Throughout the course of American History, most Americans had not had equal and civil rights every citizen was born with. Many African Americans and Women had to protest, and test the laws of the nation in order to gain basic rights all Americans were supposed to have. People had to fight for equal education despise race, fight for the integration of blacks and whites, and fight to get paid a fair wage without the bias of sex.
The fight for Civil Rights begins where most children begin to learn, school. In the 1896 Supreme Court case of Plessy vs Ferguson, it was ruled that it was okay to have segregation of races in public places, as long as the vicinities were equal to each other, this is where the phrase “separate but equal” originated from. It would cause African Americans to be separated from whites in public schools, busses, and any other public vicinities(“Brown v. Board of Education”). This court case, however, was challenged in 1951 after Oliver Brown’s daughter, Linda Brown was denied entry to an all-white school in Topeka, Kansas. He claimed that the white schools were not equal to the black schools at all and it violated the equal protection clause (“Brown v. Board of Education”) On May 17th, 1954, it was decided by the court that segregated schools were greatly unequal. From that point on, the United States started to see a change in schools, one change being in the kids of Little Rock Nine.
The Little Rock Nine is about Nine African American Teenagers attending Little Rock Central High School, an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. These teenagers were at first denied entry to the school by the governor of Arkansas, until President Dwight D Eisenhower stepped in, warning the governor to stop obstructing justice. He sent the 101th Infantry to escort the nine students to class, and the teens would go on with their school year. All nine teens would go on to graduate from Little Rock Central High School (“Little Rock Nine”).
In 1960, in New Orleans, Louisiana, another young girl by the name of Ruby Bridges would also help pave the way for integration in schools. When she was six years old, Bridges would pass a test that granted her admissions into an all-white school named the William Frantz School. To even go to this school, she would have to be escorted by air marshals, two in front of her and two behind her, in order to protect her from the white protesters who called her derogatory terms and threatened her. She spent the majority of her school year alone in a classroom with a single teacher and did not get to interact with other children until towards the end of the school year when other white students started to attend school again. By the next year, Bridges would not need the air marshals to escort her in(“Ruby Bridges”).
These three historical events helped the United States pave the way for integration in schools today. The case helped all students, regardless of race, receive a quality education. It also gave African American teachers the freedom to apply at any school they wish, something that was not allowed until after the court case of Brown v. Board of Education (“How Brown v. Board of Education Changed Public Education for the Better”) Those two things are great, however, integration in the school system today is still flawed. There is still a fight to combat to fight racial inequalities in school. Although both African American and white teachers can still apply at any school they choose, the representation of African American teachers is very low in comparison to the number of African American students(“The impact of Brown v. Board of Education”). The Nation hopes as we go into the future, we will see better integration and equality in the education system.
The United States fought for civil rights in many ways of protest. In the 1950s and 1960s, segregation was a full force in America. There was a separation in public places such as restaurants, buses, and even drinking fountains. The public was starting to retaliate with protests. It started off with a young woman on her way home from work in 1955. Rosa Parks was sitting in an all-white section of the Montgomery Bus when the driver told her to move, she replied that she didn’t think she had to move. The driver called her and had her arrested on the stop. She was brought in, and charge with the violation of Chapter 6, section 11 of the Montgomery city code. (“Rosa Parks”). This would spark the public to start a new type of protest, it was the beginning of the Montgomery bus boycott. People would be staying home from their jobs and work, or instead of using other transportation such as a cab or walking. The boycott was a huge success. It lasted 381 days and it would cause the Supreme Court to rule that segregation in public transportation was unconstitutional (“Rosa Parks”).
Even though this would solve issues with bus transportation, it did not compare to the other injustices that were faced by African Americans and other minorities., There was still segregation in public facilities such as restaurants. There would usually be a second section of the restaurants where nonwhite citizens would go, these sections were run down and not as well kept as the white section. Some restaurants would not even let people of color dine there. This was the spark that would start the revolution of the sit-in. A sit-in is where a group of people will sit, refuse service, and refuse to leave. In 1968 the first sit-in was held Greensboro, Alabama. Four teenage boys would walk into Woolworth’s Lunch Counter and sit. They politely asked for service and were denied it when asked. When they were asked to leave, the teens refused. This movement started to spread all over the south where segregation was very popular. Teens would get their hair pulled, yelled at, get things poured on them and yelled at by white adults and teens. Even though the African American teens would be charged for trespassing, the nation would soon know those segregation policies had to change. Another very important type of protest was the Freedom Rides. Freedom Rides we’re when black and white civil rights activists would travel by bus to southern segregated states and help fight the segregated whites and blacks section (“The Human Rights Movement”). Though the idea seemed well, it was hard to accomplish. There was one incident where a group of White Supremacists surrounded a bus, set the bus on fire, and took out any rider who wasn’t from Birmingham, Alabama. (“The Human Rights Movement”) when the president heard this, he sent down the national guard to protect the freedom riders.
One last movement that was made in attempts to get African Americans Equal rights. On April 29th, 1963, Many African Americans and other protesters took to the streets of Washington DC with picket signs and chants. There were about 250,000 attendees at the march that took place at the Lincoln memorial. The march also had 3,000 press attendees(March on Washington). The most memorable part of the march would have to be the speech given by Martin Luther King Jr. His speech was titled “I have a dream”. In his speech, he talked about the dreams that one day, everyone can come together and be free no matter race, ethnicity, religion, and sex(“March on Washington”)
Because of Sit-ins, freedom rides, and many other types of activism, Congress finally passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act stated that segregation in public places based on race, religion, and national origin was banned. These included places such as courthouses, parks, hotels, restaurants, theaters, hotels, and sports arenas. The Senate voted it 72-23 and the bill was officially passed on July 2nd, 1964. This act would also soon pave the way for more acts to be passed in the United States such as the voting act of 1965 which banned people to take a test to vote, and the fair housing act that stopped discrimination in sales of housing based on race (“The Civil Rights Act of 1964”).
