Federal Government’s Responses to African-American Freedom & Equality

Towards mid-20th century, American society had been stricken with social problems that stemmed from its history of tolerating and legalizing African slavery during its transition as a nation that has new found independence and freedom as a state. Freed from British colonization, Americans found themselves assuming the role of their previous colonizers; only this time, they became usurpers of the rights of African slaves, who were transported from Africa to America.

As the promise of social, economic, and political power became more possible, America in the 20th century sought to create a fair, just, and egalitarian society. One of the immediate steps taken by Americans in order to ensure this was the incorporation of Africans and African-Americans into American society.

Achieving this, however, was a task not easily accomplished. Apart from people’s fear of breaking the status quo and entering a new social order, the American society also had the perceived threat that if African-Americans would be recognized in the country as equal citizens as Americans, then the privileges and opportunities they have enjoyed would be re-channeled and re-distributed to a larger population. Hence, the threat of decreased opportunities and privileges kept some Americans from accepting African-Americans as equal to them in enjoying the rights, freedom, and liberty as mandated by the American Constitution.

The American government, however, sought ways in which African-Americans or black Americans could gain equal rights as Americans. The road towards achieving civil rights was not an easy task for both the black American society and the government. With the combined influence and constitutional power of the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of the government, black Americans gradually achieved their goal of becoming recognized as citizens of the United States of America.

In 1961, the Executive branch of the government, under the leadership of then-president John F. Kennedy, the Affirmative Action program was unveiled and implemented in the education and labor sectors of the American society. Under Kennedy’s leadership, Affirmative Action was implemented as a result of tedious studies by the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. Initially, this program was aimed to provide equal opportunities for black Americans to apply for and enter into jobs or work without being discriminated-that is, they undergo the process of application and acceptance based on their credentials, skills, and knowledge as potential employees/workers for the employer/company.

As an improvement to Kennedy’s initial program, President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 included in the Affirmative Action program the education sector, giving opportunities for black American youth to enjoy the same privileges that Americans have received from the government. Thus, with the inclusion of the education sector in the Affirmative Action program, black American students received scholarships and financial funding from the government and specific entities in the education sector. The program has benefited black American youth through the years.

The Judiciary also played an important role in promoting the civil rights movement among African-Americans. Early on in the 1950s, America bore witness to a landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education, wherein Linda Brown, a black-American third grade student, was refused to be admitted in an all-white American school. The complaint was forwarded by Linda’s father because she had to walk one mile in going to her school, when in fact, she only lived seven blocks away from the all-white American school. The school’s refusal to admit Linda Brown signified the persistence of discrimination against black Americans. The case paved the way for educational institutions in America to re-examine themselves, and accept the reality that discrimination promotes social stagnation more than progress and development of America’s youth, whether they are black or white Americans.

The legislative branch has been one of the active branches of the government, and has a significant relationship with African-Americans’ fight for their civil rights in the country. While the legislative branch had played the role of adversary, especially during the period wherein the civil rights movement was still in its infancy (implementation of Jim Crow laws and Fugitive Slave Law), the legislative branch nevertheless served as the medium through which black Americans were able to express and argue for their rights.

One such example of laws that promoted black American civil rights was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which promised equal rights and privileges among black Americans. It became the first step for the American society to fully accept the reality that they are equal in status and power as the black Americans. Thus, the Civil Rights Act made American society of this period to become more receptive, understanding, and open to the idea that indeed, American society is fast becoming a diverse and multi-cultural society.

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