Civil rights in the period 1865-1992


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In the period 1865-1992 African Americans suffered discrimination and experienced the development of their civil rights. US played a central if ambivalent role both obstructing and helping the development of civil rights. However, on balance, did the presidents hinder the development of African American civil rights?

Paragraph 1 – Helped/Hindered 1865-1930’s

Presidents in early period had views of white supremacy and therefore hindered the development of AA rights. Under Lincoln 13th amendment was passed which formally freed the AA slaves. Johnson Supported southern rebels by pardoning them

Allowed south to develop black codes and jim crows, which impeded the political, social and economical rights for blacks. Varied across states. However, Grant passed the 14th (gave AA citizenship and protection under US law) and 15th amendment (the right to vote) – state laws meant he could not enforce his rule properly, so therefore to an extent in the south anyway de jure AA had rights, but de facto NO DID OK Also hindered. Wilson – Segregated the armed forces during the First World War One excluded African Americans from jobs in the Federal administration – Step backwards from Grant. CHANGE Hindered. Hoover – attempted to appoint a racist judge in SC, but stopped by NAACP. During this period it can be seen that presidents hindered the advancements of the Civil rights to a large extent, however it must be noted that president Grant and Lincoln did instigate the start of the civil rights movement and there actions without a doubt provided a pathway for AA civil rights advancement. De jure rights, de facto no

Paragraph 2 – Help/hindered 1945-1960’s

This period saw more advancement due to the fact positive legislature was being enforced. Also rise in quality of leadership of AA campaigners. FDR new deal helped to an extent, 30% of black family’s being on relief by 1935. This was to an extent bad for CR because FDR said to Walter White that the new deal was only able because of southern support, which made him useless to help blacks. However it did gradually decrease the influence of Slaughter house case, as southerners dependent on the New deal. Exercised executive power – order to ban discrimination in federal employment (change from Wilson) Truman – Executive order to desegregate the army in 1948 FROM WILSON Set up the Presidents Committee on CR in 1946 which identified civil rights problems – bounded presidents to look upon the issues of CR 3 examples show that the president did not rely on congress for legislation because all democrats in there.

Eisenhower – Passive on matter of segregation, did not get involved in Brown v Board (BAD TO EXTENT Views changed in Little Rock, employment of 10k troops to escort the children in to the school. GOOD Civil rights act of 1957 and 1960 were passed – pointless as only investigate civil right abuses. To an extent presidents of this period helped significantly in the advancement due to the fact legislature was passed which overruled precedents made by earlier presidents such as Slaughterhouse and Wilson’s view of segregation

Paragraph 4 – help/hindered 1960-1992

This period again saw great advancement, however many presidents were often sceptical as helping the blacks could be difference of loosing a presidential campaign.

JFK luke warm on topic of Civil rights

June 1963 – intervened to stop Alabama governor blocking the door to Alabama University to 2 AA students 1962 – executive order banned racial discrimination in anything affiliated with the Federal Government. Although sceptical he did help massively and his policies were further enforced by Johnson LBJ passed 1964 civil rights act, outlawing discrimination against race, origin or nationality in work place and voting rights act 1965 – blacks could vote and equal rights to whites. Outlawing the jim crow laws. (Substantial change evaluate the change) Nixon continued positive schemes through Affirmative Action – further attempted to remove discrimination in work place. President Ford 1974-1977 – Appointed William Coleman as first AA transport secretary President Carter 1977-1981 – Appointed 37 federal judges of AA, ineffective as it did not achieve legislative success. Overall during this period it is clear that the president helped rather than hindered the civil rights

Paragraph 5 – other factors

In order to assess how far the president helped rather than hindered one must look at other factors which either helped or hindered. For example black leadership, Like MLK ideology to unit black leaders in cases like 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott – AA boycotted using public transport in Montgomery district, resulting in the case of Bowder v Gayle rendering segregation on public transport illegal. HELPED However, other leaders after and before him hindered the development of CR, such as Jackson who emphasised importance of black vote and urged black to have faith in current political system SC cases such as the 1873 Slaughterhouse ruling and Plessy V Ferguson in 1986 served to hinder the advancement of civil rights for the AA. – through policy of segregation However, later cases Browder v Gayle in 1956, which followed the Montgomery bus boycott, ending segregation in buses; and Boynton v Virginia in 1960, which ended segregation on inter-state buses. As a result it is fair to say that, it was not all down to presidency which hindered or helped the advancement of civil rights


Presidents pre 1940’s hindered rather than help development of CR to a large extent, with the odd exception of grant and Lincoln However later presidents policy was the complete opposite and as a result over the whole period president hindered and helped to the same extent. But over all it was clear that the later part made substantial change and helped the civil rights.

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