The most critical civil rights issue in the United States has concerned the status of it’s African-American minority. After the Civil War the former slaves situation as free people granted them the rights of citizenship which was established by the 13th and 14th Amendments that were legalized in 1865 and 1868, individually. The 15th Amendment, legalized in 1870, prohibited race, color, or previous condition of bondage as grounds for denying or restraining the rights of citizens to vote. In addition to these constitutional provisions, judgments were passed defining civil rights more particular. The Supreme Court, however, held several of these unconstitutional, including the 1875 act of prohibiting racial discrimination in public places. In 1872 Speaker of the House John R. Lynch fought for equality. In his years in office, Lynch would engage in debate on the Civil Rights Bill when came before the House. He would plead for safekeeping of the provision that would open all public schools to children of all races. He criticized all Republicans who did not support the Bill. Less then a month before the Bill became law Lynch would plead with the House members. He said: I appeal to all members of the House- republicans and democrats, conservatives and liberals- to join with us in the passage of this bill, which has for its object the protection of human rights. And when every man, woman, and child can feel and know that his, her and their rights are fully protected by the strong arm of generous and grateful Republic, then can all truthfully sat that this beautiful land of ours, over which the Star Spangled Banner so triumphantly waves, is, in truth and in fact, the “land of the free and the home of the brave. Ibid., 43rd Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 947. Even though the bill was later found unconstitutional, he was just the beginning of many Civil Right Fighters who would offer their hand in the fight. In the last two decades of the 19th century, African Americans were restricted and stripped of other rights in the South through discriminatory legislation and unlawful violence. Separate accommodations for whites and African Americans became a basic rule in the southern society. In 1896 decisions involving the segregation of railroad passengers, the Supreme Court held that “separate but equal” public facilities did not violate the Constitution. From 1900, Pennsylvania statistics reveal that an increasing percentage of African American children of school age were attending school; however, it was obviously lower than for Whites. “in 1900, 54.1 percent of the native White and 44.3 percent of the Negro children between the ages of five and twenty were attending school. In the 1910, the percentage for native Whites was 61.1 and 55.1 for African American; in 1920, the percentages were 65.4 and 59.4 separately for native Whites and African Americans”. Some African American did not attend school because they had “working parents”; low economic status where it required that both parents be absent from home. There was also the insufficient training offered by the schools. In the Struggle for Education, a depiction of an African American child is given: The Negro boy or girl who goes through the eight grade, can do nothing well. Very few of them go to the High School because by that time they find that they are circumscribed by the race prejudice which keeps them from open competition, and they do not see that the four year course in the High School would be of any special economic benefit to them. It is a well known fact that a Negro girl finishing eighth grade at present, has about as much chance economically, as her sister from High School…. With Negro young men who finish High School courses, there is often a larger amount of discouragement. The reason is, that a Negro boy is not permitted to enter competition for clerical or other positions with his white classmates, though they be no better intellectually or economically than he is. He is not even half prepared for any other work and he must turn to domestic service, where he is often held up by the Negroes as sufficient proof for other boys and their parents, that a High School course is useless for Negroes. R.R. Wright, Jr., pp. 189-190. Blacks left the South seeking better educational opportunities for their children, and this large movement had significant effect on the northern public school systems. Throughout the century, the percentage of African Americans on the public school population increased. In 1920, African Americans constituted 7.7 percent of the elementary school population and 3.2 percent of the secondary school population. By 1925, African Americans made up 11.6 percent of the elementary and 3.9 percent of the secondary school population; in 1930, they accounted for 15.4 and 6.4 percent each of the elementary and secondary school population. Ibid., p. 413. During the first half of the 20th century racial discrimination, was practiced in most areas of American life. The May 7, 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education(out of Kansas), Briggs vs. Elliot (out of South Carolina), Davis vs. Prince Edward County School Board (out of Virginia), and Gebhart vs. Belton ( out of Delaware) were considered together; a fifth