Копьева Анастасия Алексеевна
Самарский национальный исследовательский университет имени академика С.П. Королёва

В данной статье анализируется отношение американских президентов к такой проблеме американского общества, как расовая дискриминация. Деятельность американских президентов сыграла немаловажную роль в ослаблении угнетения цветных людей. Как проблема расовой дискриминации превратилась из второстепенной цели внутренней политики в одну из главных. Расовые проблемы до сих пор полностью не решены в этой стране. Ведь они глубокими корнями уходят в далекое прошлое Соединенных Штатов.


Kopeva Anastasiya Alekseevna
Samara National Research University named after academician S.P. Korolev

This article analyzes the attitude of American presidents to such problem of American society as racial discrimination. The activities of American presidents played an important role in easing the oppression of colored people. How the problem of racial discrimination has transformed from a secondary goal of domestic policy into one of the main. Racial problems still remain unresolved in that country. After all, they are deeply rooted in the distant past of the United States.

Keywords: 1950-1970, America in XX, American presidents, discrimination, racism, reserve racism, segregation

Рубрика: История

Библиографическая ссылка на статью:
Копьева А.А. The evolution of overcoming racial discrimination in America after Second World War // Гуманитарные научные исследования. 2018. № 5 [Электронный ресурс]. URL: https://human.snauka.ru/2018/05/24938 (дата обращения: 14.05.2024).

It is common knowledge that in 1865 the 13thamendment was adopted and it meant that slavery was abolished in the United States. The 14th amendment claimed that the states must provide equal protection to all people. Actually, with the adoption of the two last amendments the American era of inequality did not ceased to exist immediately. In spite of the fact that slaves were officially released, black people have been subjected to discrimination and segregation.

Before continuing, I am going to provide a clear definition of the word «racial discrimination». According to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the term «racial discrimination» shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any field.[1] Exactly that notion will be used in my further work.

American society didn’t know how far the U.S. government would go to prevent the equality between black and white people. African Americans faced Jim Crow that meant enforcing segregation of white and black people in public places. After some time, in most southern states separate facilities were created for blacks such as schools, hotels, shops, hospitals, transportation and toilets.[ 2, p.25 ] In cities hung signs «Coloured» and «White», separating the places of public accommodation by skin colour. Moreover black people suffered from «separate, but equal» doctrine, whose objective was preventing racial mixing in public places. This meant that coloured part of Americans became the victims of segregation policy conducted by the U.S. government. Indeed, the minority of population had the shackles on the wrists.

Even if we look at U.S. employment statistics we will be able to endorse the fact that the employment structure of the black society reflects the racist background of American society. As before, the largest socio-professional categories of black people were engaged in the agricultural sector(33,2%)-predominantly farm workers. Then came blacks who were engaged in the area of private serve (28,9%), manufacturing industry (11,5%), trade (7,8%), transport and communications (4,5%) and so on. [3, p.14] Many industries were closed for black workers, they were used primarily on the heavy, low-skilled, low-paying jobs and paid considerably less than white workers, for equal work. In 1952 the black family income was a bit more than a half (56,8%) of the white family income.[3, p.15]

These figures speak that the problem of racial discrimination continued to be particularly acute in America after the Second World War. A desire to end racial segregation in the government grew among black people. Over time, the US ruling circles as a matter of urgency faced with a problem of developing state policy. Racist orders started to undermine Washington’s position in ideological and political struggle that unfolded after the war on the world stage. [4, p.56 ] Truman, who at the beginning of his presidency did not intend to solve such profound problems of the country, reviewed his policy. There is a simple explanation for his policy review, it was the progressive changes in the international arena. In the postwar world, American racism looked like a disgusting historical relic, incompatible with the purposes for which peoples fought against fascism. International legal instruments that were the result of the Second World War brought racism out of the law and imposed obligations on all States Parties of the United Nations and the defeated countries of the «Axis Alliance» to take measures to uphold the principles of racial equality. The three main Axis Powers: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and the Empire of Japan were part of an alliance, they opposed to the Allies during the Second World War. The US government cannot completely ignore such commitments, especially since it sought to play a dominant role in the UN. As a result, the American ruling circles were compelled to pay more attention to the reaction of the international community to the internal situation in the United States than ever in the past.

