Discrepancy Between the Promises of Freedom and the Refusal of Humanity

Slavery was abolished in the United States when the thirteenth amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution in 1865. Then, in 1868 the fourteenth amendment was secured in order to affirm equal civil rights and citizenship to the freed individuals of this country; However, even in modern times, equality is still considered just a dream to some African Americans. As Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice said in 1978, “Take it from me, it has not been solved”. So the question remains, why are African Americans continually discriminated against? This question has surfaced countlessly in American society as racism has taken numerous forms within religion, social and economic classes as well as terrorist groups for example, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

Furthermore, the disadvantages African Americans have faced in their history has shaped the ideologies of certain historical figures such as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B Du Bois and Marcus Garvey and their propositions to correct major problems for instance lynching, discrimination, unequal rights and economic insecurity faced in the Jim Crow South. Additionally, one of the most effective suggested explications for a solution was Du Bois’ argument for African Americans immediate equality with whites as he advocates for his “Declaration of Principles” that contain universal and fundamental laws that apply to all.

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The provenance of prejudice against African Americans is found in the practice of slavery and the discrepancy between the promises of freedom and the refusal of humanity that is the ground of present-day U.S. The dynamic of slaves and slave owners had formed and ensured that the inequitable relationships between whites and blacks be generalized throughout the country. The fourteenth amendment was set to change just that as it states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside”. It permitted citizens equal protection under state and federal law.

African Americans would immediately seek to better their lives by pursuing what had once been forbidden to them. However, they have experienced the displeasure of unadjusted white southerners who were nothing short of persistence to maintain blacks as the barren and rejected underclass. Moreover, racial mob brutality against African Americans spread throughout much of the South where the system of Jim Crow laws impoverished generations of African Americans with segregation and discrimination along with terrorism from organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan whom engaged in merciless tactics like arson, whipping and lynching. All of this was to prevent African Americans from any economic, political or social equality with whites, according to the textbook U.S. History (468). It was in opposition to these problems that African American leaders cultivated their own understandings in the Progressive Era in furtherance of operating along distinct paths to better the lives and ambiance of African Americans across the country.

One of these leaders was Booker T. Washington, a man born into slavery and freed by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. He became a prominent leader who focused mostly on the “black community’s self-improvement and prove that they were productive members of society even in freedom” (U.S. History 617). In Atlanta in 1895, Washington delivered a speech that was meant to advance the economy of the”New South” and what emerged as “The Atlanta Compromise”. In his speech, Washington called for African Americans to strive purposefully for their own personal improvement instead of engaging themselves with the civil and political rights issues they faced. Whatsmore, he insinuates that their labor and achievements would ultimately persuade the southern whites to consent to these rights.

Washington’s speech offered a solution that would not need anything of the whites and only referred to blacks to adjust to the times as they go and hope for the best. Also, his solution would generally call for protests, backlash or any form of disparities between whites and blacks to stop in which African Americans would try to make the best of what they got. His message enticed to some African Americans in which its widespread popularity was due to the constant message that economic and social growth for the black community in a segregated society would achieve greater results for them rather than a full-scale upheaval. Nonetheless, many African Americans opposed Booker T. Washington’s suggestion in which they felt the pace of the efforts for equal rights was moving too slowly. Some within the community also felt that, as stated in the textbook U.S. History, “immediate agitation for the rights guaranteed under the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments” (618) was crucial. That is when a group of eminent civil rights leaders decided to consider some prompt actions needed for their rights in 1905.

Among the group of leaders was professor, spokesperson and leader W.E.B. Du Bois who was the first African American to graduate with a doctorate from Harvard University. Along with Du Bois, many had relatively grown tired of Booker T. Washington’s reasons for them to accustom to white racism and supremacy in addition to focusing particularly on self-improvement. Du Bois intended to take a more dominant path towards their goals of equality. This path would encompass more of a political leadership role that depended on “litigation skills of the black, educated elite, which he termed the ‘talented tenth’” (U.S. History 618). Furthermore, at this meeting Du Bois managed his peers in formulating “The Niagara Movement’s Declaration of Principles”. These principles termed for instant social, political and economic equality for all such as universal suffrage, education and a list of corresponding duties that include “The duty to vote, the duty to respect the rights of others, the duty to work, the duty to obey laws…” (Course Reader 31) and much more. W.E.B Du Bois’ propositions were very detailed and contained principles that should initially be granted to any man and woman. In these principles, it is clear that Du Bois insisted that African Americans concentrate on acquiring full political rights and social quality directly and assertively, not simply on vocational opportunities like Washington had advised. Compared to Washington’s, Du Bois’ claims were more radical. Yet, some even decided to settle on a more amassed concept advocated by political leader Marcus Garvey.

African Americans found “political expression in a political ideology that celebrated their distinct national identity” (U.S. History 711) by the 1920’s. This sense of nationalism that they adopted was called “Negro Nationalism” and it introduced the belief that blacks had a distinctive and independent national uniqueness. This political ideology inspirited a mentality of self-love, pride and community that activist Marcus Garvey used and took to a whole other level. Alike to other African Americans, Jamaican immigrant Marcus Garvey had altogether turned disappointed with the possibility of surmounting white racism and supremacy in the South in the vigilance of the riots taking place in the United States. That is when he decided to promote his ideas of the “Back to Africa” movement in his speech “Africa for the Africans”. Moreover, he urged that blacks should be able to partake in the enjoyment of “the same internationally recognized identity enjoyed by other peoples” (Course Reader 32). As he promotes the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), an organization he started that endorsed the “doctrine of negritude” to prize blackness, he called for all blacks to join in his journey based on black separatism. Garvey’s view of black separatism inferred that African Americans should live separately from whites and resolve their obstacles on their own. Inclusively, Garvey’s “Africa for the Africans” speech proclaims that blacks cannot and must not continue to live in a country where “other men rule and dominate” (Course Reader 32).

The Jim Crow South constantly dissociated blacks and whites and dictated virtually all aspects of southern life under strict regulations. This not only allowed for the segregation of the races, but for the point of view on blacks to be lesser than. This influenced for great thinkers of their time to create paths for the tortured individuals of the South to choose. What paths could they choose from? There was Booker T. Washington’s proposition given in his speech “The Atlanta Compromise” that emphasized self-improvement and hard work. A solution that would have put the responsibility of change on blacks and demanded nothing on whites. There was Marcus Garvey’s view which can be considered extremist compared to Washington’s. His proposition in his “Africa for the Africans” speech prompted on the separation of black and white lives en masse and also asked nothing of the white race, only the black. Nonetheless, one of the most effective propositions was in W.E.B. Du Bois’ “Declaration of Principles” that reiterated for the push of essential basics such as suffrage, education, help, protest, public opinion and more. His approach to the problems faced in the South not only put the duty of equality on blacks, but on whites as well because they are the ones who had the power and African Americans, in numbers, have the power to expedite them to use that power for the greater good.

America should continue to look back at its history because not only does it show the accomplishments of our country, but the failures as well. As failure allows us to grow in morals and values and teach us the growth of its powerful individuals.

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Discrepancy Between the Promises of Freedom and the Refusal of Humanity. (2022, May 13). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/discrepancy-between-the-promises-of-freedom-and-the-refusal-of-humanity/