The history of racial discrimination in the United States: fighting for what and why African Americans came out to protest

The death of the African-American George Floyd provoked a wave of protests in the United States, which is not on the decline. Rallies, calling to draw attention to police brutality and prejudice against blacks often turn into clashes with the police and accompanied by looting and pillaging. ForumDaily decided to tell the story of the black population in the United States and explain what the protesters are fighting.

История расовой дискриминации в США: за что борются и почему афроамериканцы вышли на протесты

Photo: Shutterstock

How it all began

May 27, George Floyd, an African-American from Minneapolis, died after a police officer Minneapolis strangled him with his knee. Officer Derek Chauvin was fired and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter; three other officers also lost their jobs. Protests and riots subsequently broke out in Minneapolis and across the country.

The Governor of Minnesota said that the protests that gripped dozens of cities in the United States, not connected with the murder, and provoked the visiting radicals.

Protests in Minneapolis have increased dramatically in the evening of 27 may, when the Metropolitan police have applied the response to looted and burned shops in the town, and shooting fatalities in the protest.

May 31, drove a truck into a crowd of protesters in Minneapolis (mn). Driving a car was a US citizen, supposedly of Ukrainian origin, Bogdan Vechirko. He was arrested, but on 2 June released from custody pending further investigation. In the end, charges against him are not nominated.

About 40 cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit and Philadelphia, have banned street demonstrations after dark. The governors of Texas and Virginia declared a state of emergency.

In connection with the protests in cities across the US embassies of Ukraine and Russia has asked its citizens living on the territory of the state, to maintain order and to avoid crowds and to comply with security measures.

June 1, Donald trump introduced the 1807 act, allowing him to send armed forces to the United States, shaken by the riots, in connection with the death of George Floyd.

According to the results of the official autopsy of George Floyd, his death was caused by mechanical asphyxiation and should be treated as violent.

As of June 4 victims of mass protests in the United States were at least 11 people.

All police officers involved in the death of George Floyd was arrested. They face up to 40 years in prison.

More than 10,000 people were arrested during the protests, condemning racism and police brutality over the death of George Floyd.

Also the protest was not left without attention of the Ku Klux Klan. On 9 June the leader of this organization in Virginia committed drove into the crowd of protesters.

What is happening now

A number of American cities to dismantle the monuments to the confederates. In particular, monuments to rid the city of Jacksonville in Florida. The mayor, a Republican lenny Curry said: “the Monument to Confederate removed, will be removed and the rest of the city. We hear your voices”, says the “Voice of America”.

Similar actions ran three universities in Alabama — it is the local monuments to the generals of the Confederate army became the centers of protests for racial equality after the death of George Floyd.

The protests called for to remove the monuments to the confederates were held in the former capital of the Confederacy during the Civil war — Richmond (VA). But despite demonstrations and desecration of monuments, the local court issued a 10-day ban on their demolition.

People who advocate the preservation of monuments to the confederates, insisting on their artistic and historical value, but critics say the monuments glorify the idea of racism and slavery.

In addition, the society continues the discussion on the legality of the use of Confederate flags, which shows 13 stars symbolizing the 13 slave States of the South during the Civil war in the United States.

In particular, Mississippi has incorporated into its banner the banner of the Confederacy, the design of which was developed in 1894. In 2001, the population of the state voted to keep it, despite the public pressure the Governor Aunts Reeves refuses to change the flag.

Recently, the naval forces of the United States decided to ban the use of the Confederate flag, except the flag of the state of Mississippi.

The head of the Department of defense mark Esper and the head of the US army Ryan McCarthy announced their readiness to start a discussion on renaming military bases, which bear the names of generals of the Confederate army. They are ready for a bipartisan dialogue on new titles 10 FORTS and bases in the South of the country. Earlier, the us army refused to consider this issue.

Meanwhile, American athlete, participant of the NASCAR racing Bubba Wallace called for a ban on the demonstration of the flag supporters during the competition.

During the Civil war 1861-1865, the self-proclaimed southern States in the Confederate States of America (Confederate States of America), or Confederation, fought against the forces of the Union in the North, trying to maintain the slave system.

Since then, the Confederate flag and monuments to the generals of the army of the South became for many people a symbol of the idea of white supremacy and racial inequality, segregation, racism and slavery. For many residents of the southern United States flag symbolizes the pride of heritage, the freedoms of each state and memory of the Civil war in the United States.

The history of slavery

The first African slaves were brought to the British Virginia by English colonists in 1619. In 1698, the English Parliament legalized for individuals the slave trade. However, after the case of Somerset in England (1772), the French revolution and the beginning of the war with Napoleon in 1807, the British Parliament seized the moment to prevent the ships of the shipping of slaves in the French colonies, according to Wikipedia.

Then the abolitionists, Wilberforce, and Grenville has made extending this ban to other countries, in the same year the Royal Navy began the suppression of the slave trade on the coast of West Africa that stopped the delivery of live goods and across the ocean.

Since colonies on the American continent mainly attracted to free agricultural land, to handle the required workforce, which supplied the European slave traders.

