The Periods of Reconstruction vs. the Current Black Lives Matters in America
The Periods of Reconstruction vs. the Current Black Lives Matters in America
The Periods of Reconstruction vs. the Current Black Lives Matters in America
The Periods of reconstruction and that of black lives matters in America are critical moments of the country’s racial orders. In these periods, the country witnessed protests against racial inequality, a segregation of the Blacks by the Whites. The African Americans struggle for civil and human right in the U.S. is an important situation currently when history is at the verge of repeating itself. The Blacks in America are still victims of racial discrimination and supremacist attitudes of the Whites in the country have manifested in different ways. More than sixty decades after the culmination of the civil rights movement and the revocation of all segregation laws, the Blacks are still living in the times of the civil rights era, as displayed during the Black Lives Matter movement.
Differences between the Periods of Reconstruction and the Current Black Lives Matters
The enforcement of civil rights in America after the Civil War displayed a beginning of the respect of the civil rights of black Americans. This period began on January 1, 1863, after the Lincoln, the U.S. President at the time invoked his authority as Commander in Chief to liberate slaves in the country’s states under rebellion (Massey 40). However, two years later, the Union troops were still dying in battle, necessitating the Congress to pass the country’s Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, consequently eliminating slavery in all states. This was followed by a ratification in the North and immediately the states in the South were defeated and occupied (Massey 40). The amendment instigated Reconstruction, a remarkable period of civil rights progress, and this led to both the abolition of slavery and the support from the federal government (Massey 40). Before this period, all Blacks, irrespective of whether they were brought into the country as slaves or those born of the slaves were considered foreigners were prohibited from taking part in any struggle for their rights or political matters in the U.S. This situation was displayed by the encounters of Paul Robeson who was summoned to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956 and threatened with criminal prosecution for fighting for the rights of Blacks (Negroes) and the recognition of their rights as American citizens (Jacobin Magazine n.p). Mr. Robeson was interrogated for his involvement in Communist Party which sought to enable the Blacks to have equal rights as the Whites, be recognized as full citizens, and Black workers’ rights. Immediately the country’s Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution was passed, the Blacks witnessed rapid growth in the consideration of their rights; for instance, they were allowed to build schools, establish churches, found self-help organizations, own land, improve their literacy, and participate in politics by electing and vying for local, state, and federal political offices (Massey 40). Civil rights forward movement reached an apex between 1869 and 1873, duration of the first Grant administration. The ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment assured equal protection of all people by the law, regardless of race. More progress in the observation of the rights of Blacks in the U.S. was made after the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment, which upheld the political rights of all adult males to vote no matter their race or former status of servitude (Massey 40). To implement the new provisions of the constitution, Congress enacted its first Civil Rights Acts, one passed 1866 and the other in 1875 (Massey 40). Finally, under the control of military governors and holding Union troops, Southern states were forced to revise their constitutions to prohibit slavery and uphold black suffrage.
Since Northern Republicans needed to maintain their Civil War victory over the sovereignty of the state and slavery, they created in law the preeminence of United States citizenship, and this established the primacy of the authority of Congress to protect the rights of American citizens. The subject of civil rights implementation surpassed racial considerations. Also, when Congress confirmed all citizens of the country to be free men and gave effective assurances for the liberty of the ex-slaves, it also considered the security of its white representatives living in the South. As a result, while Reconstruction civil rights enactments were aimed mainly for the protection of blacks, they were also targeted at protecting the Whites. Since these enactments helped their Southern white political allies, it provided Republicans in the Congress more incentives to make them effective. It also made the legislation more pleasant to rank and file Republicans. Eventually, Congress was acting to neutralize the resistance from the South to national authority in making legislation intended to protect effectively the civil rights of the citizens of America in the South. Despite Congress’ display of interest for racial equality, the Blacks still suffered from discrimination. This situation motivated many leftist intellectuals, such as Paul Robeson, who displayed Marxist orientation to opt for labor struggle as a way of seeking political transformation and the establishment of an equitable social order.
