CIVIL RIGHTS 2
AFRICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS
13th,14th,15th Constitutional Amendments
American civil rights movement, that came to national prominence during the mid-1950s. The movement had its roots in the century’s long efforts of African slaves and their descendants to resist racial oppression and abolish the institution of slavery.
Although African American slaves were emancipated as a result of the Civil War and were then granted basic civil rights through the passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution,
struggles to secure federal protection of these rights continued during the next century.
The 13th Amendment
(proposed and ratified in 1865) abolished slavery.
The 14th Amendment
(proposed in 1866 and ratified in 1868) included the privileges and immunities clause, applicable to all citizens, and the due process and equal protection clauses applicable to all persons.
The 15th Amendment
(proposed in 1869 and ratified in 1870) prohibits discrimination in voting rights of citizens on the basis of race, color.
Through nonviolent protest, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s broke the pattern of public facilities’ being segregated by “race” in the South and achieved the most important breakthrough in equal-rights legislation for African Americans.
Individual states, which determined most of the rights of American citizens, generally limited voting rights to white property owning males, and other rights such as the right to own land or serve on juries were often denied on racial or gender distinctions.
A small proportion of African Americans lived outside the slave system, but those so called “free blacks” endured racial discrimination and enforced segregation. Although some AFRICANS violently rebelled against their enslavement. African Americans and other subordinated groups mainly used nonviolent means of protests, legal challenges, pleas and petitions addressed to government officials.
During the first half of the 19th century, movements to extend voting rights to non property owning white male labourers resulted in the elimination of most property qualifications for voting, but this was accompanied by brutal suppression of indigenous American Indians and increasing restrictions on free blacks.
Slave owners in the South reacted to the 1831 NAT TURNER slave revolt in Virginia by passing laws to discourage antislavery activism and prevent the teaching of slaves to read and write.
Despite the repression of African Americans, they freed themselves from slavery by escaping or negotiating agreements to purchase their freedom through wage labour.
By the 1830s, free black communities in the Northern states had become sufficiently large and organized to hold regular national conventions, where black leaders gathered to discuss alternative strategies of racial advancement.
In 1833 a small minority of whites joined with black antislavery activists to form the American Anti-Slavery Society under the leadership of WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON.
FREDERICK DOUGLASS became the most famous AFRICAN who joined the abolition movement. His autobiography-one of many narratives-and his stirring word sound heightened public awareness of the horrors of slavery.
Although black leaders became increasingly militant in their attacks against slavery and other forms of racial oppression, their efforts to secure equal rights received a major setback in 1857, when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected African American citizenship claims.
The Dred Scott decision stated that the country’s founders had viewed blacks as so inferior that they had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” This ruling-by declaring unconstitutional the Missouri Compromise (1820), through which Congress had limited the expansion of slavery into western territories-ironically, strengthened the antislavery movement, because it angered many whites who did not own slaves.
The inability of the country’s political leaders to resolve that dispute fueled the successful presidential campaign of Abraham Lincoln, the candidate of the antislavery Republican Party.
Lincoln’s victory did not initially seek to abolish slavery, his increasing reliance on black soldiers in the Union army prompted him to issue the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) to deprive the Confederacy of its slave property.
After the American Civil War ended, Republican leaders cemented the Union victory by gaining the ratification of constitutional amendments to abolish slavery (Thirteenth Amendment)
and to protect the legal equality of ex-slaves (Fourteenth Amendment)
and the voting rights of male ex-slaves (Fifteenth Amendment).
Despite those constitutional guarantees of rights, almost a century of civil rights agitation and litigation would be required to bring about consistent federal enforcement of those rights in the former Confederate states.
Moreover, after federal military forces were removed from the South at the end of Reconstruction, white leaders in the region enacted new laws to strengthen the “Jim Crow” system of racial segregation and discrimination. In its Plessy v. Ferguson decision (1896), the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” facilities for African Americans did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment, ignoring evidence that the facilities for blacks were inferior to those intended for whites.