Struggle in America: Equality Essay Example

“Segregation is that which is forced upon and inferior by a superior. Separation is done voluntarily by two equals,” (Malcom X). There were many groups that suffered and fought their way to equality. Two of which were the African-Americans and the Native Americans. These groups went through so much racial segregation that they were happy with the amount of equality they have gotten, but still fight to this day for the same amount as the whites. These two groups went through numerous amounts of violence, discrimination, and segregation to get their best version of equality.

The group that went through the biggest struggle were the African-Americans. The blacks were segregated from the whites. This happened more in the northern United States than in the southern United States. When the Union won, it freed an abounding amount of slaves. In 1865, the 13th Amendment was approved by President Abraham Lincoln. This amendment abolished slavery. As whites began to restore civil authority, the Black Codes were enacted. The first states to enact these laws were South Carolina and Mississippi in late 1865. Blacks had to have written evidence of their employment for the coming year in January in the state of Mississippi. In South Carolina, African-Americans were forced to be a farmer or a servant. If they wanted to be anything other than a farmer or servant, they had to pay fees.

When Lincoln was assassinated, President Andrew Johnson took office. Under Johnson’s Reconstruction policies, all southern states must come up with their own black codes. The primary reason for the Black Codes was to restrict African-Americans’ labor and activity. The Black Codes limits the type and amount of property they could own. “Anti enticement was used against anyone who paid African-Americans, that were already under contract, more,” (History,com Editors “Black Codes”).  The blacks who agreed to to break their labor contract, were arrested and beaten. For those that were minors, orphans, or their parents are unable to support them, were forced into labor without being paid. The Black Codes were enforced by all-white police and state militia forces. Since they were all white, Confederates, the blacks ultimately had no say. 

The Black Codes had an impact on later amendments and laws. “The Reconstruction Act of 1867 was passed by Andrew Johnson. It required southern states to ratify the 14th Amendment, which granted equal protection of the Constitution  to former slaves, and enacted universal male suffrage before rejoining the Union,” ( Editors “Black Codes”). In 1870, the 15th Amendment was passed. This amendment guarantees all citizens the right to vote, no matter what their race or color is. This time period was called Radical Reconstruction, and during this time, blacks were being elected into office of southern states. Some were even elected into Congress. Whites wanted to ensure their supremacy. They felt that their control was slipping out their hands. They did this by making violent organizations. An example of these organizations is the Klu Klux Klan. The KKK was the largest of these groups. When Reconstruction ended in 1877, African-Americans had slight changes in their economic and social status. Since the whites had shown their supremacy, the political improvement was no longer there. 

After the end of Reconstruction, the Jim Crow Laws were enacted by the southern legislature.The laws were named after a term the African-Americans were called after Reconstruction. These laws separated blacks from whites in schools, train cars, hotels, theaters, restaurants, barber shops, and more. School separation came in 1885 and the other separations came in 1900. By separating blacks and whites, some people thought it was a violation of the 14th Amendment, which ensures equal citizenship to African-Americans. The first test against this amendment was Plessy vs. Ferguson case. The majority of the Court voted that the amendment was not being broke as long as equal conditions were provided to everybody. After the case was finished, the Court made a doctrine called the “Equal Doctrine” that would be used for any other cases like Plessy vs. Ferguson.

Education Improvement

In the 19th century, African-Americans saw great improvement in education. Many looked up to Booker T. Washington, who was the author of “Up From Slavery.” Washington was also the president of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama. He encouraged blacks to start farming. This would create the skills necessary to live as an African-American during this time period. “George Washington Carver, head of Tuskegee’s agriculture department, helped liberate the South from its reliance on cotton by convincing farmers to plant different crops to rejuvenate the soil,” ( Editors “Black History Milestones”).

This idea was later found as too narrow by an author, Du Bois. He thought Washington’s idea was too focused on economics and not enough focus on education. In 1905, Du Bois started a protest at Niagara Falls, known as the “Niagara Movement.” This protest was to ensure civil rights for African-Americans. Civil rights for blacks were in high demand at this time because of all the shortages happening. These shortages had increased the amount of lynching and violence towards blacks. A new civil rights organization was created during the Niagara Movement, called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This organization was started in Chicago in 1909. It soon expanded to many more locations. The NAACP has many goals, including abolition of segregation and equal education. “One of the earliest programs was a campaign against lynching and other lawless acts,” ( Editors “Black History Milestones”). Du Bois was involved in some of the NAACP’s magazines. 