After the civil rights act was passed, America had changed for the better. The start was in the public school system. Even though Brown v Board of Education was prior to the 1964 act, schools were now forced to properly integrate students into their schools. Restaurants, buses, and other public places were stripped of its segregated sections and now had integrated dining, bus seats, and other integrated sections. African Americans were also starting to dominate the workforce. African American teachers were now starting to be a more common face in the school system(“The Civil Rights Act of 1964”). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was something that had helped minorities grow in the United States.
The civil rights act showed how hard it was to fight to obtain the rights everyone deserves no matter the race. This is also proven through the way women had to obtain rights. Before the 1960s and the beginning of activism, women were known as the “Homemakers”. They would not have a job, and they would rely on their husbands for financial stability. Their job was to cook for their family, clean their household, raise their children, and to run errands such as grocery shopping. They were rarely offered jobs or got as much freedom as men. Though most women were okay with this society, some were not. In 1963, Betty Friedan published an important book titled “The Feminine Mystique”. The book was based on a survey she conducted at her college reunion, the context had shown the oppression middle class women faced just because of their limited life options. It talked about how women felt as though they were pressured to enjoy this life because they supposedly “had it all” (Rosenburg) They had limited options just because they were female. The book had started to inspire women to look outside of the role of a homemaker.
Many women took to the streets and protested this issue. An organization called the National Organization of Woman, or NOW, was created. The goal of NOW was to represent women and to help fight to give them equal opportunities and rights as men would have. Now was fully supportive of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Rosenburg) The first ever pocket of NOW members was done In August 1976, where women dressed in vintage clothing to fight the The policies of the New York Times, which was segregating employment opportunities by gender. Another protest began on May 19th, 1976. A march for the Equal Rights Protest, or ERA started and NOW brought 16,000 supporters. Another one was held in August 1977, this time on the Pennsylvania Ave in Washington DC. This time, it was to convince president carter to take a more active role in ratifying the ERA (“History of Marches and Mass Actions”).
In 1977, the ERA had gained 35 states to ratify the ERA into the constitution. The original deadline to vote yes was march 1979, however congress agreed to extend the vote to June 30th, 1982. No additional states would vote yes before the deadline and the ratification lost by three states. As time had grown however, two states voted to ratify the constitution again. On March 22nd, 2017, Nevada voted yes to the ratification, and became the 36th state to vote yes, and on May 30th, 2018, Illinois also voted yes and became the 37th state (“Ratification Info State by State”).
One other big revolution in women’s rights was in the right to their own bodies. In 1971, a young woman named Jane Roe sued the state of Texas. The law stated that abortion was illegal unless it was for the purpose of saving the mother. Roe fought back, saying that the law against abortion was unconstitutional and was an invasion of her privacy. The defendant Henry Wade however, stated that it was the states job to protect the unborn because they are still living the moment of conception. The case would be deliberated for a year, until it was taken in by the supreme court. On Jan 22nd, 1973, the Supreme Court came to a decision that making the right to an abortion illegal falls under her privacy of the fourteenth amendment. This decision would give woman a right to an abortion throughout the entire pregnancy, and it would redefine how a state can step in durring the second and third trimester (The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Decision). The case would today be known as Roe v Wade and it would have much impact on the United States.
The court case would soon legalize abortion in all states including in ones where abortion was fully illegal and where it was illegal durring the second and third trimester (The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Decision). Without the case, most wome that love in the south and Midwest would be living without access to an abortion clinic, eight states would have laws set to ban abortion immediately, and thirteen more would slowly ban it (Where Roe v. Wade Has the Biggest Effect). How many abortions would be happening would also be low. The nations rate of abortion would lower by thirteen percent and in some counties, it would even be lower by forty percent. Even though it’s unlikely that the court will overturn Roe V. Wade, the changes on the Supreme Court and state laws are pushing abortion advocates and abortion clinics such as planned parent hood they ready for a post-roe world (“Where Roe v. Wade Has the Biggest Effect”).
There were still many marches that were held during the 90s, and into the present time. On April 9th, 1995, the “Rally for Women’s Rights” was held in Washington DC and more than 200,000 people gathered to join the march. It was one of the largest of Marches to help bring a stop to violence in Washington D.C.. Another one was held on April 25th, 2004. This time, more than 1.15 million people were drawn to Washington DC. This time it was to help give Women access to proper reproductive health care. This includes abortions, birth control, and contreceptions. Many activists from parts of the country would be in DC to march for these rights and to protest President Bush’s Anti women policies (“Histories of marches and Mass Actions”).
Today, many similar marches are still held for the protection of African American rights and the rights of women. There are still movements for the protection of African Americans through the “Black Lives Matter Movement” and there are marches for women held in Washington DC occasionally.
To conclude, Civil Rights movements for African Americans and women were both very important, and necessary for equality. Without the protests and laws that were given to African Americans and women, they would not have equality in their education, the workplace, their pay, and even in some cases for african americans, public places. America would have been a different place without these protests and movements, but because of these movements, we can all live in a free and equal country, and also learn how to improve on these freedoms.