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The Baton Rouge Bus Boycott - Research Paper Example

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The Baton Rouge Bus Boycott Introduction Following the end of World War II, the changes in American society gave rise to the hope that discrimination and segregation would soon be overcome; there were sixty million civilian jobs in 1950 as against 54 million at the end of the war, while personal expenditures leaped from 122 million to 195 million dollars1…
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Download file to see previous pages Nevertheless, there had been glaring differences between the South and the Northern American cities4, especially in regard to racial discrimination, hence the degree of residential, school, industrial, and etc., desegregation. On the one hand, the effect of economic changes in the South manifested itself as rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, as well as the migration to the South of a vast number of white-collar employees and their families, who had a very little stake in the support of the rural colour-caste system5. On the other hand, economic changes pushed Afro-Americans off the cotton farms pulled them to the cities which offered much better employment opportunities; thus, bringing about a mass migration – nearly one and a half million Afro-Americans would leave the South during the 1950s – which fundamentally altered the configuration of the racial issue, making it national in scope6. Those African-Americans who migrated from the South and found themselves amid the lustre of the fast-moving northern cities, like New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc., soon realised that even though the North was anything but heaven, the new surrounding afforded them “precious breathing space” and an opportunity to get rid of the most hellish aspects of their life in the South7. Other African-Americans who migrated to the West and settled in cities such as Los Angeles, for example, enjoyed the opportunity to vote as free men and women for the first time in their lives8. Despite the evident advantages of finding better jobs, better educational opportunities and gaining voting rights, many of the newcomers found that there were also many clear penalties9, most notably racism and its concomitants. The African Americans who were most frequently faced with white resistance – a euphemism for a threatening mob and its racist rhetoric – appeared those members of the rising black middle class anxious to buy property in ‘nice’ neighbourhoods, with good schools and services10. In the South, however, the situation appeared much worse since no desegregation at all, especially in schools, had taken place until 1957; with the exception of two school districts in Tennessee, five in Arkansas and about one hundred in West and South Texas11. Even though the practice of lynching African Americans had been almost abandoned in the years 1950-1955, and the segregation walls started to crumble in many cities of the border states, the peripheral and even the Deep South12, racial discrimination was still a prominent feature of the American social, economic and political realities. Nevertheless, perhaps due to less-oppressive racial mores in the urban areas, the so-called urban ‘blacks’ found it much easier to co-ordinate social protests13. Historical Background In early 1953, the City Council of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, voted to raise bus fares, which aggravated the local Afro-American community, whose members constituted more than eighty per cent of the passengers14. The reason for the discontent came from the existing segregation practice in public transportation, according to which African American men and women were allowed to sit or stand only in the back of the city buses, while the front ten seats – as reserved for white passengers – more often than not remained empty15. To add insult to injury, the system required African American ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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