case, Boiling vs. Sharpe, coming out of the District of Columbia, was considered separately ( since the district is not a state) represented a turning point. With Thurgood Marshall as legal counsel they reversed the 1896 “separate but equal” ruling, the Court held that mandatory segregation in public schools denies African American children equal protection under the law. It later ordered the desegregated educational facilities be equipped quickly. In the North and West many African American students also attended segregated schools. Such segregation was considered unconstitutional only where it could be proven to have originated in the unlawful state action. On May 31, 1955, in another unanimous ruling, the Court declared that public school desegregation must be completed ” with all deliberate speed”, but established no deadline. Fulfilling of the decision was left to local school authorities and the Federal district courts. School desegregation was resisted in the South. In one Virginia county, public schools were closed from 1959 to 1964 in an attempt to avoid desegregation. In August, 1956, 600 National Guardsmen were stationed in Clinton, Tennessee, to restrain protesters threatening African-American students enrolled in a previously all white schools. Similar incidents took place in Mansfield, Texas, and Sturgis Kentucky. In September, 1957, Governor Orval E. Faubus of Arkansas ordered National Guardsmen and, State police to surround Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in order to bar African American students from entry. Faubus justified this action, which violated the program for gradual integration planned by the Little Rock Board of Education, and approved by the Federal District Court, on basis of turning away, racial violence. Federal determination to enforce the court decision was demonstrated in the Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, when President Dwight Eisenhower dispatched troops to secure admission of African American children into a “white” high school. Nevertheless, in the Deep South progress toward integration was negligible in the years following the Supreme Court decision. All-though all public school systems had introduced superficial integration by the fall of 1964, less than 2 percent of African American students attended school with white children. Applying indirect pressure, the United States Office of Education announced in April, 1965, that Federal aid would be denied to school systems which failed to desegregate at least four grades by September, 1965, and to desegregate completely by September, 1967. The provisions applied also in the Northern cities, based on the mass of African Americans in separate neighborhoods. In 1966 the majority of southern of schools remained segregated. So on October 29, 1969, in a unanimous decision aimed at speeding the desegregation process, the Court called for desegregation of all United States schools at “once” and by 1974 some 44 percent of black students in South attended integrated schools, and by 1980 the number of approached 80 percent.
Public controversy, sometimes violent, continued over the issue of transporting children in school busses long distances form their homes in order to achieve integration. Busing had became necessary because of the concentration of minority populations in the central areas of many cities. My aunt, Ruth E. Fort, a fifty three year old light skinned black woman did not recall any racism in her childhood. Growing up in Sango she states that she ate with the whites and played with the whites all the time. Walking to school was even a blur for her. Her grandfather, Norman Drake (an influential African American man) made it so the bus would come an pick up his grandchildren in front of their homes. Of course, she went to an all African American school, but listening to her story you would think she was talking about a white child. She participated in sit-ins, and had no trouble because. I asked her why did she think that was. She said she remembers the threat of Fort Campbell being so close by, and those “white folks” knew how quick action could be taken. SEGREGATION FORCOLLEGES Secondary schools were not the only schools needed to be segregated, they were just the start. As early as 1950 the United States Supreme Court ruled that a separate law school for African Americans provided by the state of Texas violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, when Herman Marion Sweat, was refused admission to the law school of the University of Texas on the grounds that substantially equivalent facilities were already available in another Texas school open to blacks only. Ruling in the case Sweatt vs. Painter, the Court ruled that the petitioner be admitted to the University of Texas Law School, since “in terms of number of the faculty, variety of courses and opportunity for specialization, size of the student body, scope of the library, availability of law review and similar activities, the University of Texas Law School is Superior.” On two occasions resources of the Federal government accomplished desegregation of Southern universities. In September, 1962, President John F. Kennedy dispatched U.S. marshals and then U.S. Army troops to force the governor of Mississippi, Ross