Although, Harry Truman didn’t intend to make decisive steps in the direction of racial freedom, he was enforced to meet the requirements because international community so persistently demanded it. In order to satisfy the requirements he issued two Executive Orders prohibiting segregation in the armed forces [5 ] and guaranteeing employment practices in the civil service. [6] Segregation remained even at the end of his presidency. But Truman was the first president since Lincoln who undertook the civil rights issue. Laws had been passed but without the willingness to implement them, the laws remained on the paper but not in life.

The presidents changing, and changing their policy. The issue of racial segregation assumed great importance during the Eisenhower election campaign. Although, he was popular even among America’s black population. Eisenhower was forced to reckon with this factor and, speaking on the eve of the vote with a brief list of what he intends to implement if he were elected. In the first place the Republican candidate put a promise «to serve the interests of all Americans, regardless of race.» [7]

The ruling of Eisenhower was characterized by great racial conflicts. It is believed that the unwillingness to adopt the law on equal rights of Americans was a weakness in the social policy of Eisenhower. He long delayed a solution to the problem of racial segregation. The President feared that his white friends from the southern States would not understand his support for ending segregation in schools where their children would sit in the same classroom with black. At the same time, he understood that inaction was not a way out of this situation. President`s tactic of the USA aimed at implementation of civil rights of black «with great caution, so as not to bring the matter to an open conflict» [8] was doomed to failure.

Meanwhile, there were disturbances of racially motivated and the government postponed a radical solution. It was the verdict in the case «Brown v. Board of Education». On May 17, 1954 the Supreme court declared racial division in schools unconstitutional, and a year later made an appeal to states to eliminate schools division by race.[2, p.48] These decisions caused a wave of protests in the South of the United States. The conflict culminated in September of 1957 in Arkansas, where the Governor Orvil Faubus used the Arkansas National Guard to prevent school integration in Little Rocks. For the first time since the post-civil war reconstruction, Federal troops had been sent to the South to protect the black population. It meant a lot.

Another public unrest was demonstrations against segregation in public transport in 1955-1956. Martin Luther King was the leader of the movement. They demanded to repeal the discriminatory laws. An occasion to mass movements was a rejection of the black seamstress Rosa Parks to give a seat to a white man in the bus. Then, on the initiative of Martin Luther King, black residents announced a General boycott of public transport. African Americans launched a campaign, which was called “Walking to freedom”. A year later, the court’s ruling in Gayle v. Browder was compelled to acknowledge that segregation in buses is unconstitutional. By 1960, forty-seven cities in the South had removed segregation from their bus lines. [9, p.128]

Black Americans sought equal rights with the white to vote. Although the 15th amendment to the Constitution established such a right, many states imposed a voter tax or literacy test in order to restrict the voting rights of coloured. The civil rights act of 1957 – was a step forward because it gave the Federal government the authority to stop all attempts to prevent black citizens to vote. The law was not always respected, and in 1960 the responsibility was increased for its violation.[10, p.49-53] These actions demonstrate the Republican party’s had no intention to undertake any measures in the field of civil rights.

The beginning of the struggle of black masses prompted the US ruling circles to accelerate examination of legislation on civil rights. It was obvious for the government and the majority of Congress’ members that the further non-action was impossible. The Eisenhower’s performance in the area of civil rights was modest. Supporters of «gradualism» policy, that was policy of small concessions.

Kennedy’s speech inspired confidence and respect. It is not surprising that he received the majority of votes from black people. Having come to the White house, Kennedy wasn’t in a hurry to fulfil his pre-election promises relating to civil rights. Not wanting to go on open confrontation with racists in Congress, the government refrained from any activity in the legislative area concerning civil rights. Thus, the purpose of the government’s political manoeuvring was to prevent the further rise of the racial movement through minor concessions. The masses of black Americans realized that only active actions can force the US ruling circles to act. In a context of the growing domestic political crisis, the government decided to draft a bill on civil rights.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act made racial discrimination in public places illegal. It also required employers to provide equal employment opportunities. In a speech on television on 11th June 1963, Kennedy pointed out that «There come a time, when it is better to settle these matters in the courts than in the streets». [11] In other words, he just continued the «gradualism» policy, that Eisenhower had used.

The new stage came on the way to eradicating racial problem. The 1964 law was an important step forward towards the formal equality of the black population. Having come to the White house, President Lyndon Johnson decided immediately to take a position on the issue of civil rights. In his address to Congress on November 27, 1963, he included the adoption of a new law on civil rights among the «urgent tasks». He stated: «We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. We have talked for one hundred years or more. It is time now to write the next chapter, and to write it in the books of law». [12]

Johnson was constantly active, achieving to raise the bill of civil rights. He believed that such act of Congress was essential to ease the growing tension in the country. So, the Civil rights Act 1968 made life easier for black people. Act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race or national origin in the sale or rental of housing. Banks and other financial institutions were forbidden to include in agreements on loans related to immovable property, any discriminatory conditions.

