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Racism in the Not So Distant Past

Strom Thurmond was a Democrat? George Bush was a strong opposer of black voting rights? Times have certainly changed. Key events in US history; have led to moderate desegregation that encompasses our nation today. One must thoroughly investigate dates, and legislation between 1948 and 1980 to fully comprehend the nature of racism today. When investigating periods of African American history one must not only look at the superficial data, but undermining factors, which may have gone unnoticed by the public eye. These events are equally important to the legislation, which passed that will forever change the history of the United States. 48 will be inscribed in time as the year that changed presidential politics, as we know it.

Blacks had recently returned from WWII, were they fought to preserve human rights. When blacks fought over seas they came to the realization that they did not have equal rights in the country, which they called home. The NAACP and other black civil rights organizations were platforms where blacks could voice their disapproval with racism. The NAACP’s membership grew 900% from 1941-45(Tyson, Oct. 13). Separate was not equal, and blacks were going to tell the world of the atrocities which were going on in the United States.

Gergely 2 The World began to learn the deficiency of equality when rivals throughout WWII began dropping leaflets throughout Africa. These leaflets showed newspapers where African Americans rights were being clearly abused. “As long as the United States sanctioned racial discrimination, it remained vulnerable to charges from the Soviet Union that while preaching freedom and democracy in foreign affairs, it did not practice either at home (Lawson, 9). ”

The United States countered this action by applying the Mingus Briefs. These Briefs were actions taken by the govt. o convinced allied nations that racism was not a part of American culture. Truman, the President re-elect hopeful, responded to the growing importance of race by issuing the Presidents Committee on Civil Rights. Truman reacted, not only for the reason that he had a strong opposition of racism, but because by 1948 4 northern states out numbered the electoral votes of the South. A. Phillip Randolph was another main contributor to the birth of the Committee on Civil Rights. Randolph pressured President Roosevelt to desegregate the military in the early 40’s.

His demands were not met, and Truman knew he must do something on the issue or else the worlds eye would once again be laced on the United States. Truman addressed the concern by addressing the nation that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces. During the 1948 election Truman was not fearful of losing conservative votes; Truman was frightened because he knew the black vote was needed to win the election. The only reason Truman could lose the 1948 election would be because of a man named Henry Wallace, who ran a completely un-segregated campaign.

Truman knew Wallace had to be eliminated in the minds of blacks, so he chose to identify him with the communist party (Tyson, 64). The Gergely 3 Red Scare” of this time instilled fear in black organizations. Black associations wanted to be known as nationalistic organizations. Anything that resembled communism would set the equal rights movement back several years. Dixie Crats such, as Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms were appauled regarding how their Democratic associates were now treating race. These conservatives parted with the Democratic Party and created the States Rights Party.

Later they joined forces with the Republican Party. Truman won the 1948 election, and African Americans fulfilled a goal of letting the world know of the happenings in the United States. In 1948 the NAACP used the platform which was the United Nations to inform the world of segregation. By December of 1948, the United Nations released a Declaration, stating the given rights of every man. Segregation was on the front of every politician’s agenda. The year was 1954. Brown vs. Board of Education was the reason why nobody could escape racial tribulations in the United States.

The Supreme Court ruled that separate, but equal has no place in the field of public education. ” Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal (Lawson, 11). ” This caused several reactions that would be prevalent for ears to come. First, white racist southerners could not simply be indifferent on issues regarding race. With the Brown decision, there was a strong possibility that a poor white child may actually be in the same classroom as an African American. White southerners made their anger present by staging demonstrations.

The most famous being the murder of a 14-year-old boy named Emmitt Till. Southerners assured they would never abide by these rules and they even carved out a Manifesto. The Manifesto gained such great Gergely 4 notoriety that 101 members of congress signed the bill (Lawson, 12). For blacks and white liberals the Brown decision had several different effects. In the eyes of many the decision was a breakthrough in American racial politics. Others, like Robert F. Williams, thought the decision was a mistake. Williams believed that there would be a backlash towards the decision.

While the Brown decision encouraged black aspirations, it also fueled a volatile and far-reaching white reaction against the NAACP (Tyson, 79). The main consequence of the Brown decision was it put racial politics into everyone’s house. Whether one was white or black, actions needed to be done to support ones cause. 956 was an election year and the nominees were President Dwight D. Eisenhower of the Republican Party, and Adalai Stevenson of the Democratic Party. Eisenhower had become the President of the United States in 1953. “The president sent mixed signals to southern authorities that encouraged their resistance (Lawson, 12).