However, after the Reconstruction Era, the Civil War period, and the US Congress passage of the 13th Amendment that obliterated slavery, many of the country’s state and local governments passed legislation such as Black Codes or Jim Crow laws which were racially discriminatory. The legislation denied or limited the rights, opportunity, and access of Black slaves who had just been freed. Racial segregation was supported by different spheres of administration including the courts, as was exhibited by the US Supreme Court decision in the case Plessy v. Ferguson (Jones-Eversley et al. 4). In the case, the court ruled that the Whites and Blacks should use separate but equal accommodations, including housing, public transportation, public bathrooms, and education among others, a rule that was constitutional. In opposition to the ruling, the Civil Rights Movement condemned White supremacies’ assertion that unscrambling Blacks from Whites was both legal and permitted by the constitution under the due process and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
At the Reconstruction period, many African Americans encountered second-class citizenship notwithstanding the constitution’s stipulation of equality. Accordingly, both State and local law, particularly in the South, separated schools, public places, and drinking fountains (Bloemraad and Provine 49). The suffering of African Americans through the violations of the constitutionally guaranteed civil rights provided a strong ground for collective action. There was heightened racism and social injustice, experiences that compelled Blacks such as Paul Rubeson to take part in national and international movements seeking global peace and racial equality (Blum 77). Robeson collaborated with striking miners in Wales and US troops during World War II. He later travelled to the Soviet Union in pursuit of his campaign for the ending of racial discrimination and was thereafter labeled as a Communist during the reign of McCarthy. Due to his continued struggle, the US government canceled his passport many times (Blum 78). The encounters of the civil war period coupled with racial subordination and the continued segregation in academic institutions and public facilities provided an incentive for a powerful and organized civil rights struggle throughout the 1950s and 1960s (Bloemraad and Provine 49). The civil rights movement combined a strong mix of moral suasion focused at legislators and the American public, activism on the streets, and the police violations. Also, there was constitutional rights litigation in courts whose approval of the human rights petitions helped the Reconstruction era movement to legitimize its complaints and attract supporters (Bloemraad and Provine 49). Eventually, the movement expanded to include claims of discrimination on grounds of gender, sexual orientation, and disability. It also encompassed territorially incorporated minorities who comprised the Asians, Chicanos, and Native Americans. In its response, the Congress made landmark civil rights legislation. For instance, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 granted voting rights to the non-Whites and illegalized racial segregation in public accommodation, schools, and workplaces. The 1965 Voting Rights Act stipulated federal supervision of the standards and procedures adopted by states to approve voters and conduct elections (Bloemraad and Provine 49). The two statutes were reinforced through subsequent amendments, with the federal government using its power to control interstate trade and to guarantee equal protection and voting rights made through 14th and 15th amendments (Bloemraad and Provine 50). State legislatures and Congress developed other legal protections, administrative institutions, and execution policies, comprising affirmative action in school admissions, contracting, and employment.
Unlike the Reconstruction era, Black Lives Matter era was characterized by American Black’s protests against police brutality. These protests were executed through quarterbacks and hashtags, marches in New York streets, mall demonstrations, community vigils, and courts petitions in Texas (Chase 1091). They were instigated by the shootings of young black men such as Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown by police in cities around the United States, which occurred in 2012 and 2014 consecutively. Many of the protests and riots arose due to police officers not being prosecuted for killing unarmed young black men, leading to the formation of a new social movement which started out as a twitter hashtag entitled #BlackLivesMatter. Despite, the civil rights movement is not new to America; it emerged at a time when America considered itself a colorblind or post-racial society. As a result, the general public in the country believes that the country’s population is not racist and that the citizens do not take into consideration the color of an individual’s skin. The prevalence of the colorblind ideology in the post-Civil Rights period, that the country is currently in, views everybody to be nonracial or not belonging to any race (Siscoe 4). The Black Lives Matter movement seeks to be a political and ideological solution in a society where the lives of Blacks are intentionally and systematically targeted for demise.
The Black Lives Matter movement’s aim is to reconstruct the Black liberation movement. It is seeking to move the thinking of the supremacy of the Whites over Blacks and through this strategy; it will fully liberate the Blacks from inequality. The emergence of this movement clarified that America has not truly reached a post-racial society since the discrimination of the Blacks by the Whites is still rampant. However, some people have shifted the focus of this initiative by stating that it is not only Black lives that matter, but those of all people in the country, who should be considered important. However, one of the founders of the movement, Opal Tometi, clarified in a Time Magazine article that the aspirations of the movement extend beyond civil rights (Chase 1091). It characterizes itself as a human rights movement seeking the full recognition of the rights of the Blacks as American citizens; therefore, it is a battle for full civil, economic, cultural, social, political, and legal, rights as stipulated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Chase 1091). The media and online protests against the incidences of the mistreatment and killings of Blacks by Whites brought together millions of people in condemning the occurrences. For instance, Martin’s shooting by Zimmerman became the focus of media frenzy for over a year and a half (Chase 1093). A petition on Change.org demanding for the arrest of Zimmerman exceeded 1.3 million signatures within three days. Also, the media maintained its focus on the trial of Zimmerman, heightening tension over the matter. The subsequent decision of the jury to acquit Zimmerman became the topic of the media, including newspapers, television programs, and tabloids, both Whites and Blacks involved. However, this was not the situation in the civil and human rights movements during the Reconstruction period as protects were only done by the Blacks.
