History: Institutional Affiliation in the United States

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The Civil War culminated in substantial gains for the African American community in the United States because the then President Abraham Lincoln boldly pronounced that all people in the country were equal in the eyes of man and God. This assertion was made to integrate the black community into the mainstream American society after years of slavery and servitude. This proclamation was not received well especially in the Southern States that were dependent on slave labor for their plantations. It led to the enactment of the Jim Crow laws which effectively legislated discrimination in the country with the legal concept of separate but equal citizens.

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This paper will delve into how the Jim Crow laws affected the social, economic, and political lives of African Americans and the possible solutions suggested to fix these challenges by various African American historical figures.

The Jim Crow laws gave the white supremacist American society the legal authority to discriminate against African Americans without the fear of any repercussions. The separate but equal doctrine meant that as much as the black people were accepted in the society, their place in it was down the ladder as they were viewed to be an inferior race not worth of mingling with the white people. It meant that the African Americans faced backlash and discrimination in every social aspect of their lives. They were denied the right to access entertainment places like amusement parks and even public swimming pools. Some of these places had erected warning signs that were clearly against the admission of black people in their premises. The movie theaters were also a ‘separate but equal’ zones that adhered to segregation. ‘Negroes and Dogs Not Allowed’ were posters found in most social places, meaning the white society categorized the African Americans in the same level as dogs. Black people could also not access medical services as nurses were instructed to treat patients from their race. Seen as second class citizens, the African Americans were lynched on a frequent basis thanks to the Jim Crow laws. Voting centers, schools, and the public transport system were not spared from the discrimination and segregation of the Jim Crow. Even their participation in sports like baseball was restricted. It is important to note that these set of laws made life difficult for African Americans since they were meant to hinder them from succeeding in life.

One of the historical figures found in the PSR is Booker T. Washington. He was a popular figure who had the spotlight which gave him the platform to outline the possible solutions to the problem of segregation and discrimination. The rampant violence and lynching of African Americans saw Washington, born into slavery himself, urge the white society to work with the black community for the unified progress of both races. Washington argued that it was futile for the black man to fight against segregation because it would be much simpler to accept it and work hard towards getting themselves out of the embers of society. In his ‘ Atlanta Compromise’ speech, Washington opined that his fellow black man should ‘cast down your bucket where you are – cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded…It is at the bottom of life we must begin, and not at the top. Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities’ (Course Reader 13). His sentiments seemed to condone segregation especially where he argued that ‘the wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing’ (Course Reader 15).

Born into slavery like Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells chose to use her influential position as a journalist and a publisher to highlight the plight of African Americans especially the wanton lynching that was taking place in the 1890s. The crusade against lynching was both personal to her and communal to the black people after she lost three friends to the barbaric practice. This pushed her to fervently publish and highlight the ‘unwritten law’ of lynching black people in the hope that this would help in mitigating the practice. She pleaded with Memphis black people to move to the West and abandon all the segregated social spaces. She expressed the sentiments that there was an ”unwritten law’ written in the blood of thousands of brave men who thought that a government that was good enough to create a citizenship was strong enough to protect it’ (Course Reader 22). Her solution was consistent data journalism that exposed the statistics and figures of cases of lynching and their victims.

One of the most iconic historical figures to emerge in the 1880-1920 Jim Crow-era was William E. B. DuBois. He was a reputable activist who was widely respected for being the first black man to secure a doctorate degree from the Harvard University. In the quest to safeguard the interest of African Americans, DuBois was the fiercest critic to the accommodationist stance that was adopted by Booker T. Washington because he was of the opinion that the white society would not relent so easy. He firmly suggested that blacks must agitate for the full social and political equality as well as rights, not just settling for working opportunities from their white bosses.

The next influential figure in calling for the Jim Crow oppression to be ended was Marcus Garvey. He launched a national movement and a scathing attack at the white man for liberating black people partially yet each man was born free. In his assertion, all Africans whether home or abroad had the right to be free from oppression of any kind. The Africans for Africa speech urged all black people to unite and fight for their rights. In his own words, Garvey urged the people that ‘If you want liberty you yourselves must strike the blow. If you must be free you must become so through your own effort, through your own initiative. Those who have discouraged you in the past are those who have enslaved you for centuries and it is not expected that they will admit that you have a right to strike out at this late hour for freedom, liberty, and democracy. It falls to our lot to tear off the shackles that bind Mother Africa. Can you do it?’ (Course Reader 33).

Of all these influential individuals to emerge during the height of the 1880-1920 Jim Crow-era, the one who floated the most effective solution at the time was William E. B. DuBois. This is because the fight for political rights and social equality and justice was in high gear for the other disenfranchised demography in the country. These included the women who were duly granted voting rights and the immigrants whose rights were getting safeguarded. It stood to reason, therefore, that the agitation for a level political, social, and economic playing field for the black community would also result into tangible benefits for the African American people in the United States society. As far as the Jim Crow ‘cars’ were concerned, DuBois led the black people to ‘protest against the “Jim Crow” car, since its effect is and must be to make us pay first-class fare for third-class accommodations, render us open to insults and discomfort and to crucify wantonly our manhood, womanhood and self-respect’ (Course Reader 30). This was in addition to a raft of other demands to the white supremacists that included the grant of political rights and civil liberties. Through his Niagara Movement’s Declaration of Principles, he insisted that the black man was entitled to better economic opportunities and quality education like any other man. The healthcare sector, judicial system, and labor unions were other equally weighty points that DuBois insisted must be guaranteed for the black man in America.


No one can deny the gruesome, barbaric, and inhumane treatment that the African Americans underwent at the hands of the predominantly white society in the 1880s – 1920s Jim Crow-era America. Segregation, discrimination, riots, and lynching were a common occurrence in the lives of the black people even though they had been recognized as equal to other people in the society. The socio-economic and political challenges brought about by the Jim Crow laws were duly addressed by various historical figures within the black community. The essay has dwelled on the proposed solutions suggested by Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and W. E. B. DuBois. The paper has also singled out DuBois’ solution to the Jim Crow laws as the ideal at the time because of the rights and privileges that were being granted to other minority groups within the American society.

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History: Institutional Affiliation in the United States. (2021, May 14). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/history-institutional-affiliation-in-the-united-states/