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Racism in America

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Autor:   •  September 27, 2010  •  Essay  •  3,113 Words (13 Pages)  •  1,417 Views

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Racism has taken on several forms in America over the past several hundred years. The most substantial or well known is the plight of the African American slaves and the injustices they suffered. Today, a new form of racism is developing; one that has always been around but has now entered the forefront of most Americans minds. This new racism is against members of the Middle Eastern culture and religion. The actions of September 11th have not created a new problem, they have just shed light on a problem that we have had for some time. Racism is everywhere in one form or another. To understand it, I think it is necessary to look at the history, causes, and ways to resolve it in detail.


Between 1450 and 1850, at least 12 million Africans were shipped from Africa across the Atlantic Ocean -- the notorious Middle Passage -- primarily to colonies in North America, South America and the West Indies. Eighty percent of these kidnapped Africans were transported during the 18th century. Ten percent to 20 percent of them died en route.

Unknown numbers of Africans, probably at least 4 million, died in slave wars and forced marches in Africa. In 1619, a Dutch slave trader exchanged his cargo of Africans for food in Jamestown. The Africans became indentured servants, similar in legal position to many poor Englishmen who traded several years of labor for passage to America. The race-based slave system did not develop until the 1680s. In 1638 an African man could be sold for about $27 and

serve his entire life as a slave. In contrast, an indentured European laborer could earn as much as 70 cents a day toward paying off his debt and ending his servitude. In 1660 the trans-Atlantic slave trade begins, producing one of the largest forced migrations in history. From the early 16th to the mid-19th centuries, between 10 million and 11 million Africans were taken from their homes.

The American colonies began enacting laws that defined and regulated slave relations, including a provision that black slaves, and the children of women slaves, would serve for life. Slave owners gave a great deal of attention to the education and training of the ideal slave. In general, there were five steps in molding the character of a slave: strict discipline, a sense of his own inferiority, belief in the master's superiority, acceptance of the master's standards and a deep sense of his own helplessness and dependence.

In 1797 George Washington writes," I wish from my soul that the legislature of [Virginia] could see a policy of a gradual abolition of slavery." Two years later, Washington revised his will, providing for his slaves to be freed after his death. Some 122 of the 314 slaves at Mount Vernon were freed; the others were Martha Washington's and by law owned by her heirs. Washington left

instructions for the care and education of his former slaves, including financial support for the young and pensions for the elderly.

In 1865 on June 19, two years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, Union soldiers land at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war

has ended and that the slaves are free. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.

After the Civil War, Congress authorized the creation of six segregated black regiments to serve in the peace-time army, under white officers. The Ninth and 10th cavalries and the 38th through 41st infantries were formed. The new cavalries were mainly stationed in the Southwest and the Great Plains, where it was their responsibility to build forts and maintain order on a frontier overrun by outlaws and occupied by Native Americans who were battling land-grabbing intruders. The black troops earned the nickname "Buffalo Soldiers" -- as much for their ability in battle as for their dark skin -- from the Cheyenne Indians.

In 1866 Congress overrides President Andrew Johnson's veto on April 9 and passes the Civil Rights Act, giving black Americans citizenship and equal rights. On May 1-3, white civilians and police in Memphis, Tenn., kill 46 African Americans and injure many more, and burn 90 houses, 12 schools and four churches. On June 13, Congress approves the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law to all citizens. The amendment also grants citizenship to blacks. The Ku Klux Klan,

an organization formed to intimidate blacks and other ethnic and religious minorities, first meets in Memphis. The Klan was the first of many secret terrorist organizations organized in the South to re-establishing white authority.

In 1869 on Feb. 26, Congress sends the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution to the states for approval. The amendment would guarantee black Americans the right to vote. In 1875 Congress approved the Civil Rights Act on March 1, guaranteeing equal rights to black Americans in public accommodations and jury duty. The legislation was invalidated by the Supreme Court in 1883.

On Dec. 19, 1910, the City Council of Baltimore approves the first city ordinance designating the boundaries of black and white neighborhoods. This ordinance is followed by similar ones in Dallas; Greensboro, N.C.; Louisville, Ky.; Norfolk, Va.; Oklahoma City; Richmond, Va.; Roanoke, Va., and St. Louis. The Supreme Court declared the Louisville ordinance to be unconstitutional in 1917.

In 1932 the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment begins. For 40 years between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service conducted experiments on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis. These men were never told what disease they were suffering from or of its seriousness. Their doctors, who had no intention of curing them, told them they were being treated for "bad blood."

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is established in 1957 by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and others to help local groups working for the full equality of African Americans. The sit-in movement is launched three years later in Greensboro, N.C., when black college students insist on being served at a segregated lunch counter. In 1961, testing desegregation practices in the South, the Freedom Rides, sponsored by CORE, encounter overwhelming violence, particularly in Alabama, leading to federal intervention.

In 1963 the Rev. Martin Luther King leads the March on Washington, D.C. for "jobs and freedom" and passage of the Civil Rights Act. King delivers his historic "I Have a Dream" speech. In this same year in Birmingham, Ala., four girls attending Sunday school


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