The literal meaning of segregation is ”to keep one thing separate from other”

The literal meaning of segregation is ”to keep one thing separate from other”. While in the American history ”It is a legal or social practice of separating an individual or a group based on race, religion, class and ethnicity that could be practice as the society’s customs or norms (De Facto segregation) or implemented as laws or actions by the legal authorities. (De Jure (legal) segregation)”. After winning the Civil War of 1865, the Northern African Americans were apparently successful in ending the slavery but, in reality, it was prevalent in both states and during the years of the 1920s and 1930s, they faced the worst racial and social discrimi-nation and persecution which eventually made it difficult for them to live with freedom and equality, However, there were several other obstacles in their way of achieving the equal civil rights. One such obstacle was the Southern WASP’s deep-rooted racism as they consider black people as a ”threat” to their ”Nativism”. Another hurdle was the role of the extremist group KKK in making the Black’s life miserable by following the radical ideology of White Supremacy. In addition, De Jure segregation, controversial Jim Crow Laws and unfair sys-tems of sharecropping were implemented with full permission of federal and state govern-ments. The impassiveness of political leaders and the lack of uniformity among the Blacks civil right movements also prevented the African American’s struggle for equal rights in these years. Therefore, on the one hand, it could be argued that segregation deeply embedded the American history but on the other hand, the Supreme court irresponsible attitude towards Jim Crow Laws could be the major obstacles in the Blacks Civil rights fight for equality and fair treatment.
After the Civil war, the reconstruction era of American society endangered the White supremacy of WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) and they considered African American as the major threat. To preserve their Superiority, they started to take both formal and informal measures in order to de-emphasise the subordinate position of the Blacks. One such measure was racial segregation. In a book named Race Relations in the Urban South (1978), Howard N. Rabinowitz argued that racial segregation appeared as a substitute for racial exclusion. Most White people did not accept racial equality and adopted segregation as soon as the Blacks gained freedom from slavery. The White supremacists were manoeuvring the constitutional policies and introduced a set of laws named as Jim Crow Laws. (the name coined after a stage artist Thomas Dartmouth, who used to paint his face black and dance on songs in a way to make fun of Blacks). These laws are examples of De Facto segregation. Joel Williamson has concluded in his book ”After Slavery: The Negro in South Carolina during Reconstruction 1861-1877 (1965)” that freed blacks encountered segregation soon after emancipation. He also added that specific laws were not necessary to keep the race apart because segregation was maintained De Facto. Due to this the public conveyance, educational institutions, churches, juries, residential areas and even the public toilets and cemeteries were segregated. Blacks were also stopped from casting their votes. The number of race riots, example Tulsa Race Rights and the trial of Scottsboro Boys (1931) is the best example of entranced Racism within the Southern society. Furthermore, this racial segregation grew because of racial fear and the desire to control. Therefore, White Supremacist created opportunities and chances for openly denying Blacks’ equal rights in order to keep themselves separated from the ”inferior race” and preventing them from achieving liberty.
One of the biggest supporters of WASP’s White Supremacy ideology were the KKK (Ku Klux Klan), an extremist group which was founded immediately after the Civil war and it became a terrorist movement with more than 100,000 members and this number reached 5 million by the mid of the 1920s. They targeted every ”un American” group, specifically African Americans and used violence and terror in the pursuit of White Supremacy agenda. One such violent action was Lynching (hanging without trials, Rope Law). According to the Tuskegee Institute of Alabama, between 1882 and 1968, almost 4,743 people were lynched including 3,446 African Americans. They received the full political support nationwide and if African Americans overstepped Jim Crow’s boundary line, they were forced back with violence. This fear in the African Americans became an important obstacle in the campaign of their civil rights and no one dared to step forward against this brutality.
