We are going to study in this post the link between three different American political icons: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama and the evolution of the civil rights for the black in the US.
Abraham Lincoln is the sixteenth president of the United States. Very soon he gets interested in politics and becomes a member of the Whig party and then a member of the Illinois house of representative for twelve years. In 1846, Lincoln is elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he promoted a rapid modernization of the economy through banks, tariffs and railroads. He left congress after his first term returned to Springfield to practice his job as a lawyer. He stopped politics for a few years and came back in 1854 when he became the leader of the new republican party and he is chosen by the party to be a candidate for the upcoming presidential elections and is elected in 1860.
What was the black situation at that period of time?
In 1808 the slave trade was officially abolished in the United states, but it did not end slavery and the question of slavery opposed the American. In the north an abolitionist movement starts to develop and in the 1820 the female Anti slavery society denounces slavery. In the south more and more slave owners began to be afraid of slave revolts. The problem of slavery is revealed by the book Uncle’s Tom’s Cabin published in 1852 and it had a profound impact on the general spirit about Afro-American and slavery in the United States. This situation led Abraham Lincoln to promise the abolition of slavery if he was elected as president and his election led to the civil war.
What has Lincoln done about the rights of black people?
The emancipation proclamation
Lincoln was clearly opposed to slavery for moral reasons and first what he tried to do is to stop slavery from expanding across the country with compensated emancipation in 1861 which involved that the person who was recognized as the owner of a slave was compensated monetarily or by a period of labor for releasing the slaves but the compensated emancipation was completely ignored by the southern states. He was considered as moderate in his party where some members wanted the immediate abolition of slavery. At the beginning of the war, Lincoln prohibited his generals from freeing slaves even in captured territories because he realized that such actions could induce slave owners in border states to oppose the Union or to start supporting the enemy. Lincoln believed that the only way slaves could rely on the promise and declaration of freedom was if it was grounded by the president’s constitutional authority. In 1862 he wrote the Emancipation proclamation which announced that at the beginning of 1863, he would use his war powers to free all slaves in states which were still in rebellion. This proclamation changed the legal status of more than 3 million enslaved persons from slavery to freedom and it was applied in 10 states. It was the first step to the abolition of slavery, but this proclamation did not compensate the owners, did not outlaw slavery and did not grant citizenship to the ex slaves and it couldn’t be enforced in areas still in rebellion.
The 13th amendment
The 13th amendment to the United States constitution officially abolished and forbid slavery in the US. It was adopted by congress on the 6th of December 1865. At that time slavery was still legal in Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland and New Jersey. Writing the interdiction of slavery in the constitution was the only way to grant permanently the abolition of slavery. 27 on 36 states ratified the amendment, which allowed it to have the three quarters majority needed for it to be adopted.
After the civil war a great number of former slaves were left with no jobs, they left for industrial cities in the Midwest and northeast of the US. They were rejected by the white population and they gathered in some district like Harlem in New York. That’s how discrimination and segregation began.
Martin Luther King
He was born Michael King, Jr. on Jan 15th, 1929 in Atlanta. In 1955, he became involved in his first major civil rights campaign, in Montgomery, AL, where buses were racially segregated. Civil Rights activists asked him to lead a bus boycott, aimed at ending segregation on public transportation in Montgomery. On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks, an African American woman, refused to vacate her seat in the middle of the bus so that a white man could sit at her place. She was arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation, knows as the “Jim Crow Laws”. Her arrest was a tactic meant to spark a grassroots movement, succeeded in catalyzing the Montgomery bus boycott. She was chosen by King as the face for his campaign because of her good standing with the community. Parks helped to contribute to the image that King wanted to show the world. He mobilized Montgomery’s African American community to boycott the city’s transportation. This boycott lasted for 385 days. After that, a US district court banned racial segregation in all Montgomery public buses. King’s nonviolent tactics of civic activism forced the issue of segregation onto the national agenda. By drawing nationwide attention to segregation, King became a core organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, which demanded political and economic justice for all Americans. It was a public opportunity for King and his cohorts to place their concerns and grievances before the nation’s capital, as expressed by King in his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech. The March on Washington not only led to the passage of significant civil rights legislation, but it also allowed King to advocate for other human rights causes like poverty and workers’ rights. King and his fellow civil rights fighters faced enormous and often brutal opposition from local officials and police forces in southern cities, civil rights opponents, and white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Civil rights protesters were frequently arrested and jailed. King was arrested 30 times for his civil rights activities. Police forces in many southern cities did not hesitate to use violence against protesters, and some Alabama police forces even collaborated with the Klan to allow vicious attacks on the Freedom Riders, the first African Americans to exercise the rights they had gained with respect to the public transportation system in the South. Meanwhile, the Klan bombed the homes of civil rights activists, including King himself and assassinated activists such as Medgar Evers. However, these brutal actions actually galvanized support for the civil rights movement, as they attracted increased national publicity and mobilized whites who had previously been indifferent to the plight of African Americans. The success of this speech and the march as a whole led to the passage of significant civil rights legislation; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the National Voting Rights Act of 1965 legally ended segregation throughout the country. While the passage of civil rights legislation brought King’s dream much closer to reality, there was still much work to be done at the community level in terms of implementation, and King spent the next three years working tirelessly towards that goal.
Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States. He is the actual president in office in the country. It is important to mention him because he is the first African American to be president of the United States. The fact that Obama was elected is the proof that black rights evolved a lot since Lincoln.
Obama was born in Honolulu (state capital of Hawaii). His mother was a white American with Irish origin and his father is a black Kenyan. He began his political career in 1994, in the local politics. In 1996, he is elected to the Illinois Senate. He represented the 13th district. He was reelected twice in the Illinois Senate: in 1998 and in 2002. In 2000, he wanted to be elected in the House of Representatives, but he lost the Democratic primary race against Bobby Rush. Obama finally resigned from the Illinois Senate in November 2004 following his election to the US. Senate.
Obama began a political career at the national level in 2004. In January 2003, he announced his candidacy for the US Senate and on January 3, 2005, Obama became the only black Senate member and the fifth of the history.
Obama announced his candidacy for the United States Presidency on February 10, 2007. On November 4, Obama won the presidency with 365 electoral votes to 173 received by McCain. He became the first African American to be elected president. He was reelected in 2012 with 51.1 percent of the popular vote, Obama became the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to twice win the majority of the popular vote.
Nowadays, black people are equal to white people in the USA. But in fact, they still suffer of racism and discrimination. In the modern society, we can always find examples of segregation. For instance, inmates were segregated after riots based on their race in California prisons until 2014. There is still problem of violence and shooting with the police. Even if the segregation system is illegal now, there are still marks of this in the society.
The support of black people helped Obama become president. He also had the support of the other minorities. These people had a lot of hope and wanted that their situation would be better thanks to Obama. And that he would pass measures in their favor.
In fact, Obama did not propose many measures for the black people. The different economic measures he passed (like the Recovery Act) were indirectly here to help black people because a lot of them have lost their jobs because of the crisis. Some black people were disappointed by Obama’s politic because of all the hope they had. But in the following poll, we see that the majority of black people still approves Obama.
In 2015, Obama called more than one time on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and make it easier for Americans to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited racial discrimination in voting. He does not want that people had to pass literacy tests.
We can see with these three different political figures that the evolution of black’s rights has evolved a lot since the abolition of slavery, but we can wonder if the measures taken are enough because even though black and white Americans are equal according to the law, we can see with the events that have taken place between black Americans and Police officers that improvements can still be made.
Manon Bossard, Manon Chartier, Jonathan Bigot