Segregation Essay, Research Paper
Segregation was a very controversial topic among both blacks, and whites. There was segregation in schools, transportation, and in voting. Segregation, what was it like? When a black man walked into a restaurant and was refused services just because of the color of his skin. While John F. Kennedy was president, his administration saw the beginning of new hope for equal rights of Americans.
There were many different ways blacks were discriminated against. One of the ways was voting. To prevent blacks from voting, there was a voucher system that a registered voter had to vouch for them and they could only vouch once.1 Southern blacks were also prevented from voting by having to pay poll taxes and take literacy tests.2 In Mississippi, in a district of eighteen thousand blacks, not one was registered to vote.3
There were also many actions by the government to deny civil rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1883 ruled it unconstitutional that public accommodations accord equal treatment to all people regardless of race.4 The Supreme court in Plessy vs. Ferguson gave the south the power to deny rights solely based on color.5 The arrest of the Freedom riders and the students in Albany was also a very big issue.
Violence was also another big issue during segregation. Jim Zwerg, a white man from Wisconsin was the first freedom rider to leave the bus. As soon as he got off, the mob grabbed him and beat him senseless.6 They then attacked others. The violence against the Freedom Riders received international, as well as, national press coverage. As tensions grew so did the violence. In late January somebody threw a bomb at Martin Luther King Jr.’s house but his wife and infant daughter who were in the back room escaped injury.7 Mississippi led the nation in beatings, lynchings, and disappearances. In early April 1963 blacks under the leadership of Martin Luther King staged a nonviolent march in Birmingham, Alabama. They were attacked by police. The police used clubs, fire hoses, armored cars, and police dogs.8
There were many actions by the government that supported blacks. In 1875, Congress passed a civil rights act which provided that public accommodations accord equal treatment to all people regardless of race.9 Attorney General Robert Kennedy dispatched six hundred federal marshals to an air force base outside of Montgomery to enforce this law. A third of them were sent to the city to protect the freedom riders.10 On June 19, 1963, Kennedy submitted a comprehensive civil rights bill to congress.11 In 1954 Supreme Court ordered desegregation of public schools.12 During the Kennedy administration the number of blacks in the U.S. Attorneys department of justice increased from zero to seventy.
Organized groups also had a lot to do with the end of segregation. On Decem-
ber 10, ten freedom riders arrived on a train from Atlanta. When the blacks entered the white waiting room, and the whites entered the black waiting room the city had them all arrested for trespassing.13 In 1950 the NAACP legal defense found its first legal challenge to segregation at the elementary school level in South Carolina.14 To protest the bombing, the Nashville student movement organized a massive march on city hall, the first major civil rights protest of its kind. Two thousand five hundred people participated in this march.15 On September 25, after a white man killed Herbert Lee, who served as Moses’driver in Amite County, Moses and other SNCC workers led more than 100 black high school students in a protest against the murder of their friend and the release of the accused man.16 For years the NAACP in Mississippi had been trying to help blacks register, but without much success.
Rosa Parks and many other individuals also tried to stop segregation. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks a 43-year old seamstress who worked in a department store downtown boarded a bus and refused to move when a white man needed her seat and she was arrested.17 In his Nashville workshops, James Lawson taught the discipline of nonviolence to students who wanted to challenge segregation.18 In Charleston, South Carolina on September 3, 1963, eleven Negro high school children began classes with whites in four high schools without fanfare.19
The Kennedy Administration was caught between the two sides. It wanted to support the black struggle for civil rights, but it also wanted to preserve support with the southern wing of the Democratic Party whose political support President Kennedy could not afford to lose. At home, Kennedy won Congressional approval of a number of his proposals.20 On June 11, 1963 Kennedy went before the American public on television and announced that the time for racial equality was here.21 Kennedy believed that the two most important civil rights are education and voting rights.22
Of all the strives made towards racial equality in the United States since the 1950’s, the Civil Rights Bill was the most significant. This legislation was submitted to Congress on June 19, 1963. At this time, Kennedy asked the Congress, “I ask you to look into your hearts…for the one plain, proud, and precious quality that unites all Amercans: a sense of justice.” This Bill was drafted during Kennedy’s administration, but was not signed until July 1964, six months after his assassination. The President did not end racial inequality in the United States, but the civil rights bill was the greatest step towards the end of this inequality, that the federal government had ever taken.