As of 1860, of the 12 million population of 15 American States where slavery persisted, 4 million were slaves. Of the 1.5 million families living in these States, more than 390 thousand families had slaves.

Among the “white slaves” dominated by the Irish, captured by the British during the conquest of Ireland in the years 1649-1651. An intermediate position between the exiles and free colonists had a “sold on service” — when people sell freedom for the right to move to the colony and there again “work” it.

Slave labor was widely used in plantation agriculture. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the national wealth of the United States was largely based on the exploitation of slave labor. For the period from XVI century to XIX century in the Americas were imported about 12 million Africans, of which about 645 thousand — on the territory of modern USA.

18 September 1850 the U.S. Congress passed the fugitive slave act, which authorized the search and arrest of escaped slaves in areas where slavery was abolished. The law obliged the population of all States to actively participate in the capture of runaway slaves and provided for severe punishment for slaves, those who hid and those who have not contributed to the capture of a slave. In all the southern and Northern States established special commissioners for catching slaves who ought to assist. Caught slaves were placed in jail and under armed guard returned to the slave owner. To the slave was recognized as a fugitive, it was enough to make any white stated and confirmed under oath that this black man is fleeing from his slave.

It should be noted that over time, within the United States is overdue deep contradiction expressed in the fact that in the North there was no slavery and the South, it existed, and in large scale.

Background to the abolition of slavery

Abolitionism as an ideological prerequisite for the abolition of slavery

Closer to the beginning of the Civil war 1861-1865 ideological contradiction had acquired the most acute. This was associated with abolitionism (in the traditional understanding of this movement for the abolition of any law) that was transformed into a public movement for the abolition of slavery, under the slogan: “All men are born equal”.

The development of this social movement was a key factor to the civil war and the abolition of slavery.

Political and legal disagreements that arise when making up the Federation new States

Second, it is equally important prerequisite was the contradiction in the form of competition on the adoption of the American Federation of new States, when the question arose of whether new States slave or free. In 1857 even the US Supreme court was at the center of deep political and legal differences between North and South in terms of an irreversible slavery.

Struggle between supporters and opponents of slavery became even more acute because of the loud trial “dred Scott vs Sandford”, in which the U.S. Supreme court adopted the openly racist decision that blacks can not be recognized as U.S. citizens and forbade the States to pass laws abolishing slavery.

Customs duties as an economic prerequisite for the abolition of slavery

The third reason was undoubtedly a fundamental disagreement on the question of an increase or decrease of customs duties. The North, with a developed industry, was interested in the distribution of goods on the market of the southern States and the increase in customs duties on imported goods, while the South, on the contrary, was interested in the fact that imported from Europe the goods were subject to duties that would encourage local producers to restrain prices. In addition, the North’s already serious shortage of labor, which in the South were in abundance, but it was not free.

The abolition of slavery

Slavery was abolished after the Civil war of 1861-1865 and the adoption of the Thirteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution in December 1865. The last state to ratify the amendment was Mississippi in 2013.

The last slave that was stolen in the United States (this event occurred in 1860, and she was brought on the ship “Clotilde”), was 17 years old at the time of cancellation beninca Redose received in slavery a new name — Sally Smith in honor of his master, and before the arrival of married to his compatriot, but from a different tribe and spoke a different language. Sally Smith died in 1937.

The last slave, a man, was also a native of Benin, and presumably the representative of the Yoruba people of Olawale of Kassala, brought to the United States in the same year that Redose, and received in slavery the name kujo has Casula Lewis. Ossola died two years before Sally Smith in 1935. And Ossola, and Smith was brought to the U.S. illegally and were living in they founded the village of Africatown in Alabama.

The end of slavery, but not infringement

Officially, racial segregation existed since the adoption in 1865 of the 13th amendment to the us Constitution, which prohibits slavery. Her first symptoms — separate schools (for whites and blacks), a separate public transport (existed prior to the 1970s), the restrictions on co-location in hotels and motels, the separation of cafes and restaurants for whites and for “colored” and blacks, in the area of services, African American military units and the like, according to Wikipedia.

When the United States emerged from the Second world war, the country has maintained a broad set of problems. One of them was racial discrimination. Its existence was confirmed by the US Supreme court decision of 1896, which had approved the principle of “Separate but equal” in relation to the coexistence of the black and white population.

By the end of the war, blacks remained second-class citizens, disadvantaged in all rights — political, social, economic. The worst education, life in the ghetto, wages, twice as less than white workers, often the inability to participate in elections. Discrimination persisted in the US armed forces during the war: was eliminated segregation in the period of combat training, African Americans were allowed in combat units, but in the majority they served in separate units lived in separate barracks, and even, if necessary, transfusion of blood obtained from the individual stocks.

Segregation in public transport

According to the laws of the city of Montgomery in Alabama blacks were not supposed to take buses in the first four rows, since they were meant “for whites only” — this was evidenced by the inscription at the entrance. If all the seats “for whites only” were busy, sitting blacks had to yield to the white passengers “black” space. Equivalent to this can be considered a roadside toilets in schools (including bus stations), which was rigid segregation by skin color.

