50 Years later and jobs and justice are still issues for Blacks in America!
A few weeks after my 56th Birthday, I am watching on television the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington that was led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on August 28, 1963. The famous I Had A Dream Speech was delivered to the amazement of hundreds of thousands representing all walks of life from the organizers to those that spoke or participated in the memorable event.
At issue, was Jobs and Justice, civil and voting rights. Jobs and Justice! Understand, I grew up in Texas…a state that had to be sued by the federal government forcing them to integrate their public schools. My father opposed integration. His argument was that he did not understand how busing me to a majority white school to so that I could sit beside a white student would make me smarter. Jobs and Justice.
When I study history, I learned that blacks in America was more prosperous after the 13th Amendment passed in Congress in 1865; followed by a series of Reconstitution Laws. Section 1. of the 13th Amendment reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Yes, there was a transition to be made because slaves were not prepared to live free, but soon after the uniting of the southern states, Africans that had been slaves found themselves in position to lead and educate themselves. The passing of the Reconstruction Act of 1867 was to create military districts and to grant citizenship and to protect civil liberties of the recently freed slaves.
By 1872, Reconstruction saw the election of an African American senator, Hiram Revels of Mississippi, and several members of the House from the South. After a brief period of Republican control in the South which saw major improvements in business development, home ownership, and voting rights. In fact, during the 41st and 42nd Congress, these freed Africans not only were able to freely vote but, elected seven Black Senators.
By 1875, Congress passed the Civil Rights law prohibiting discrimination in public places and the free use of land and water. The Reconstruction Era ended in 1877. Southern States regained their strength to oppressed Blacks in Congress and in local and state governments.
In search of Jobs and Justice, in 1879, Blacks left the South and moved West. In 1882, Whites started lynching Blacks and by 1890 all of the Southern States had passed laws that disenfranchised Black voters. In 1896, the state of Louisiana passed a law that prevented Blacks from sitting on trains in the same seats as whites; introducing segregation between whites and blacks, which violated the intent of the 14th Amendment that was ratified in 1868.
By 1914, all Southern states and most Northern states had passed some form of Jim Crow law that segregated Blacks from Whites and disenfranchised blacks in business, public places, education, politics, and government. World War 1 started and in 1917, some 370,000 black entered into service.
In 1955, in the state of Maryland if you were a white woman and gave birth to a mixed race child, you could go to prison. From 1882, to 1951 some 3438 blacks were lynched in America. (I find it interesting that there is a historical count of the number of blacks that were lynched). Also in 1955, Rosa Parks took a seat at the front of the bus starting a movement of ringing in freedom.
States passed laws preventing schools from enrolling Blacks in White schools and blocking voting rights for Blacks. In 1956, Martin Luther King, Jr., launched a movement on Civil Rights.
In 1963, at the age of 34, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, delivered the famous “I Had A Dream Speech!” Decreeing Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Desegregation of public places and schools, and Jobs and Justice.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy promoted voters rights for minorities in America. He cited the 1875 Voter’s Rights Act when Blacks were free. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in the Fall of 1963. The then Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson signed into the law, the Voter’s Right Act of 1964 (it had to be corrected and revised in 1965). And from 1964 – 1968 entitlement programs were established for blacks, welfare, subsidize housing, free and reduced lunched meals, and under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 saw the largest changes in Black America – voter’s rights, civil rights, and education reforms – Click here to read the American Promise Speech that President Johnson gave to Congress on the night when violence hit Selma Alabama after a Martin Luther King march for Jobs and Justice.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in April of 1968. Click here to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
When news broke that Dr. King had been assassinated, urban riots broke out across the nation in cities like Baltimore, the District of Columbia, Detroit, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, and Los Angeles. Black people rioted and burnt down their own communities and neighborhoods. Communities where their parents and grandparents owned corner stores, barber shops, hair salons, grocery stores, print shops, and churches and private schools – were demolished by the very people whose parents marched on Washington to fight for Jobs and Justice. And for forty-years we paid for it with loss of jobs, poor housing, police abuse, and health care services.
Civil Rights leaders, movie stars, musical artists, and professional athletes came out in groves to calm the storms of racial unrest.
Despite the riots, America pushed forward to enact the Voter’s Rights Act of 1968, education reform, and jobs and justice. But we got complacent. We settled in on welfare and raised three generations on being hungry with a ham in our mouths. More of our son died in wars, went to prisons, or died because of failed health issues. Our daughters had babies out of wedlock and became the head of household and single parents depending on the government for food, clothes, heath care, housing, and education. The Ghetto was created. The line of Poverty had been drawn in our cities and by zip code we knew where crime started and stopped.
Those that moved out of the Ghetto never looked back and those that stayed in the Ghetto blamed everybody but themselves for their inability create and maintain a self-sustaining life for themselves and their children. The 1980’s I believe were the best years for Black America when it comes to economic prosperity, social equality, political, and healthy living. And yet, with all these accomplishments in rear view mirror we got lazy. We got complacent. We thought we arrived. We acted as if we could not fail. We strutted like Peacocks showing off our jobs, our cars, our degrees, our government positions, our homes, our vacations, our children’s college education, our stocks, bonds, and self-employment.
We got to the point in our life that even if one of children was a victim of police brutally, we believed as did our racist counterparts that the child either was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he was not raised right, or he brought on his death by committing a criminal act. You would think that all that we’d gone through, we would learn how to pull together; NOT! We went our separate ways and learned to live the way the whites that once beat us for standing in line trying to vote!
I am so sorry that this post is as long as it is, but in order for you to get the points I am raising, you have to walk through the history. Because if we were able to do so much and come through all that we have, then you have got to ask the same question I asked when I started this Blog: “What the F Happened?”
I am sure you will have lots of comments to share about what you think happened to Black America. I woke up Sunday morning to a Washington Post news article that reported that politicians in Congress believe that in 50 years since the March on Washington took place in 1963, Blacks have taken a back seat to gays and Hispanics. That is a powerful statement.
Why? What say you?