Whenever I think of the first occurrence of social justice and progress in the 20th century, I always end up thinking about the Women's Suffrage Movement during the early 1900s. This movement was the fight for women to try and gain voting rights--which they eventually did. Until the ratification of the 19th amendment which allows white women to vote, only white men were allowed to vote. The journey of this movement until the ratification of the 19th amendment was founded based on these women's right to free speech and protest. Women's Suffrage did not come easy, it took lots of organization. The groups involved with the Women's Suffrage Movement reached their goal by protesting as much as they could, in cities, down streets, and even in front of the White House. Although they were arrested, beaten, and verbally abused throughout their fight, they continued to power through these hardships and reach their goal. They used their 1st amendment right, used the system of democracy, and helped the United States make progress towards being a full democratic nation that serves all citizens. This idea is known as gradual democracy, which this curation is based upon. It's in a timeline format to show gradual democracy, These women who protested refused to give in to the idea that a woman is a submissive person who's role is to stay at home, watch the kids, and clean, while having no chance of doing anything else with their lives. These women empowered many women in the United States by showing that women can make change, that women can be strong, and that women can empower themselves to be an individual to do what they want. Going back to the idea of gradual democracy, it's important to note that the 19th amendment only applied to white women, not women of any other race. These women made progress, but there was still lots of strides to be made in working towards a truly democratic nation that serves all of its citizens.
Brown vs. Board of Education was a Supreme Court case that ruled segregation in schools was unconstitutional. It was a class action lawsuit filed by thirteen parents against the Topeka Board of Education. This case was the catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement during this era. These parents were able to use the system and their right to receive fair trial and make a huge stride in rights for African Americans, that then sparked the Civil Rights Movement. After segregation in schools had been going on for so long in the United States, this was a huge victory.
This piece is by far one of the most tragic events that happened during the Civil Rights Movement, but it truly brought nationwide attention to the disturbing reality that the United States was facing in regards to rights for African Americans and other minorities. Emmett Till was a 14 year old boy who was accused of flirting with and harassing a white woman in a convenience store. Later, two relatives of the woman who accused him brutally beat, tortured, and killed Emmett. The two men were later found not guilty in court, even though it was revealed that the woman made a false accusation. his funeral, his mother had an open casket for Emmett, which showed is brutally beat and unrecognizable face--it was horrifying. The reasoning behind this was that Emmett's mother wanted to show the world the terrible things going on in the southern states at the time. Mrs. Till's ability to show her son's murder was the true catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement, this nationwide story caught the attention of many, and inspired many to fight for the rights of African Americans. Although this event was a tragedy, it inspired a whole movement.
In this picture, it's obvious that the bus is empty, except for a single white woman. The story and context behind this photo is due to a boycott that occurred in Montgomery, Alabama. What sparked this boycott was the story of Rosa Parks, which happened 4 days before the boycott went into effect. Rosa Parks, an African American woman, was told to move to the back of the bus in order to make room for a white woman. Mrs. Parks refused to give up her seat and was arrested. This event sparked African Americans in Montgomery to boycott the entire bus system in the city. African Americans started carpooling, riding bikes, and using other means of transportation to get around without the bus. This boycott was made in protest of segregated seating on buses. It's important to keep in mind that African Americans made up the large majority of bus riders, so this boycott really hurt the city of Montgomery in their pockets. When most of your bus riders all stop riding the buses, the amount of money made decreases significantly. This boycott lasted for about a year until a federal court in Montgomery ruled segregation on buses as unconstitutional. The boycott ended, and the buses were integrated. To some, it may seem that this boycott was a small part of the Civil Rights Movement, but it actually played a huge part in the movement. Similar to Brown v. Board of Education, this ending of segregation on buses was one of the early victories in the Civil Rights Movement. For every victory, more attention was brought to the rights of African Americans. These small victories all made progress, and works towards a better country that can serve its citizens.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were the biggest victories for the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a piece of legislation signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson. This banned segregation and employment discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or religion. This Act would continue to later be expanded, trying to work towards equality for African Americans. A year later after this was signed, another piece of legislation was passed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This was also signed by Lyndon B. Johnson and gave African Americans the right to vote, also known as the 15th Amendment. Going back to the Women's Suffrage Movement, here is a prime example of gradual democracy. In 1920, white women were allowed to vote, but it only applied to white people. Forty five years later, both male and female African Americans were given the right to vote. It took a long time for it to happen, but the victories and fight along the way lead to African Americans gaining the rights that they deserve. This progress towards equality was great, but there was still a lot of work to be done in order for the United States to properly serve all of its citizens and be a true democracy, as you will see in the next two pieces.
This is a picture of one of many walkouts that students at high schools in Los Angeles did in protest of the unfair treatment of Latino students at these schools. These high schools had high dropout rates and didn't give many kids opportunities or encouraged them to pursue a college education. The boys were encouraged to go into the trades, and women were encouraged to be secretaries. There were many other issues that these schools created. Significant and relevant Mexican history was ignored in textbooks, and students were not allowed to speak Spanish. These schools did not let these students learn about, recognize, and express themselves through their culture. The students who led these walkouts created a list of demands that they presented to the school board. The students' demands were eventually met by the school board and things started to change. Dropout rates at these schools decreased, and the Latino population at the local university UCLA increased drastically. The reason these walkouts were so effective were for two reasons: average daily attendance and publicity. High schools funding are based on an average of how many students actually attend school every day. These walkouts hurt these numbers, because most of the students at these schools walked out. This forced the schools to listen the students. News coverage of these walkouts put schools and the school district under fire, and they didn't want bad publicity, so they listened to the students. In this scenario, there wasn't exactly a full democratic system in place. These students took matters into their own hands to make the school system a democracy, where the leaders listen to their constituents, but in this case school board members listening to students.
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is legal on a national level. For years, gay rights activists worked hard to make gay marriage legal, but they only had succeeded in the lower courts. Gay marriage was legal in thirty seven states, and lots of people worked hard to accomplish that, but there were a lot of states hesitant to pass any legislature that legalized gay marriage, but it was later legalized on a federal level. This was one of the biggest Supreme Court decisions of our lifetime. This is a great example of gradual democracy. Gay rights activists started with the states, and were able to get 37 states to legalize gay marriage, and they eventually were able to accomplish the ultimate goal--gay marriage being legalized on a national level. Accomplishing this took a lot of time, and activists gradually helped gay marriage be legalized more and more over time. These victories made progress towards their goal, which was to have gay marriage legalized federally, and helped the United States move towards a better democratic nation. Even today we are still trying to make progress through gradual democracy. There is always progress to be made, and work to be done.