In the United States and many other countries, individuals that come from foreign countries, different religions, different genders, and different races experience struggles. These struggles that these individuals face can be racism, oppression, and discrimination due to their gender, race, religion, etc. One large minority group in the United States who have struggled to be treated equally for centuries are the African Americans. They have dealt with inequality in suffrage, education, and employment.
The issue with inequality for African Americans all began when they were enslaved and treated inhumanely by landowners due to the color of their skin. The fact that they looked different was reason enough to not be considered human beings or equal; they were looked down upon and considered less than everyone else. As time went on, African Americans began standing up for their equal rights and the issue of slavery started being viewed as wrong. Racial tension caused the Civil War to occur and the outcome was the abolishment of slavery (History.com Editors, 2009). Even after abolishing slavery, African Americans still experienced segregation as well as discrimination and are still not treated equally. Throughout the years many events led to changes to happen such as the Brown v Board of Education, Loving v Virginia, the Civil Rights Act, and so on.
The suffrage of African Americans was promoted after the Civil War, during the period of Reconstruction, along with equality before the law and their civil rights. Unfortunately, it was mostly theoretical. People kept finding new ways to fight against giving them equal rights, even though Congress tried to pass more specific laws over time and reinforce them.
The 13th Amendment, ratified by states on December 6, 1865, abolished slavery (U.S. Senate, 2019). The 14th Amendment, ratified on July 9, 1868, granted citizenship and equality in front of the law to all people, which did not include women at the time, “born or naturalized” in the US (U.S. Senate, 2019). The 15th Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870, forbid denying the right to vote “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (U.S. Senate, 2019). Even with these laws present, states found loopholes and put the condition that voters have to qualify to vote, by paying poll taxes, passing literacy tests, or fulfilling the Grandfather Clause (Parrott-Sheffer, 2019). Since they didn’t have the same opportunities as whites for education and jobs, the first two conditions kept some of them from voting. States also used the Grandfather Clause, which stated that only the people whose grandfathers could not vote before 1867 have to take the literacy test, in order to “permit illiterate whites to vote” (Barbour and Wright, 2020, p. 184). Threats, violence, and fraud were also used (Parrott-Sheffer, 2019).
Starting from 1955, Martin Luther King led peaceful protests and fought for the rights of African Americans (“Voting Rights”, n.d.). Poll taxes were abolished by the 24th amendment in 1964 in federal elections and 1966 in local elections, and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 eliminated the three conditions that were keeping African Americans from voting (Parrott-Sheffer, 2019). This raised their registration for voting from 23% to 61% in 4 years (“Voting Rights”, n.d.). These changes had a big impact on suffrage and it also increased the number of African Americans in public offices, but the fight against racial injustice continued.
Education for African Americans in America has always been a struggle. Schools for blacks and whites had been separated and each attended their own schools until the case of Brown v. Board of Education. This case occurred because an African American girl had to walk six blocks to her bus stop to get to school but there was a white public school only seven blocks away (History.com Editors, 2009). Many people did not agree with integrated school but this started a change in education for blacks in America. Today, education is a struggle for African Americans because there is an achievement gap (NEA). African American scores are different than other racial groups and this can be solved but with a collaboration of many people (NEA). Schools need to be funded, an increase of diversity in schools, and more resources for schools (NEA).
African American women have been struggling to gain equality for a long time. They do not have the same opportunities, rights, and protections as white women do. African American women have fewer opportunities and are given a substantially smaller paycheck, even though they do the amount of work. As it is now, black women earn up to $0.61 for every dollar earned by their white male counterparts. Meanwhile, white women earn up to $0.77 and $0.85 (Connley). For many years, black women have fought for the opportunity to be treated equally. In the late 1800s, black women would march separately from white women in the suffrage parades because they would be excluded from their organizations and activities.
In conclusion, African Americans have been struggling for equality since they’ve been enslaved. Many events have occurred that improved that, but racism and discrimination are still present. These changes include getting the right to vote, getting rid of racial segregation in schools and slavery. Discriminating based on looks has decreased over time, but it is still happening today. Even though employment for African Americans women have smaller paychecks. As long as people continue to fight for their rights, more changes will occur in the nation.
- Barbour, C., & Wright, G. C. (2020). Keeping the republic: Power and citizenship in American politics (9th ed.). Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.
- Blacks: Education Issues. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.nea.org/home/15215.htm.
- Connley, C. (2019, April 2). Reminder: Today isn’t Equal Pay Day for all women. Retrieved from: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/10/today-isnt-equal-pay-day-for-black-latina-or-native-american-women.html.
- History.com Editors. (2009, October 27). Civil rights movement. Retrieved from: https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-movement.
- U.S. Senate. Landmark legislation: thirteenth, fourteenth, & fifteenth amendments. (2019, February 5). Retrieved from: https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/CivilWarAmendments.htm.
- Learning, O. S. & L. (n.d.). American Government. Retrieved from: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/amgovernment/chapter/the-african-american-struggle-for-equality/.
- Parrott-Sheffer, C. (2019, August 14). Fifteenth amendment. Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Fifteenth-Amendment.
- Voting rights for African Americans. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/elections/voting-rights-african-americans.html.