Barnett, and the University of Mississippi to accept an African American student, James Merideth at the university. At the end of the same school year President Kennedy “Federalized” (brought under Federal control) the Alabama National Guard to force Governor George Wallace and the University of Alabama to accept two African American students. In the South as a whole, however, the trend was slowly in the direction of desegregation, not only in the schools but in public parks, libraries, and public and private places of public facilities. Predominantly black colleges and universtiys continue to account for the majority of black graduates. This is especially true in the areas of science, mathematics, and engineering. In 1964, over 51 percent of all blacks in college were still enrolled in the historically black colleges and universities. By 1970 the proportion was 28 percent, and by fall 1978 , 16.5 percent. As recently as 1977, 38 percent of all balcks receiving baccalaureate degress earned their degrees at balck instituitions. In 1980 some 190,989 African Americans were enrolled at historically black institutions. By 1988 the total black enrolment at these institutions reached 217,462.DID ALL AFRICAN AMERICANS WANT DESEGREGATION? W.E. Burghardt Du Bois, very well respected African American, believed that an African American child should be taught in an African American school. Du Bois theorized that the proper education of any people includes sympathetic touch between teacher and pupil; knowledge on the part of the teacher not simply the individual taught, but of his surroundings and background, and the history of his class and group; such contact between pupils, and between teacher and pupil, on the basis of perfect social equality, as will increase this sympathy and knowledge, facilities for education in equipment and housing, and the promotion of such extra-curricular activities as will tend to induct the child into life. So in all Du Bois is saying how are you supposed to learn from someone ( white teachers) who knows nothing about you. Until African American teachers are hired to teach white kids the same as white teachers are hired to teach the few African American students; African American students are only hurting themselves and their own right to a good education. He agrees that someday integration will be accepted but it needs to be a gradual thing. A bird cannot teach a fish to fly, and a white teacher cannot possibly teach and African American child how to live an African Americans life. Du Bois writes that under no circumstances, there is no room for argument as to whether the Negro needs separate schools or not. The plain fact faces us, that either he will have separate schools or he will not be educated. There is undoubtedly cases where a minority of leaders force their opinions upon a majority, and induce a community to established separate schools, when as a matter of fact, there is no general demand for it; there has been no friction in the schools; and Negro children have been decently treated. Agreeing with Mr. Du Bois that basically if it “ain’t broke don’t fix it” and understanding that an African American can learn better from another African American. Also trying to look through the eyes of the others and thinking all they see is white people trying to keep them out of something else’s. You cannot just want to better things or desegregate things that you have fingered out “oh I want to be accepted there”. You have to go for everything or nothing at all. Do not let them think that you are just content with the little pleasures that they offer you. If you were and African American parent at that time it was your job to make sure your child knew where they come from and how far they could go if the teacher did not do it. Let them know how important a task they were fulfilling and by them going to school now that they were making a brighter future for their children. As long as the Negro student wishes to graduate form Columbia, not because Columbia is an institution of learning, but because it is attended by white students; as long as a Negro student is ashamed to attend Fisk or Howard because these institutions are largely ran by black folk, just so long the main problem of Negro education will not be segregation but self-knowledge and self-respect. It is true that while trying to intergrate African Americans must still support their own schools, but ther is nothing wrong with wanting to go to a better equipped school. In conclusion Du Bois other things being equal, the mixed school is the broader, more nautralbasis for the education of all youth. It gives wider contacts; it inspires greater self-confidence; and supresses the inferiority complex. But other things seldom are equal, and in that case, Sympathy, Knowledge, and the Truth, outwiegh all that mixed school can offer. HELPFUL ORGANIZATIONS Organizations concerned with civil rights and civil liberties include the Merican Civil Liberties Union and, among the groups specializing in Negro rights, the National Assocaition for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. The last recent orgin, have been instrumental in sponsoring “sit-ins” and “freedom rides” which challenge the segregation practices in the Southern and border states.