How far do you agree that the lives of black Americans did not improve much between 1945 and 1955? (30 marks)
There is a great deal of evidence to support and argue the statement above regarding the lives of black Americans and whether they did or did not improve much between 1945 and 1955. Black American’s social position, especially in the South, did not improve much, neither did their voting rights. There was also a huge racially motivated backlash to the Brown v Topeka ruling which did not help to improve the lives of black Americans. However in the North there were a number of social, economic and political changes within the education system and other institutions such as the interstate buses, which aimed to improve lives of black Americans. Unfortunately the impact was limited and de facto change did not, in the majority of cases, happen. The social position of African Americans between 1945 and 1955 suggests there was little improvement in their lives. This is because in the Southern states of America, the roots of slavery, there was still a lack of status for black Americans in 1945 and many suffered from poverty. After the Second World War, where black Americans served for their country abroad, many thought this would lead to great social change. However in Washington D.C, for example, black Americans were banned from all restaurants, cinemas and hotels and were not recognised by white people for their achievements in the War. This belief of white supremacy and black inferiority was enforced by the ‘Jim Crow’ laws which intended to ignore de jure rulings by allowing segregation. This suggests the lives of black Americans did not improve due to the legalised segregation still present at 1945 in certain states, especially ones in the South. Another factor that would agree the lives of black Americans did not improve much between 1945 and 1955 was their limited voting rights. There was some improvement in terms of their growing political power, as American politicians such as William Hastie appointed American Americans to political positions so he could appeal to the masses. Black voters in 1945 were beginning to hold greater voting power, as they could sway the election vote either ways. However this political improvement in the lives of black Americans was extremely limited as Southern states found ways to disenfranchise local African Americans. For example a ‘grandfather clause’ was introduced meaning a black American could only vote if their grandfather had been able to vote. This did not improve their lives in any way as it removed many black Americans ability to vote, which in a sense, removed their right to change their country for the better. Another example of this voting manipulation so the government ‘appeared’ to improve the lives of black Americans by giving them the right to vote was literacy tests. Education was extremely unequal between races, with many black Americans illiterate due to inequality in education. This meant many did not pass the literacy tests and were therefore not allowed to vote. Even educated African Americans struggled to pass the literacy tests and state governments did not apply them fairly. Therefore the lack of voting rights for black Americans suggests little improvement in their lives between 1945 and 1955. Lastly, the backlash to the Brown v Board of Education of Topeka (1954) could also be seen as not improving the lives of black Americans. After Brown’s daughter was refused entry to the local school due to racial segregation, the NAACP and Thurgood Marshall, a leading African American lawyer, took the case to the Supreme Court. The de jure ruling stated that segregation was illegal in American schools. However the immediate reaction from white people was not positive but extremely racist, which did not help to improve black American’s lives. Racists, especially in the South, were led by Senator Harry F. Byrd to put up ‘massive resistance’ which would ignore the de...
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