Historians argued that the ”North won the Civil War, whereas, South won the Reconstruction”. This is because after the Civil war, several amendments were made in the American Constitution, offering civil rights’ protection, citizenship and the right to vote, (13th, 14th and 15th amendments) but they were openly rejected. This rejection was greatly aided by the Federal government of the Supreme Court. Although, Supreme Court inscribed the concept of ”Separate but Equal” in its law but made segregation a legal practice which paved the way to social and legal system of separation and localities started to follow them immediately and racial and radical segregation widespread. And if the Whites’ measures failed to enforce the radical segregation then the State was always ready to interfere. Government’s lack of apathy is evident in the cases of Plessy and Fergusons (1896) and Wyatt and Adair (1926) where State government stepped in the support of social segregation. On Plessy case, John A. Kerr said in his book ”The USA 1918-1968”:
”The ruling legitimated Jim Crow laws throughout the USA and in effect, legalised segregation on a national scale”.
Court decision marked the formal beginning of Jim Crow’s Law and ended the Reconstruction Era. Similarly, American Presidents such as Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover (the 28th, 30th and 31st president respectively) were racists and White supremacist and they did not take any significant action against these social, economic and political discriminations. On one occasion in 1916, Black protesters complained about the segregation of toilets and eating facilities in Federal government offices and that Jim crow Laws was being used to make sure that Black men only get the lowest paid job and in response Woodrow Wilson said:
”Segregation is not humiliating and is a benefit for you Black gentlemen.”
However, this lack of apathy is also due to the lack of power. For example, after winning the 1932 and 1936 elections, Franklin D. Roosevelt did not want to lose his WASP supporters so, he did not pass the anti-lynching laws or banned the Poll tax. Therefore, it is clear that De Jure segregation in the Southern States was one of the major obstacles which had an important impact on Black Americans in achieving equality and they found it extremely difficult to challenge this legal segregation.
Sharecropping and tenancy of lands become widespread in the South as a result of dramatical turmoil due to the emancipation of slaves and Reconstruction Era. With this unfair system, many White landowners attempted to re-establish the labour force over the Black farmers which was indeed a system near slavery without legal sanctions. As a result, a tenancy ladder evolved and climbing up the ladder was practically impossible for the poor black farmers and confined them to poverty and social inferiority until the Great Depression. Although, different so-called reforms such as “Forty Acres and a Mule” (1865) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)(1939) were introduced but failed badly. In 1865, Policies of Freedmen’s Bureau and Black Codes were introduced to force the freedman to sign the unfair sharecropping or labour contracts to regulate White Supremacy. In addition, the notion of “Last Hired, First Fired” was practiced generally and Whites ensured that Blacks remained under control with less employability and poor living standards. This impacted black Americans for decades to come, worsening their living standards and leaving them less optimistic about their situation’s improvement. Perhaps one of the core reasons that prevented the African Americans having freedom they desperately wanted.
Another major issue that discouraged the Blacks’ hopes and expectations was the lack of uniformity among their leadership. Although, they had the same purpose as they were fighting for the equal rights of the Black Americans but with different perspectives. For example, among the three major Black activists, one was Booker T. Washington, who laid the foundation of Tuskegee Institute of Alabama (1881), argued that Black should create their own opportunities to achieve social and political equality rather than relying on Whites with hard work and education. However, the co-founder of National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP)(1909), demanded the absolute equality of citizenship and voting by involving the legal system and promoted the concept of Pan Africanism (a movement with an aim to encourage and strengthen the bond of solidarity among African descent people) and this movement is known as Niagara Movement (named for the ”current change that swept over Niagara Falls). Nevertheless, Jamaican born Marcus Garvey adopted a more radical approach of ”Negro Nationalism” and reasoned that it is difficult to challenge the WASP’s racism. He encouraged that Black should be proud of themselves and their culture and they should stand up for themselves without the White Americans Society’s support and urged the notion of ”Black is Beautiful” and ”Separatism”. ”The Negro World Newspaper”(1918) with the African Americans’ Self-Help objectives and ”The Universal Negro Improvement Association” (1922) were established under his leadership. Thus, all these influential civil rights’ fighters were fighting for the Black people, but their strategies and ideologies were not mutual, and this resulted in the disagreement and confusion among the Black civil right communities. While, at the same time, they were providing opportunities for the Whites to have an upper hand on the Blacks. This left the African Americans with a little or no help or support that could enable them to speak for their equality and fair treatment.


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