The periods of Reconstruction and that of Black Lives Matter displayed brutality meted on the Blacks irrespective of whether the victim originated from continental African or was an African Americans. However, during the Black Lives Matter, no police officer ever waited or thought twice to determine if the Blacks they shot to death were from Africa or not (Yeboah 181). The Guardian Newspaper clarified that Black males of ages between 15 and 34 were about nine times more likely than the Whites to be killed by a U.S. policeman (The Guardian 2016 as cited in Yeboah (181). From the newspaper’s report, there was no distinction made between the Blacks from Africa and those who were American citizens. During the Reconstruction era, there was a continuous infringement of the rights of the Blacks in the U.S., whereas the Black Lives Matter was instigated by a recurrent violation of Blacks’ rights. Before the Black Lives Matter, the struggle for blacks’ freedom in the U.S. was punctuated by comparative rises and falls in racial tension (Chase 1097). The reaction to the acquittal of Zimmerman by the court occurred after a relative calm in racial tension, an indication of the movement’s place in this effort. The campaign that caused the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and overall tension with persistent school discrimination that extended into the 1970s was succeeded by a relative decline in tensions in the 1980s (Chase 1097). However, in 2013, the verdict discharging Zimmerman of the murder of Trayvon Martin instigated feelings in the civil rights movement that had remained relatively dormant in the preceding years but had not entirely subsided. From the start of the 1990s, open, nationwide complaints were witnessed in America against the prevalence of racism (Chase 1097). Before then, the last times that the country was directly challenged with the thoughts of racially-instigated violence and discrimination in the courtroom were the incident of Rodney King police brutality and the O.J. Simpson trial.
The demand for Blacks’ demand for inclusion in the sphere of politics was common in the two periods. Black Lives Matter movement insisted on establishing a model of group leadership founded on the concept of participatory democracy, thereby curtailing the reliance of hierarchical leadership and gender that dominated many civil rights organizations during the 1960s and 1970s (Clark, Dantzler, and Nickels 148). The participants in this movement were rejecting the charismatic model of leadership that had controlled Black politics that had been witnessed for over half century. Just like the Reconstruction civil and human rights campaigns, the Black Lives Matter spotlighted other issues that hampered the quality of life in the Black community in the U.S.; for instance, the high incarceration rates, Black poverty, and undocumented immigrants (Clark, Dantzler, and Nickels 146). The latter also voiced its support for many other groups that were suffering in the system of the period. For instance, it made statements indicating its support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement complaining about the unfair treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli state and its support for the protestors in Standing Rock, North Dakota who were opposing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (Clark, Dantzler, and Nickels 147). As such, the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement were not only focused on police brutality but also other issues that hindered the quality of life in the Black community.
The periods of Reconstruction and Black Lives matter represent two critical moments at which the Blacks in the U.S. struggled for the recognition of their rights. Although the two periods were characterized by civil and human rights movements, the struggles commenced differently and involved different strategies. For instance, the struggle during the Reconstruction era commenced after the freeing of slaves. After their liberation, African Americans experienced neglect despite there being a constitution which demanded equality. State and local law, particularly in the South, allowed for separate schools, accommodation, public places, and resting places for the Whites and the Blacks. The feeling of discrimination motivated non-Whites to protest. On the other hand, the Black Lives Matter movement was instigated by the brutality of the police meted on Blacks, since many Blacks were shot dead by the White police. There was extensive support for the civil and human rights movement during the Reconstruction era since Congress and the Courts considered the demands of the activists. For instance, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 allowing non-Whites to vote and illegalized racial segregation in public accommodation, schools, and workplaces. However, there was no support by the courts and the state and federal governments and courts for the Black Lives Matter since the police officers like Zimmerman who killed the Blacks were acquitted. Nevertheless, the two periods of civil and human rights struggle displayed Blacks’ demand for recognition and protection just like the Whites.
Bloemraad Irene and Provine Doris Marie, “Immigrants and civil rights in cross-national perspective: Lessons from North America.” Journal of Comparative Migration Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, (2013), 45-68. Retrieved from https://sociology.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/faculty/bloemraad/Bloemraad_Provine_Immigrants_Civil_Rights_2013.pdf
Blum Paul Von, “Paul Robeson: The quintessential public intellectual.” The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.7, (2008), pp. 70-81. Retrieved from http://www.jpanafrican.org/docs/vol2no7/2.7_PaulRobeson.pdf
Chase Garrett, “The early history of the black lives matter movement and the implications thereof.” Nevada Law Journal, vol. 18, no. 1091, (2018), 1091-1112. Retrieved from https://scholars.law.unlv.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1757&context=nlj
Clark Amanda D., Dantzler Prentiss A., and Nickels Ashley E., “Black lives matter: (Re)framing the next wave of black liberation.” Research in Social Movements, Conﬂicts and Change, vol. 42, (2018), 145-171. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328038014_Black_Lives_Matter_ReFraming_the_Next_Wave_of_Black_Liberation
Jacobin Magazine, “Paul Rubeson at the House Un-American Activities Committee” Video. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLVqCGeK6JM
Jones-Eversley Sharon, Adedoyin A. Christson, Robinson Michael A., and Moore Sharon E. “Protesting Black inequality: A commentary on the civil rights movement and black lives matter.” Journal of Community Practice, (2017), 1-17. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319696619_Protesting_Black_Inequality_A_Commentary_on_the_Civil_Rights_Movement_and_Black_Lives_Matter
Siscoe, Tanika, “#BlackLivesMatter: This generation’s civil rights movement.” Portland State University, (2016), 1-25. Retrieved from
Yeboah, Roland Mireku, “From the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter: The African Union and the African-Americans in the United States.” Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.12, no.1, (2018), pp. 166-189. Retrieved from https://jpanafrican.org/docs/vol12no1/12.1-12-Yeboah%20(1).pdf