Eisenhower even told southerners that it wasn’t their responsibility to uphold the Brown decision. However, Eisenhower recognized that racial events that occurred in Montgomery and Little Rock were extremely important to American politics, and could not be ignored. In Little Rock Arkansas the National Govt. was being attacked, so Eisenhower was forced to send troops to protect black students. This was significant because for the first time since the Civil War, federal troops were in the South. The event showed power that the federal Govt. actually had in stopping racial segregation.

As a Republican, Eisenhower knew that unless some action was taken blacks would vote for the Democratic nominee. Taking into consideration the hopes of Nixon to become President, Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957. This Act was the first of its Gergely 5 kind since Reconstruction. The Act guaranteed blacks freedom from persecution regarding voting. If anybody were using violence to disrupt blacks from voting, they would be arrested. Although, Attorney General Herbet Brownell wrote the proposal for the Act, Eisenhower received much of the credit and won the election (Lawson, 17).

Eisenhower is recognized as being one of the few Republicans who took positive measures to end segregation. The Presidential election of 1960 was between Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Richard Nixon. When the race for president began it was clear Nixon was the front-runner. Nixon served s Vice-President and was widely publicized throughout the United States. Nixon was a staunch Republican, and was known as “Tricky Dick” for his endless attack on liberals (Marable, 59) Kennedy, a Senator from Massachusetts, assumed Trumans’ strategy in 48′ by appealing to black voters (Marable, 59).

Kennedy began doing this with his denouncement of Republicans for perpetuating segregation in public housing. As his running mate, Kennedy chose Lyndon B. Johnson. This came as a surprise to blacks because Johnson was not a strong supporter of the civil rights movement. Johnson answered questions of is racial turn-around by saying he had changed his platform because he didn’t need to run in Texas anymore (Tyson, Oct. 25). Kennedy continued to urge blacks to vote by campaigning in urban areas. Two weeks before the election, King was sentenced to four months in prison for uprisings in Atlanta.

Kennedy, who knew this was a great campaigning ploy, called Coretta Scott King and offered his support. Robert F. Kennedy later convinced Atlanta officials to release King. This lead to the blue bomb, which told all the black Gergely 6 churches what Kennedy did for King (Tyson, Oct. 25). In the end, Kennedy’s campaign was a success, nd he won the election by merely 100,000 votes. Kennedy’s 2 year reign, as President was not a complete accomplishment for African American race relations. Kennedy did name Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court, but many of the objectives which Kennedy promised to fulfill, never came to light.

The Kennedy staff actually helped stop the civil rights movement by standing on the sideline and not taking action during the demonstrations in Albany. However, Kennedy did make several important strides for the civil rights movement. One of Kennedy’s accomplishments was sending federal troops to Alabama to eliminate George Wallace’s intervention of chool desegregation. Kennedy’s finest performance came in a national address, to the American people. On June 11, Kennedy spoke of the ethical imperative of providing African Americans with first class citizenship (Lawson, 28).

Kennedy also played an integral role in the passing of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. Along with A. Phillip Randolph, Kennedy made it clear to the American public that legislation needed to be passed to eliminate Jim Crow. Overall Kennedy’s short term as president did not accomplish what it promised to do, but it played an essential role for legislation to pass in the future. The 1964 election was a strong indication of how far or how short civil rights had come in the United States. Johnson had just passed the civil rights act of 1964 so he had overwhelming support of African Americans.

Johnson’s re-election was not an easy task. The first obstacle he had to get around was George Wallace. Wallace never planned to run for President, but decided to run after receiving great acclaim for his gubernatorial Gergely 7 inauguration speech. Wallace was one of the few remaining racists in the Democratic Party, and was a stern believer in state rights. Wallace believed that the federal govt. ad no place in telling states how to mandate racism. “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever! (Carter, 1)” Wallace had a strong following, but had insufficient funds to win the Democratic ticket.

However, Wallaces’ support was scary, as he received 34 percent of the vote in Wisconsin and 43% in Maryland (Marable, 83). The next obstacle Johnson had to overcome was Barry Goldwater, a Republican from Arizona. Goldwater had similar stances to those of George Wallace regarding states rights. He was supported by many racists including Strom Thurmond. Goldwater even neglected to sign the civil rights bill of 1964. His platform on race made him lose the election. The South had very few electoral votes and a blatantly racist person could not be elected.

