in restaurants, service stations, theaters, transportation, and hotels with five rooms or more.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 suspended the use of literacy tests. Fair Housing Act outlawed the refusal to sell to someone on the basis of race or religion. Today are United Stated Political system works to the disadvantage by enacting laws such as affirmative action. This gives all races equal opportunity while applying for jobs. Most companies must reach a quota, which is a certain number of minorities which must be hired, in order to guarantee equal opportunity.