As an African- American living in the south in the 1950s, describe FOUR ways you were treated as a "second class citizen"
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Pretty much everything about African American life in the South during this time would have made you feel like a second class citizen.
- If you were a man, you would have gotten in big trouble just for being caught looking at a white woman. Emmett Till was killed for talking to one.
- You would have to move to the side to get out of the way for any white person walking along the sidewalk.
- People would have called you "boy" or "Uncle" when they talked to you.
- You would have not been allowed to eat at various restaurants in your comunity.
Even though African Americans were supposed to be treated equally during this time period they were not. Here are some more examples of how they were treated differently:
- They were made to sit at the back of the bus. The Montgomery Bus Boycott occurred in 1955. Blacks decided they were going to boycott the buses until they had the freedom to choose their seats. In 1956, the US Supreme Court declared segregation unconstitutional. This is what Roberta Wright had to say about the boycott:
"It helped to launch a 10-year national struggle for freedom and justice, the Civil Rights Movement, that stimulated others to do the same at home and abroad."
- Some schools were also segregated. One such school was Monton High School in Virginia. Black students were not allowed to attend and had to attend a school for blacks only. They fought this and the NAACP even got involved. This is one of the cases that made up Brown v Board of Education.
My mother who is now in her 60's grew up during this time period. She grew up in North Carolina.
My mother went to a segrated school. She talks about having to pass a white school in order to get to her segregated school every morning.
Ironically, though she said she never felt like a second-class citizen because of the insular nature of their neigborhood. She said she didnt have much contact with whites, so she never really thought about them much.
She did say that the first time she was called a nigger was when she was 16 and she sat down at a lunch counter and someone said "We don't serve niggers."
Having grown up in the south in the 1950's there were ways of being treated as a second class citizen for African Americans as well as some other populations.
*They were not allowed to be a member of the YMCA or the YWCA.
*They had to attend Black colleges.
*The men, who were grown up, were expected to look down when they talked to a white person.
*Grown men and women were expected to say "Yes M' am" and Yes, Sir" etc.. to adults and children who were white.
*People believed a white child's story over a black person's story (with the exception of well trusted nannys).
*Although the segragation acts were in place, black people were still not allowed to use bathrooms in the bus stops with white.
*Black people were told to sit at the back of the bus.
*If there were not enough seats on the bus for whites to sit, they were told to give their seats to a white person.
I think that the previous thoughts were well warranted. The notion of not being able to enjoy the rights guaranteed to me through the Constitution would be one way that I was treated as a second class citizen. Additionally, to have to face open and hostile treatment when applying for jobs, home loans, as well as other elements that are seen as integral parts of the "American Dream" would be another way in which my second class treatment emerged. I would also suggest that the constant threat of harassment I endured simply for being, or trying to improve my lot in life, such as wanting to drink from a water fountain or sit at a counter in the front of the restaurant would help to create a second class condition in my life. Finally, I would say that not having my voice acknowledged or validated in any meaningful way from an institutional point of view would help to create a setting where I did experience what it was like to be a "second class citizen."
1) Real or de facto voting restrictions - by 1964 only 5% of Mississippi blacks were registered to vote.
2) Employment - there were only certain jobs it was acceptable to hire blacks for, almost all in the service industry
3) Education - segregated schools continued despite the Brown v. Board of Education case into the early 1970s. At integrated schools blacks faced overwhelming racism from teachers and students.
4) Social ostracizing - Federal law or not, court ruling or not, southern whites didn't believe blacks were equal. Nothing could change that majority opinion in the short run.
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