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African-American Civil Rights
Yoshie Takeda

How have African American Civil Rights Changed over the Past 150 Years?

    About 150 years ago in the U.S., there was discrimination against African Americans. Some leaders made actions and speeches to change society for African Americans. So now, most discrimination has disappeared, and African Americans people can live in equality.

    The beginning of the changes was the 14th Amendment of 1868, which is about the civil rights of African Americans. Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson further developed the 14th Amendment. From then, society changed bit by bit. After the Civil War slavery disappeared, and everyone born in the U.S. was allowed to be citizens of the U.S. and was treated equally. However, the act was only a law; white people still discriminated against black people. After about 100 years, civil rights changed so that African Americans were treated equally. Public schools were integregated; black people could receive proper education with white people in the same schools and the same classrooms. The government made the law, so every school in the South had to follow it. I think that it was hard and difficult for black people to study with white people. I guess that there were bullies in the background of the society.

    Two years after the 14th Amendment was made, in 1870 the 15th Amendment was made. African Americans got human rights with the 14th Amendment, but they still did not have the right to vote. The 15th Amendment gave them the right to vote. However, the 15th Amendment was not good for African Americans because there were still discriminations against them. The 15th Amendment says that African Americans have the right to vote, but they could vote only after they paid poll taxes and passed literacy tests. If one’s grandfather and father were registered to vote before the 15th Amendment, they did not need to pay poll taxes and take literacy tests to vote. However, African Americans did not have the right to vote before the 15th Amendment, so they could not vote after all. African Americans were poor, and they did not have money.

    However, even if they paid poll taxes, they could never pass the tests because they were impossible to pass. The tests had questions like “How many bubbles are in one soap?” Therefore, they did not have the right to vote at the time. It was a long time to change the act and society. This amendment also changed about 100 years later. Johnson moved for African Americans again to get the right to vote. In 1965 the Voting Right Act was proposed, and Congress passed it by the grace of President Johnson. He continued to support the idea of John F. Kennedy to give rights voting to African Americans.  He was an important person for them. His patience gave hope and courage to African Americans.

    Now in this generation, everyone has rights without hindrance. Great leaders worked to rid society of discrimination. I think that they had courage, and we have to respect them. However, there is still some discrimination in the world so it does not end yet. Society will continue to change from now on, too, because everyone who is living in the world must be free.

© KCC - ESOL 197-0 Students, Summer 2005