History is Not Boring discussion

Civil Rights

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message 1: by Arminius (new)

Arminius President Harry Truman issued an executive order that called for equal opportunity for all military soldiers. This quickly led to integration. I think this act did more for civil rights than anything else. The reason is because many whites serving in WWII had their first contact with blacks because of this order and learned that blacks are no different than themselves.

message 2: by Manuel (last edited Jan 17, 2009 01:04PM) (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments I think the first steps towards military integration started during FDR's term of office.
Eleanor Roosevelt was disgusted by all the letters she was receiving from black servicemen detailing the petty abuses constantly endured in military camps scattered across the country and especially the south.

The worst case happened in a Louisiana train station, when black servicemen in uniform were refused permission to eat in the restaurant, while at the same time German POW's were seated inside enjoying their meal.

After this incident, FDR abolished Jim Crow laws on army bases. Movie theatres, rec halls, churches, buses, hospitals were desegregated on all military installations. Unfortunately black service men were still regulated to the less glamourous, more dangerous and more menial jobs in the military until the Truman administration.

message 3: by George (new)

George | 179 comments The military didn't integrate until 1948, well after the war and the Truman administration passed the first Civil Rights Act the same year. However, that led to Strom Thurmond forming the Dixiecrat Party and running as a third party candidate in the hopes of dividing the electorate and putting the Republicans into the White House. Didn't happen at that point, but it did 20 years later when Nixon put together his Southern strategy and brought Thurmond and many similar minded Southerners into the party, and helped keep the Republicans in power for most of the time since then.

The actual impact on the average person's life largely depended on what part of the country they lived in. Virginia actually suspended public education for a period rather than integrate their schools. For people in the South much of the 50's and 60'd tended to be pretty traumatic at times and at least tense for much of the time.

It's difficult to imagine how much as changed since then. Not everything to be sure, but I'd say the biggest difference is that racists can no longer depend on being defended by the police, (and the cop showing up may very well be Black) And the judical system, so whatever someone might think, they do tend to control their actions more.

Another point, Obama's parents could not have lived together in marriage in most of the South, where their marriage would have been illegal. Laws against interracial marriage were not overturned by the Supreme Court until 1967, and remained on the books throughout the South for a long time afterwards.

One other sign of how much things have changed. For most of the 20th Century, blacks streamed out of the South to the Northern and Western states looking for work and a more normal way of life. In the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, Blacks are now moving back into the South.

message 4: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments A co-worker, told me the following story about her husband.

Her husband's mother was the black live-in housekeeper to a very wealthy white family (very famous household name) in Pebble Beach during the 1950's. The wealthy family had a son about the same age as their housekeeper's son. The two boys became friends and would play with each other on the estate. The wealthy mother decided it would be a good idea if both boys attended the same private neighborhood school. She gladly paid the tuition for her housekeeper's son.

One day the wealthy mother decided to celebrate her son's birthday at the local country club (THE LODGE AT PEBBLE BEACH) and she decided she would also invite her black housekeeper and her son to the party.

As soon as the group stepped into the dining room, there was a gasp and low murmur from people at other tables. The maitre d' approached the white mom, and quietly whispered they didn't server black people in their dinning room.

The white Mom, kept her cool and exclaimed that this was a special event and how could she possibly explain this situation to her "special" guests......the Queen of Lesotho and her son the Crown Prince?"

The maitre d' was embarrassed and apologized repeatedly. He pleaded for them to please stay and enjoy their dinner.

How extraordinary to think our first Black President takes office in a few days. Many of the people from my story are still alive to witness it all.

message 5: by Will (last edited Jan 26, 2009 08:06AM) (new)

Will (oldbosun) | 21 comments Let's try this again.

The demonstrations, sit-ins, walk-ins...any activity that disrupted the normal flow of traffic or the day for White Folk, had an impact on the White Folk, made the White Folk conscious of what most of them already knew in their hearts. Important and effective.

The Freedom Riders - some say the gig was an ill-advised failure, others say it was hope in a bus.

Boycotts hit the businessmen where it hurt: the wallet, meaning that they appealed to their friends that fed at the public trough for relief, if not at the local, then at the state, or higher, level.

Brown v. Board of Education, et al., provided a legal framework not only for redress of specific grievances, but also laid a groundwork to be cited in the later development of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 et seq.

I have a Dream: Some might say it was no more important to the Movement than the Gettysburg Address was to the War Between the States. Some might say that, like the Gettysburg Address, it defined the spirit of the Movement. How important was it? How important is anything, unless we envision the world without that "thing" in it.

message 6: by George (new)

George | 179 comments Well, Brown vs Topeka was the first Supreme Court decision to overturn the "separate but equal" premise the Supreme Court established in Plessy vs Fergesson in 1896. All of the Jim Crow laws set up in the South received the blessing of the Supreme Court with that decision. Plessy vs Fergesson dealt with separate railroad cars for blacks and whites in the South. As the railroads constituted interstate traffic and commerce, the separation of the races was challenged, but upheld by the Supreme Court, leading to enforced separation on almost every level, but the facilities established for blacks were never remotely equal, which was finally recognized in Brown vs Topeka. It certainly didn't lead to immediate integration in the school systems, but it did provide the foundation for all the later Supreme Court decisions up through the late 60s.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott established the feasibility and effectiveness of non-violent protests and civil disobediance that Dr. King promoted for the rest of his life. It proved that it was possible to resist and overturn many of the worst aspects of Jim Crow law in the South. Blacks could be relegated to the back of the bus, and many other things, but blacks could not be forced to actually ride the busses if they chose not to. by acting collectively, and nonviolently, their combined economic power forced the city of Montgomery to change their policies, as they were left with no real recourse. This established Dr. King as the leader of the Civil Rights movement and turned him into a national, and international figure.