The adoption in 50-60s the civil rights legislation objectively meant the completion of a certain stage of the movement of black Americans. Since the late 1960s, black movements have faced new challenges-improving the socio-economic situation of the black population, eliminating racial discrimination and its consequences. The transition from the struggle for formal equality to the requirements of “equality of results” means an important qualitative shift. Watched over the years, the balance began to shift, but slowly.

Despite all of the legal changes of the latter half of the twentieth century, however, modern American society continues to face the problems caused by racism. Now in the United States, there are frequent manifestations of the so-called “white racism”, when the fair-skinned population is harassed by African Americans. Even the election of Barack Obama as President, who is a representative of the African-American population, does not give reason to argue that the problem of racism in the modern United States is over.

Frankly speaking, this is the fault of people’s consciousness and the history of the country, which not a long time ago equalized different races in rights, and all this exclusively by law. Psychologically, racial discrimination laws only highlight the inequality of white and black US citizens. Now the situation has become the opposite. However, the stark reality of today’s world is if the white hits the white it is a crime not too serious, but if white hits black it is a crime motivated by racial hatred.

As Gilles-William Goldendale, French-Israeli lawyer and publicist, said «the idea that if people were mixed together in a harmonious way, there would be no racism in mind is an illusion. Racism is not a problem of coexistence, but of imagination. It is an imaginary construct that relies on fear, hostility or persistent rumours».[13]

Researcher William Ferris of the Centre for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi noted that «racism is like cancer, it’s never totally wiped out; it’s in remission». [14] It turns out that the country will need many years, decades and even centuries to change the situation.

Attempts to move away from the multi-year policy of segregation turned out to be very difficult and resource-consuming for the White house. It is one thing to legislate against racial discrimination and quite another to eradicate it in the minds of citizens.

As we can see, the racial problem of 50-60-s was the problem of socio-economical and political oppression. But modern problem is in the minds of the people. Officially, there is no racism, but psychologically there is. Black people have the right to vote, use the same facilities, visit the same places, but still we read in newspapers that witness attacks on black people. It happens just because all people remember that the period in the history when white were superior to black, remember their attitude to blacks. However, racism is a global problem and any problem requires a certain solution.

  1. “International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination”//United Nations. Adopted December 1965, entered into force January 1969. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  2. Susan Cianci Salvatore, Project Manager & Preservation Planner [and others]. Civil rights in America: racial desegregation of public accommodations. Washington, D.C., 2004. C.25
  3. Guzman Jessie Parkhurst. Negro Year Book. A Review of events affecting negro life 1941-1946. New York, 1947. C.14
  4. Черные американцы в истории США: В 2 т. // [Редкол.: Р. Ф. Иванов (отв. ред.) и др.], М. Мысль,1986
  5. The Presidential Order of the USA of 26 July 1948 № 9981 «Establishing the president’s committee on equality of treatment and opportunity in the armed services» //Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Missouri
  6. The Presidential Order of the USA of 26 July 1948 № 9980 «Regulations Governing Fair Employment Practices Within the Federal Establishment» //Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Missouri
  7. Dwight D. Eisenhower: ”Inaugural Address,” January 20, 1953. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. URL: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9600.
  8. Eisenhower D.D. Mandate for Change. New York, 1963, p.235.
  9. Gilliam, Thomas J. The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56. Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing, 1989, p. 128
  10. Robert F. Burk. The Eisenhower Administration and Black Civil Rights. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984,p. 49-53.
  11. Kennedy J. Report to the American People on Civil Rights, 11 June 1963 // URL: https://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/sUVmCh-sB0moLfrBcaHaSg.aspx, 03.04.2018
  12. Lyndon B. Johnson. Address to a Joint Session of Congress, November 27, 1963//URL:https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/presidential-speeches/november-27-1963-address-joint-session-congress, 08.04.2018
  13. Жиль-Уильям Голднадель, Тарик Йилдиз. Вопрос расизма против белых имеет право на жизнь? //URL:https://inosmi.ru/world/20120928/199971079.html, 25.03.2018
  14. Post-Racial USA? Not so fast.//URL: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/post-racial-usa-not-so-fast/, 03.04.2018

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