On the other hand, it was frightening how much support these segregationists had all over the country. The 1968 election was the last where conservative segregationists were part of the Democratic Party. Richard Nixon, George Wallace, and Hubert Humphery were the three main players of the 1968 election. Nixon had presently been Governor of California, and once again was opposed to federal govt. interfering with state-run policies regarding race. Nixon, though knew one could not win an election by being a “foam-at-the-mouth segregationist”(Carter, 27).

This was the main reason for choosing Spiro Agnew as his running mate. Nixon would win over the moderates and Agnew, “deployed as s surrogate Wallace” would win over the Southern racists (Carter, 28). Nixon took a big lead early in the campaign, and there was only one person who could possibley lead him Gergely 8 to suffer defeat. George Wallace was that man. “At least as early as 1966, Nixon had grasped the threat that George Wallace posed to his personal political future and the fortunes of the Republican Party (Carter, 1)” Nixon knew he had to concentrate on the South or else Humphery would take the election.

Nixon did this by making it apparent he did not agree with forced bussing and protection of state rights was important for the preservation of individual freedom. By the end of 1968 election, Nixon again saw his lead shrink to about ten percent. In actuality, the segregationists were shooting themselves in the foot by running against each other in different campaigns. Due to a terrible campaign by the Democrats, Nixon won the election of 1968, but he would never forget how the presence of Wallace almost caused him defeat. The election of 1968 was a clear image of how much racial tension there was in the United States.

The final polls gave Wallace a tremendous total of 13. 5 of the popular vote, and this is reason enough to believe that racial hatred was still prevalent in the United States (Multied. com). “Richard Nixon began to plan his reelection campaign in the first weeks after his inauguration (Carter, 35). ” Nixon believed Wallace would once again pose a tremendous threat to the election in 1972. Nixon planned out conniving tactics to ensure Wallace would never make it on the ballot. The most notable being, giving money to Wallaces’ opposition so that Wallace would not win his Gubernatorial election.

This did not work. Wallace ran for President in 1972, but this time he went under the Democratic ticket. Wallace was never able to make a run for the nomination because he was shot during the democratic primaries. The Democratic nomination went to George Mcgovern. A man with strong beliefs, against segregation. Throughout Nixon’s first tenure as President, he Gergely 9 sent mixed messages on his racial stance. Out of necessity Nixon was forced to take action on the increasing polarization of the American society” (Carter, 36).

Nixon was influenced by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a young liberal, who; “skillfully mixed race relations into the Presidents contempt for welfare beauracracy by scathingly attacking social workers, urban planners, and a welfare establishment that he characterized as a grasping corps of middle-class apparatchiks who, intent on survival, nurtured the politics of resentment” (Carter, 37). This, along with appointing several liberals, confused voters who generally knew Nixon as a man who was opposed to forced busing and Affirmative Action.

Nixon was in-fact using a strategy to bring in the lower class white vote. Nixon took these measures, not to help black America, but to convince white blue-collar voters. People who were close to Nixon knew he was a racist. This is proven on several occasions, the most obvious being the “hardhat incident”. During this incident, Nixon sported a hardhat when he visited construction workers who hit black demonstrators. Nothing during his administration was centered on helping the advancement of African Americans. The election of Ronald Reagan brought back an individual who was ignorant in regards to race.

The previous four years under the Carter administration was a disaster for the United States, so many felt a Republican needed to be in office. The Carter administration promised much advancement for African Americans, none of which came into light. Due to factors regarding race, and lack of control with the economy, Carter lost the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan. Reagans platform was based on massive military build up and the opposition of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Carter, 59). He Gergely 10 even called the act an embarrassment to the South. Reagan’s politics were strictly against social spending.

He canceled several plans, which the Democrats put in during their short term in power. Reagan had no regards for the lower class society, which was mostly black. Reagan began a tax plan that the lower 50% of Americans would receive an increase in taxes, the top 50-90% would receive little change, and the top 1% would actually receive a 60% increase in net income (Tyson, Dec. 13). Reagan told the public he did not differentiate between races. “I have black friends (Tyson, Dec. 13)”. His platform shows he had total disregard for the betterment of African American’s in regards to their economic well being.

Disgust with the Reagan campaign was apparent in 1984, when 89% of African Americans voted for Walter Mondale (Tyson, Dec. 13). Racism is still apparent in the United States in this year of 1999. We have made several strides, but it is clear ghettos are filled with African Americans and other minorities. Until an integrated middle class is established the battle for racial equality will not end. Programs such as Affirmative Action and Welfare are making significant differences, but more needs to be done. We must do everything in our power to heal the scars, which slavery and racism created.