Little Rock. For the first time since the Reconstruction period, the Federal government upheld the rights of its citizens when the local government would not and sent in troops to enforce the rule of law.

The Freedom Riders and the lunch counter sitters were extensions of the same movement and owed their inspiration to the Montgomery bus boycott. The violence perpetrated against them disgusted a large part of the US population, including many in the South, and undermined the very system the local police and vigillantes were trying to uphold, by showcasing its moral bankruptcy.

message 7: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments A bit off subject here,
but George's example of money hitting them where it hurts reminded me of Apartheid during my student days in the 80's.

I remember myself and many other students trying to isolate S Africa economically by getting the University of California and US foreign policy to divest from S Africa. Pres Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were reluctant to squeeze too hard, on account that S Africa stood up against communist influence in Africa and because we needed S Africa's vital resources.

I remember being really disgusted while reading Apartheid's justification for separating the European, African and Asian races. They had an elaborate system to see if you were European enough to count as "white". Surprisingly not all European countries counted as WHITE. If you came from Cypress you were counted as "Colored"

In the 80's Japan was the world's 2nd largest economy and not even S Africa would dare offend them. Japanese businessmen doing business in S Africa were automatically given "Honorary White Status" on their passports.

talk about being morally bankrupt!

message 8: by George (new)

George | 179 comments Yes, the Southern US and South African systems shared a fair amount, but also differed in some interesting ways. In the US, separation was never officially based on physical appearance. you were either completely white, or you weren't white at all. Lots of people unofficially passed into the white population based on appearance of course, but at considerable personal risk, if found out. The South African system created some very peculiar situations where members of the same family were categorized in different racial groups.

As for the Honorary White designation, I remember that well. I don't recall the Japanese themselves taking offense with the policy though. business was business for both it would appear.

By the way, there was a time when Virginia law officially considered Portuguese as "Colored" and required Portuguese students to attend "Colored" schools.

message 9: by Will (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments

My first experience with any of these was the Little Rock School incident. I saw it on the news. I asked my mom why they didn’t want those students in their school. She said that it was the school’s right to provide separate schools for colored students and the Federal government didn’t have any right to interfere. I watched the news every day for weeks as the story unfolded. To your question, Marco: It affected me, for sure. “How much and for how long?” you ask. “A lot and for the remainder of my life,” I would answer. How to quantify that, I can’t help much, I fear. I will say that it was what men talked about in barber shops in my area. What they said would not be politically correct, today, but it did penetrate America’s consciousness.

Riding in the front or the back of the bus didn’t translate for me; I liked riding in the back of the (school) bus. I didn’t get it until years later. It’s a long and irrelevant story of why, but I completely missed the “I have a dream,” speech; we didn’t have a television, then. I read the speech in Civics class a few years later. If I had to pick what influenced me, personally, the most—it would be the speech. Why? It had the sad, yet uplifting, tone that touched my imagination.

Maybe off the subject….
We think of civil rights as a black issue. My experience was in South Texas, where we had something I found interesting for Hispanics. There were segregated schools, where “Latinos” received separate-but-equal educations (my mother taught there) until they could speak English well enough to attend the integrated school, where I was the lone white boy in my class. Had we remained there, I would have earned my way up to the “smarter” classes, where it was almost all whites. The previous year in another school, I was the lone white boy in an almost all Native American (we called them Indians, then) school. I am one-fourth Choctaw but was still considered “white.” I found all this a bit confusing as a child. I admit, I still find much of it confusing.

Good luck, Marco. Wish I could help more.

message 10: by Tom (new)

Tom Foolery (tomfoolery) | 89 comments Not that it answers Marco's question (sorry Marco), but i'd just like to point out that racism and bigotry were not exclusive to the South. A quick google search of "race riot" returns Atlanta and Wilmington (NC) and DC, certainly, but also Chicago and Springfield, Tulsa, York (PA), and Detroit. Malcom X spent his formative years in Michigan, Boston, and New York (if you've read the autobiography, you'll understand why i point this out). Jim Crow laws originated in the North. Was racism more institutionalized and open and accepted in the South? Certainly. But it was a national problem, and not just a Southern one.

message 11: by George (last edited Jan 28, 2009 04:24PM) (new)

George | 179 comments No, it's certainly not limited to the South, or the US for that matter. If anyone's ever read Gunnar Myrdal's classic study of racism in America, "An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy" written in the late 40's I believe, he points out that the black population in the North had a higher rate of mental/emotional disorders there than in the South. He thought it was easier to deal with the open racism of the South than the more covert racism in the North. I suppose if Myrdal were still around, these days he could do similar studies on the French and other European countries dilemmas.

message 12: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments I was in Brazil recently. And even though the Brazilians make a big deal about being more tolerant than the USA, I saw some disturbing incidents that left me bewildered.

On several occaisions I witnessed well dressed black men and women enter professional business buildings and they were told by the doorman (usually white) that they had to use the service elevator. At one time I was visiting my friends apartment building in Rio. I was in the elevator with a smallish group of women waiting for the doors to close, suddenly a teenaged black girl stepped inside. One of the white women only a few years older than the girl, slapped her across the face and said the elevator was for residents only.

One day I was visiting Sao Conrado a fancy shopping mall in a posh section of town. It suddenly dawned on me I hadnt seen any black people for a while. Eventually I did see a black woman strolling through the mall with a baby carriage. When she got closer, I noticed the baby in the carriage was white.

Racism unfortunately exists in many parts of the world not just the American South.

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