In 1955 representatives of the movement for civil rights began the bus boycott in Montgomery. They need to abolish discriminatory laws. Martin Luther king described the manifestations of segregation in public transport of the southern States in 1955:

“Among the bus drivers were not blacks, and whites while some drivers were polite, too many of them allowed themselves to insults and obscenities against the blacks. It is natural to be heard in the bus as they shouted “Black cow”, “niggers”, “black monkey”. Blacks often fare at the entrance, and then had to go again to take the bus from the rear of the platform, and often the bus was gone before they came to the back door, carrying his fare. Black was forced to stand, even though the bus was empty seats, but they were “for whites only”. Even if the bus passengers were not white and black jammed a lot, they were not allowed to sit on the first four places. If intended for white, already they were busy, and entered the bus new white passengers, African Americans sitting in the unreserved seats behind the seats for whites, had to get up and make room for them. If someone refused to do so, he was arrested. In most cases, black people obey this rule without objection, although from time to time met those who refused to submit to this humiliation”.

1 December 1955, 42-year-old African-American seamstress Rosa parks Alabama has not given way to a white man in Montgomery. She was arrested and sentenced to a fine. In the same year, in Montgomery, the buses have arrested five women, two children, and many black men. One black driver shot dead on the spot. Then, on the initiative of the Martin Luther king, Jr., black residents declared a General boycott of public transportation. Blacks owners of vehicles transporting “brothers in leather” on their own, without any fee. African Americans supported the boycott of 381 days, which was called the “Walk in the name of freedom”.

At this time, the bus companies have suffered significant losses — 70% of all bus passengers at the time blacks were. Initially, city officials tried to split the movement (by misinformation in the media and discredit the leaders), but when they failed, police entered the business and started to harass activists and to put pressure on them by all possible means. Black drivers were stopped, were arrested under false pretenses — and their families were threatened with the Ku Klux Klan. So, in January 1956, the house of Martin Luther king threw a bomb that created a new surge of movement among blacks. After this, the authorities launched the “anti-boycott” law from 1956, still arresting hundreds of activists. Courts against the activists was known abroad, including in Europe.

After filing a lawsuit against the activists in Federal district court stated the illegality of bus segregation. The Prosecutor’s office of Montgomery appealed to the U.S. Supreme court, which upheld the decision of the district court in force. The same night members of the Ku Klux Klan, who arrived on 40 lorries, held a demonstration March for the purpose of intimidation of local residents. December 20, 1956, the segregation of city buses in Montgomery abolished by law. But in fact, this situation prevailed in some cities of the southern United States until the 1970-ies. This decision supremacists responded with terror: the execution of the buses, explosion of a homemade bomb in neighborhoods with black residents and beating blacks.

Segregation in schools

In 1951, a black resident of the state of Kansas Oliver brown filed a lawsuit against the city school Board on behalf of eight-year-old daughter (case “brown V. Board of education”). In the lawsuit, brown said that his daughter must attend school for whites, which was 5 blocks from her house, in contrast to the “black school”, which was located in 21 floor (actually on the opposite outskirts of the city). When the court dismissed the claim of brown, the other blacks filed similar lawsuits in Kansas and in other States (South Carolina, Virginia and Delaware).

After a series of proceedings, the case was accepted by the U.S. Supreme court, which in 1954 had recognized that segregation in schools denies black children “equal protection of the laws”, contrary to the Fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The decision of the court was set a legal ban on racial segregation in the schools in those States.

A number of southern States protested against this decision. Court of Alabama, in particular, ruled groundless the legal prohibition of the Supreme court on the grounds of conflict with state law.

In 1957 in little Rock, Arkansas, Federal troops entered because of the refusal of the Governor of the state to execute the court decision.

In early September, the first day of class nine black children (later known as the “nine from little Rock”) trying to get to school, but with the greeted with hostility by armed soldiers of the National guard of the state, subordinate to the Governor. The crowd intimidates white children, threats, insults. One of the girls, Elizabeth Eckford, shares his memories of his first day of school:

“I went to school and bumped into a security guard who had missed the white students… When I tried to squeeze past him he raised his bayonet, then it did and the other guards… They are so hostile was looking at me that I was very scared and didn’t know what to do. I turned around and saw that behind me there comes a crowd… Someone shouted “Lynch her! Lynch her!” I tried to find the eyes of at least one friendly face in the crowd, someone who could help me. I looked at an elderly woman, and her face seemed kind, but when our eyes met again, she spit on me… Someone shouted “Get her to the tree! Got to do nigga!”.

Is there segregation now

At the legislative level there is no segregation and infringement of the rights of the black population of the US at this moment does not exist. But their illegal activity continues, the Ku Klux Klan, many people are intolerant of blacks and are racist.

There is a belief that racial segregation out of the schools now. In the report of the Project on civil rights at Harvard University 2006 Professor Gary Orfield says: “the Level of segregation in the country has risen to the level of the late 1960-ies. We lost almost all the progress made during desegregation”.


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