The experience of black people was that they were treated in their own country as if they were not Americans at all
Black people were first imported to America as slaves in the 17th century. In 1865 they gained freedom from slavery by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. However, did this mean that black people were equally treated by all the respectable citizens of the United States?
This essay focuses mainly on the 1920 – 1930 period when America was a prosperous nation and black Americans were supposedly free. It examines whether they were treated unequally to the rest of the American population and seeks to find a reasonable conclusion.
Firstly, black Americans were not treated with equality in their country as they were segregated from “white” facilities and were denied of an education. Negroes were not allowed to dine in restaurants for white people, they were treated in separate hospitals from white patients, moreover their blood was kept separately by the Red Cross (until the 1940s) and they were not even allowed to drink out of the same water fountains white people drank from. The denial of education was a way of keeping blacks “in their place” which meant that black people were given the poorest educational standards and the lowest paid jobs.
The Southern parts of the USA were particularly segregated. In transport, black people usually sat at the back, away from the white people. They also had to give up their seats for white people if there was not enough room. Black and white Americans were segregated in neighbourhoods. As the book To Kill a Mockingbird implies, black people never had justice shown to them even in courts as juries, judges and lawyers were always white and usually showed no empathy to a black person. Intermarriage between black and white people was prohibited in many states, armed forces were also segregated and even the capital, Washington DC, had seen hard segregation.
There were also laws in the south which prevented African-Americans from being treated equally as their fellow white citizens. These were the “Jim Crow” laws. “Jim Crow” was an abusive and insulting term – much the same as “nigger”. These laws saw to it that segregation was legal and ensured that blacks could be exploited as well as shown brutal treatment.
When black people were permitted to go to war, it seemed that they were being treated as Americans, which contradicts the statement that they were not. Nevertheless, this ray of hope had its limits: the soldiers were kept in all-black units, black officers were not allowed to command the white troops and despite their loyalty in the war, African-Americans were not given any reward and still remained as poor and outcast as ever in the “roaring twenties” when most white people prospered. During the Great Depression African-Americans suffered much in the stumble of farm prices and the mass unemployment. At that time, black and white Americans in the South were poorer than those in the North due to the fact that the Southern part of America was covered with farmland and mainly based on the economy of agriculture. Farm prices remained low during the decade of the 1930s.
At the time when black Americans were migrating to the North of the USA, even though they had higher wages and segregation did not exist in the Northern cities, African-Americans were still not given fair treatment by white citizens as the blacks were given the lowest paid jobs, were normally the last people to obtain a job and the first to be fired. Therefore racism was common.
The “Back to Africa” movement was very popular because of its motives. Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, believed that black people worldwide were one nation, Africa being their homeland which needed to be set free from the colonial rule of European countries and he wished black people to return to their homeland. In 1924 a deputation was sent by Garvey to Liberia so that the way to a settlement would be prepared. “Black is Beautiful” was his slogan which stated that black was the colour of strength and beauty and not a sign of inferiority. This persuaded many black people to follow the “Back to Africa” movement because it gave them hope. Marcus Garvey’s dictum, in my opinion, hinted that as black people were not treated equally as American citizens, they should go back to their homeland – Africa. His teaching did encourage black people to hold their heads up high.
The coming of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s outlawed African-Americans from having any justice. As the government also consisted of members of the KKK, this explained why there was so much racism and segregation. There were many unjust hangings of black people as well.
Thus, to make a precis and conclude, African-Americans had had the experience of being treated in their own country as if they were not Americans at all, because the State denied them of the fundamental rights of human beings and at times treated them worst than dogs, not even thinking that they are people.