World War II and Social Equality World War II was a very important event in American history, but as bad as war is or seems to be there always seems to have better outcomes in the end. By the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and bringing America into the war it opened the eyes of all Americans to the problems not only domestically but internationally and the biggest problem that was discovered after the completion of World War II was the level of social equality around the world.
It had been a problem that had plagued the world for many years but the atrocities that brought about by the war coupled with the ever growing eye of the media caused for greater concern in the light of social equality in the world. Social equality in America had been a major problem for almost one hundred years at the end or World War II, but one of the many issues of inequality that was raised was the lack of civil rights that were present for individuals of races other than whites.
The civil rights movement was and still is one of the most important movements pushing for change in the post war era in America and had significant influences on the government of the time. Soon after the war had began, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) increased their efforts in trying to get combat segregation in housing, transportation, and other areas.
The efforts were further motivated by the symbolic victory that occurred in Major League baseball when Jackie Robinson broke through the color barrier by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. His passing of the color barrier was and still is one of the most recognized events in American and civil rights history (Henretta 839). Harry S. Truman’s role on the civil right movement was an important one. He was an advocate of the civil rights movement though he was known for his racial moments in private.
However these racial tendencies had to be placed aside for the sake of the nation. One reason was Truman was politically motivated by the fact that the black voters were playing an increasingly large role in the Democratic Party as they migrated from the South, where they were neglected, to northern and western cities. Also a key factor was saving America from a crisis within its own boundaries the United States had an image to up hold and it would not be seen as ideal if the President was not for equality, especially when he Soviet Union often compared the segregation of southern blacks with Nazis’ treatment of the Jews (Henretta 839). Added an increased motivation to improve America’s image abroad in order to attract the alliance with newly developing African Nations, his course of action was in 1946 appointing a National Civil Rights Commission which in turn commissioned a 1947 report calling for an expanded federal role in civil rights based on moral, economic, and international grounds (Henretta 840).
America’s public image needed restoration and Truman had every intent to restore a good image to America. The issue of segregation was one that needed to be resolved, Truman ordered the Justice Department to prepare an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court case of Shelley v. Kraemer that ruled that any state that enforced restrictive covenants maintaining residential segregation by barring home buyers of a certain race or religion violated the Fourteenth Amendment.
The motivation in issuing this brief and many others was quite clear with the statement that said “the United States has been embarrassed in the conduct of foreign relations by acts of discrimination taking place in this country” was included in a majority of them (Henretta 840). In addition to the brief Truman signed an executive order that led to the desegregation of armed forces, Truman and his administration also proposed many other ideas to contribute to the civil rights movement.
The most significant desegregation victory of the civil rights movement came in 1954 when the Supreme Court ruled on the Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka lead by NAACP chief legal counsel Thurgood Marshall. His main argument was that segregated schools that were mandated by the Board of Education, were unconstitutional because they denied the black children “equal protection of the laws” that are granted by the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution.
Chief Justice Earl Warren agreed with Marshall and by a unanimous decision on May 17th, 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that the on an almost one hundred and fifty year old decision that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional (Henretta 840). In response to this landmark decision Arkansas governor Orval Faubus did not want to follow the courts decision of the desegregation of schools across America. Faubus called the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African Americans from joining an all white school.
In response to this President Eisenhower who showed little interest in the civil rights movement became the first president since Reconstruction to use federal troops to enforce the rights of blacks when he called in one thousand federal troops and ten thousand nationalized members of the Arkansas National Guard to protect the students (Henretta 842) Not only did the Brown decision affect the landscape in the schooling area but it also had a great affect in many other areas.
On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery Alabama Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man. She was arrested and charges with failing to comply with the local segregation ordinance. With the black community in Montgomery in outrage over what had happened they turned to the man that would soon be the everlasting face of the civil rights movement Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Together with his endorsement and a plan formed by the Montgomery black women’s they decided to boycott the city’s bus system until it was desegregated.
For 381 days members of the black community carpooled or walked to work causing the bus system to near bankruptcy and downtown businesses to lose tons of business that they had when the African Americans rode the busses. In November of 1956 the Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was also illegal, leaving another large victory for the black community in the civil rights movement and also a face to lead the continued movement in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. By the 1960’s the civil rights movement was one of the most pressing domestic issues in America, and the Lyndon B.
Johnson administration saw it share of victories in the 60’s during the civil rights movement. The first major victory came in 1964 with the narrow of the Civil Rights Act, whose key item was Title VII which outlawed discrimination in employment on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex. Another key element of the act barred discrimination in public accommodations (Henretta 873). Though the act eliminated many key areas there were still problems with black voting rights.
On August 6 1965 congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which got rid of literacy tests and other test that were used by many southern states to prevent blacks from registering to vote (Henretta 874). The African American Civil Rights movement triggered similar movements in the Mexican and Native American communities. Mexican Americans faced many hurdles in the United States from struggles working, to economic and language barriers. But that all changed with the formation of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) which supported John F.
Kennedy and would lead to the successful election of Mexican American candidates to congress (Henretta 897). The Native American also established a significant group when they formed the National Congress of Native Americans a group who was a key fighter for reform in the 1960’s (Henretta 898) World War II brought shed to light many social inequalities that America needed to face head on. It took a collective effort from presidents, congressmen, ministers, and anybody who wanted to make America what it is today.
The civil rights movement brought American closer to the notion that indeed all men are created equal that everyone should have equal rights and we should all be united as one and that is further seen with the election of Barrack Obama as president. America continues to be the symbol of democracy and social equality across the world. Works Cited Henretta, James A. , David Brody, and Lynn Dumenil. America Vol. II : A Concise History since 1865. Boston: Bedford/Saint Martin's, 2005.