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History: Four Questions - Essay Example

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As an African American living in the United States during the late nineteenth century, the two most important issues I face are disenfranchisement and segregation.The African American right to vote has been eliminated by racism…
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Download file to see previous pages By passing laws which require registered voters to pay a poll tax, pass a literacy test and the ‘grandfather clause; which confines voters to the descendents of those eligible to vote before the Civil War (only Whites, of course!), I have been effectively disenfranchised. It is time for the federal government to insist on the strict implementation of the Fourteenth (any state that deprived male citizens of the franchise is supposed to lose part of its representation in Congress) and the Fifteenth Amendment (prohibiting denial of voting rights based on race). Segregation flourishes, particularly in the South. The Supreme Court has struck down legislation which outlawed discrimination. The Plessy v. Ferguson case recognizes state laws which require separate facilities for African Americans in hotels, theaters, railroads and other public facilities. ‘Separate but equal’ is only another form of discrimination. Civil Rights legislation, which ensures unequivocal equality, is essential. (Foner, 650). 2. Life in Detroit in the 1920’s was comfortable. I had a well-paying job at General Motors, a small house in the suburbs, and a loving wife and a four year old daughter. We lived well within our income: I was fortunate that my wife descended from thrifty New England stock, and insisted in saving a portion of my monthly wages. We put away a fixed amount in the bank, paid our house mortgage promptly, and invested in General Motors stock. My world changed in October 1929 with the Stock Market crash. What we had considered to be blue-chip General Motors stock fell from $73 to $8 (Foner, 792). To my shock, my bank shut down the following week: our entire savings had been wiped out! We struggled by for a year, although GM reduced my wages and working hours. I fell behind on my home mortgage. The next blow fell in 1932: I was laid off. Immediately, we were evicted from our house. We were fortunate that my friend invited us to temporarily stay with his family in the ramshackle house in ‘Hooverville’ which they had been occupying for a year. In desperation, we sent our daughter to stand in the bread lines for food. Just as I had reached the end of my tether, my wife’s brother, who worked in the federal government, arranged for me to join the Grand Coulee Dam construction program in 1933. This was a Godsend! We moved to Oregon and got through the Great Depression. I am one of the Americans who personally experienced the benefits of President F.D. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ and will always be grateful for this. (Foner, 792). 3. As a fifteen year old African American living in the Deep South in the 1950’s, I am part of a segregated, unequal society. The ‘separate but equal’ doctrine holds good, and is anything but equal! Even the drinking fountains and railway carriages carry boards with ‘Whites’ and ‘Colored’ at their entrances. As the racial segregation of public schools is legal, I study in an all-black school in Montgomery, Alabama. I walk three miles each way to and from my segregated school, as I am not allowed to join the nearby whites-only school. Unlike the white school, our school is a ramshackle building, with no running water or indoor toilets. We do not have school buses, and many of my classmates walk even longer distances than I do. My father says that this is because the local school board spends $179 on a white child, but only $43 on a black child (Foner, 956). Father is often out of a job due to the labor contracts that ensure that blacks are the last to be hired, but the first to be fired. On December 1, 1955, the most momentous incident in Montgomery took place. Ms. Rosa Parks refused to bow to the local law which requires us to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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