Another group that suffered and struggled throughout this time period were the Native Americans. In 1830, the Native Americans living east of the Mississippi were driven off their land. This was called the Indian Removal Act and was signed by President Jackson. Those Native Americans did not agree with this. Even the Cherokee called it the “Trail of Tears.” They felt they had been dislocated from their land by the invaders, or the European colonizers. They wanted independence for their nations. Native Americans were not granted citizenship until 1924, but they had to fight for it. There were legal issues, broken treaties, and ethnic discrimination. Similar to the African-Americans, Native Americans were denied basic human rights. Even today there are some tribes that deal with discrimination. 

After the completion of the railroads to the West, Native Americans thought they were going to build another life with all the new developments, but black and white settlers from the East poured across the Mississippi River to start new mines, farms, and ranches. This journey took several months. The American Indians had to travel on foot and by wagons to travel over one thousand miles. By the end there were hardly any Native American tribes in the southeastern United States.

African-Americans thought they would find prosperity in the new land. They had lived there forever. There Ancestors had lived their and cultivated the land for many generations. These groups found out about the new land from extensive advertising campaigns that promised the best prairie land, low prices, large discounts, and better terms. All the new settlers formed what is now the Great Plains. The herds of bison, which were the Native Americans’ source of food, clothing and more, were wiped out. Natural grasses were plowed by the farmers. Those grasses were used by the Native Americans to plant crops.

The cattle population grew as the railroad is the only way to get cattle to the market faster. All these aspects impacted the lives of the American Indians that lived in the West. By the 1880’s, most of the Native tribes had been restricted to reservations. These reservations were on the land that was least desirable to the white settlers. The reservations had everything the tribes would every need, including food, water, shelter, medical care, and more. “On this new land, water management was poor, lightning fires were more prevalent, the weather was more extreme, rainfall was less predictable,” (“History of the United States”). These problems were no help to the Native Americans that were trying to establish homes. There were training programs and schools set up by reformers for all Native Americans. Some schools produced important Indian leaders. Some people refused to go to these schools, so the reformers allowed Native Americans to own their own land.

In 1879, the first students attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. This was the country’s first boarding school off the reservation. This school was similar to a modern day school. They had subjects like English, math, history, drawing and composition, but they had some classes we do not have today. For example, they had a class where the kids learned the trade and work skills, like farming and manufacturing. Some older students had enough skills to build the school new classrooms and dormitories. The school had a music class which introduced the students to classical instruments, so the school created a band. This band went on to earn an international reputation. At first, the teachers were white. Similar to the blacks’ schools, the whites wanted to show supremacy over the Native Americans, but as the school started to grow, more and more Native American faculty started to join. These new teachers brought American Indian culture into the school, which could help the students understand their own culture better.

Since the Native Americans were taking over in education, the Dawes Act of 1887 tried to make Native Americans more like the average, white American. Those kinds of people were more privileged than American Indians, so the majority of them agreed. This left barely any Native American culture in America. The few who did not assimilate, were left in poverty on the reservations. 

The Native Americans were also involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Discrimination against American Indians increased during the Civil War. Like the African-Americans, the Native Americans had to follow the Jim Crow Laws. Some African-Americans and Native Americans had intermarried, so the government started to question if the tribe was legitimate or not. This was a form of discrimination. Another way the Native Americans were discriminated was with voting. American Indians were discouraged from voting in the southern and western states. Many Native Americans in the south were seeking education, but found it hard because of discrimination. The NAACP would later change this problem. An example of these changes is the Brown vs. Board of Education. 

The amount of violence, segregation, and discrimination these two groups went through is unimaginable, but the world would not be where it is today if that did not happen. All the battles, crime, and distraught the groups have gone through has helped those cultures grow. Even though segregation has not been fully abolished, it is much better than it was in 1865. 


“Native American Civil Rights.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Sept. 2019,

“History of the United States (1865–1918).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Aug. 2019,–1918). Editors. “Black Codes.”, A&E Television Networks, 1 June 2010, Editors. “Black History Milestones.”, A&E Television Networks, 14 Oct. 2009,

“Native Americans: Centuries of Struggle in North America.” History Behind the Headlines: The Origins of Conflicts Worldwide,, 19 Sept. 2019,



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