Final Exam 2200 | April 27, 2012

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Black Activism

            Before WWII the black population of the United States had no since of unity.  Without this unity the chances for change was very slow moving.  This change that they were asking for was the right to be American, with all the rights of an American citizen.  This lack of unity and of organized groups was some of the down falls of post WWII blacks.  But the greatest tool that the post WWII blacks did not use was the power of media and putting a negative image of the American way of life.  

            Moving on to some of the roots of black leaders we have Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, and Marcuse Garvey.  These first black leaders of black rights had the right ideas for their time. But some wanted change too fast during this era.  These people that wanted change right away, had some very hard opposition on both sides.

            Booker T. Washington was a black man from the South that worked in the coal and salt mines of Virginia.  He would work at nights in the coal and salt mines and then would take classes in the day time.  Because of his hard work Washington got the attention of a wealth white family that lived in Virginia that pulled him out of the mines.  “In his early teens, he worked for a wealthy family that encouraged his pursuit of education.” ( Later on Washington would graduate and “Together, Washington and his students built Tuskegee Institute from the ground up, and the first class of 30 students graduated in 1885.” (  This school would start to educate any black person that wanted to receive an education.  With racial activism Washington was on the side of education and wanted to be in the back ground when it came to black rights.  “Booker T. Washington, who, preaching a philosophy of accommodation, urged blacks to accept discrimination for the time being and elevate themselves through hard work and economic gain, thus winning the respect of the whites.” (  

            During the same time another educated black man was doing the same thing of educating black people.  But the difference is that this man W.E.B. Dubois was from the North and had little experience in the South.  This means that he did not know or understand the racism that was going on in the South. “…W. E. B. Dubois, critiqued his emphasis on industrial education over liberal arts education and called for immediate access to political participation, accusing Washington of being an accommodationist. However, Washington secretly supported civil rights causes. He covertly provided funding for organizations that fought to end lynching.” (   

            Another black race leader of post WWII was Marcus Garvey.  His way of thinking was different from Washington and Dubois.  He thought that the black man should not need to prove or even prove their rights to be an American.  But rather should just leave the United States, to make their own government.  “Garvey suggested that African Americans should go and live in Africa. He wrote that he believed “in the principle of Europe for the Europeans, and Asia for the Asiatics” and “Africa for the Africans at home and abroad”. (  This new black government would leave the United States on ships and sail back to Africa.  Many white people did not see a down side to this and thought it as a great idea.  In other ways Marcus Garvey thought that the black man was much better than the white man in every way.  He would even put on parades that had his supporters wear uniforms.  The Americans people were concerned that Marcus Garvey was actually making an army, because of these uniforms. (class lecture) “In nine years Garvey built the largest mass movement of people of African descent in this country’s history. It began to fail after he was convicted of mail fraud and was deported from the U.S.” (

            This era that was prior to WWII had little to no educated blacks.  This is why these black leaders were educating their fellow blacks.  Another reason is that in all of their speeches and parades none were able to put political presser on the local law or the governments.  This was done after WWII with the help of the media putting negative images out for the whole world to see.  Blacks were also able to gain grounds of racial inequality through the men that fought in WWII.

            During WWII blacks were able to fight for their country.  This gave them the strength to come home and fight yet again for their freedom as an American citizen.  For example the Tuskegee Airmen were airmen who were able to fight as pilots in the 99th fighter squadron of P-51 Mustang.  Because of their will to prove and fight for their country this squadron of black men showed the United States that black people are just as strong as any white person.  They even would have the support of the first lady at this time.  “Mrs. Roosevelt marked the occasion with a photograph of herself and Mr. Anderson which she promptly brought back to her husband, the President of the United States, and successfully urged FDR to utilize the 99th Squadron in combat missions.” (

            After WWII the black community started to fight back.  The ways they started to fight back was through protesting and lawsuits in large number of people.  One of these lawsuits that opened up many doors happened in 1896 before WWII this lawsuit was Plessy vs. Ferguson.  Plessy vs. Ferguson dealt with the segregation between blacks and whites.  For example restrooms, dining facilities, water fountains, schools, and transportation, these examples are just a few examples of how bad the segregation was.  The turnout of Plessy vs. Ferguson was that if there is segregation between blacks and whites the facilities have to be of equal quality. “…but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either.”( Because of this court case many blacks and some whites started to test and push the boundaries of this equal segregation especially after WWII.   “The Plessy decision set the precedent that “separate” facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were “equal.”” (

            From the Plessy vs. Fergusson case the black community after WWII was able to challenge the courts and the law of “separate but equal facilities.” ( The case that broke the “separate but equal” ( was the Brown vs. Board in 1954. This case was about little Linda Brown, this “…eight year old black child who had to cross Topeka, Kansas to attend grade school, while her white friends were able to attend classes at a public school just a few blocks away.” ( “Linda’s parents sued in federal district court on the basis that separate facilities for blacks were inherently unequal.” ( This lawsuit was enforced and encouraged by the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that later on was sent to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court found that the schools were not equal and the Plessy vs. Fergusson was over turned and that all schools should be integrated on their own terms.     

            Another very minor case that grew into a very big deal was Rosa Parks and the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.  The situation was that Rosa Parks an older lady went on a bus and sat down in the white section of the bus.  The bus driver then said to Parks to “sit down in the back of the bus.”  Rosa Parks then replied that she was “too tired” and would not move. So latter on the bus driver found the police and had Rosa Parks arrested, for sitting in the front of the bus.  This simple and very effective act of boycotting became the example to all boycotts and the way to use civil disobedience. “After 381 days of nearly universal participation by citizens of the black community, many of whom had to walk miles to work each day as a result, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in transportation was unconstitutional.” (  This victory through Dr. King’s civil disobedience was a new and productive way of fighting the system that blacks were looked at as second level citizens.

 This civil disobedience was started by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it was away to peacefully fight back at the system, that the American people were living.  It was way to test the laws and unwritten laws that were racial to the black people in America. The system that the American people were living in, this was a form of brain washing that was passed down from generation to generation.  This new way of fighting was a slow way to bring rights to the black people and was away to bring the black and especially to white people back to what humanity really is.

From Dr. King’s example other people and groups started to rise up and protest for their rights as American citizens.  Prior to WWII the black community was not educated and had no leader that would help them against black racism.  But some of the early leaders like Washington and Dubois were the starting blocks for some of the groups and leaders like Dr. King, Malcolm X and groups like Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).  These groups got their foundation from past educated black men that were examples to themselves.  The people after WWII were able to look back and see the past mistakes and learn and see meter paths to take to receive their rights as American citizens.  Also to gain new tactics, for example civil disobedience and the power of the media, that puts pressure on the people in power.  Because of these new tactics that were deployed the black people of America were able to have their voices heard.     



















Class Lecture, Theodore D. Moore








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