50 Years of Civil Rights

By Higginbotham, A. Leon, Jr. | Ebony, November 1995 | Go to article overview

50 Years of Civil Rights


Higginbotham, A. Leon, Jr., Ebony


In 1945, when Ebony was first published, African-Americans would have been justified to wonder, as Frederick Douglass wondered over a half-century earlier:

[Whether] American justice, American liberty, American civilization, American law and American Christianity ... [could] be made to include and protect alike and forever all American citizens and the rights which have been guaranteed to them by the organic and fundamental laws of the land?

In 1995, Douglass' century-old inquiry remains an unanswered question. While significant racial progress has been achieved during the last 50 years, substantial racism still exists in both the public and private spheres of American society. Now our task is how do we acknowledge the progress of the past without forgetting that some segments of African-American society are in fact worse off than they were 50 years ago?

Can we learn from our historic struggles, even though White women, as a group, have benefited far more than African-Americans from the civil rights litigation and protests initiated by Blacks during the last half-century and the comprehensive civil rights acts that were passed in response to those protests? And do we remain hopeful that we can keep the gains we have made when an African-American, Justice Clarence Thomas, is now committed to obliterating the affirmative action and civil rights programs that made it possible for him to "move on up" from Pin Point, Ga., to become one of the nine justices on the United States Supreme Court?

In order to begin answering these questions--and address Douglass' inquiry--it is useful to focus on the role of the Supreme Court and the civil rights legislation of the 1960s as they have impacted the areas of voting and political representation of African-Americans.

I. BROWN v. BOARD OF EDUCATION A CATALYTIC CHANGE AGENT

The United States Supreme Court decision of May 17, 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education was the most significant governmental act since the Emancipation Proclamation. Brown eradicated the core legitimacy of state-imposed segregation and was a mighty building block for the legal rationale in support of the civil rights protests and legislation of the 1960s. Without Brown as a moral and legal precedent, the key civil rights statutes of the 1960s would not have been passed. The 1964 Civil Rights Act generally prohibited racial, gender and national origin discrimination in employment and public accommodation, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, with its subsequent amendments, made extraordinary changes in assuring Blacks access to the ballot box and, ultimately, to a variety of state and federal public offices. Despite some of the shortcomings in its implementation, Brown remains the primary jurisprudential change agent for this century and without it, much of the progress in American race relations would not have occurred. Though recognizing Brown's importance, many persons have underestimated the significance of the related dramatic increase among African-Americans in voting and as political officeholders in elected federal, state and local government positions; for this article, I will limit my comments to the federal congressional experience of African-Americans.

II. THE NOT-TOO-DISTANT PAST

From 1870 to 1901, a total of 19 African-Americans served in the United States House of Representatives and two in the united States Senate. They represented the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Louisiana and Virginia. They were a formidable group and they represented a threat to the White politicians who were committed to maintaining White supremacy. Thus, at the Constitutional Convention of 1890, Judge George Chrisman of Lincoln County, Miss., described the tactics employed by his states and others in undermining African-American political representation:

Sir, it is no secret that there has not been a full vote and a fair count in Mississippi since 1875--that we have been preserving the ascendancy of the White people by revolutionary methods. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

50 Years of Civil Rights
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.