People at the Margins
Efforts to advance the civil rights of racial and ethnic minorities and women had lost momentum in the 1970s, but activists believed that further progress was possible. They hoped to build on the civil rights laws enacted in the 1960s that protected voting rights and sought to ensure equal opportunities in employment and public accommodations. Court decisions, such as the ones that approved busing of children as a constitutional means for achieving school desegregation, also gave them hope.
Hopes for Civil Rights
The establishment in 1983 of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s January 15 birthday as a national holiday was a sign that there really was an equal place in American life for persons of African descent. Accomplishments of notable African Americans seemed to be further indications of racial progress. Guion S. Bluford, Jr. was the first black astronaut to travel in space. Virginia's L. Douglas Wilder was the nation's first African American governor. Cleveland, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Gary ( Indiana) had elected African American mayors earlier, and now the election of Harold Washington in Chicago ( 1983), Wilson Goode in Philadelphia ( 1983), and David Dinkins in New York ( 1990) increased expectations that the new mayors would better understand the needs of their minority citizens. So severe, though, were the social and financial problems of the cities they were elected to serve that success was improbable.