Our nation has a long history of protests and marches in the name of freedom and equality. On August 28, 1963, one of the largest civil rights rallies was held in Washington D.C. and has become known as arguably the most influential and iconic march in American history, setting a precedent for countless of other monumental protests that followed. This march, commonly known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, two African American activists who collaborated with numerous labor, civil rights, and religious organizations to plan the legendary march. While famous singers such as Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson, and Joan Baez performed in the name of racial, social, and political equality at this rally, the march also featured famed civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., who gave his “I Have a Dream” speech towards the end of the demonstration. With over 250,000 people in attendance, it has undoubtedly changed political and social aspects of the United States and its influences can still be seen in today’s society.
At the march, Randolph and Rustin read aloud their demands for America, which ranged from a call for a civil rights legislation from Congress to a national minimum wage act that will provide all Americans with a “decent standard of living”. These demands mixed with all the momentum that the rally had created eventually led to what would be known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was a landmark law that outlawed discrimination, especially in the workplace, based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The March on Washington had illuminated the racial and labor injustices that were prevalent in our society, building popular support for a change in American labor, political, and social laws, especially among those who were not African American. Along with banning discrimination, this act had also outlawed segregation in public places, pinpointing a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement in America. The rally had also led to the eventual passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allowed African Americans to exercise their right to vote under the 15th amendment, with both acts largely reflecting the demands of the rally.
Another tangible outcome of the March on Washington was the NFL’s first African American quarterback. At the time, African Americans in pro-football were normally switched to receiver or defensive back positions on the team, as they were deemed not intelligent enough for the position of quarterback. However, inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech at the rally, James Harris worked to become a professional quarterback, despite the low chances of success. His work had paid off, however, when he became the first full-time NFL black quarterback, playing for the Los Angeles Rams. While this may not seem like a momentous effect of the rally, it demonstrates both the cultural impact and the influence of the rally, making it possible for African Americans to do what was once thought to be impossible ten years before.
The most important outcome of the rally, however, must be how it changed how the world viewed African Americans and the civil rights movement. The rally had inspired peaceful, non-violent protests around the world and made it clear that racism was not going to be faced with compliance. After the protest, bigotry was more frequently and publicly ridiculed and there was a clear transition from a society where racism was seen as a normality to one where it was criticized by more people. While African Americans were still widely discriminated against following the protest, the March on Washington was a clear turning point for the civil rights movement, leading to the passing of many civil rights legislations and inspiring others to resist inequality with more determination than before. Following the footsteps of civil rights activists in the 1960's and before, society continues to fight for a wider spread of social equality throughout the U.S. and the world, as rallies such as the 1963 demonstration have given countless of people a glimpse into what a world of love and freedom could look like.
President of the Heart2Art Project
The Brown versus Board of Education case is one of the major milestones in the ending of racial segregation, often taught in history classes or discussed when talking about modern issues on race or transgender rights. In 1951, the NAACP asked certain African American families, such as Leola and Oliver Brown in Topeka, Kansas, to attempt to enroll their child into an exclusively white school. In the neighborhood that the Browns were living in, the African-American dominated school was an extremely far walk for Linda, in sometimes freezing weather, whereas the white school was a simple three blocks away. Now, when they initially went to the school, the Browns were rejected and the school put the blame on the district board, saying it was out of their hands and that there was nothing they could do.
So, the Browns decided to sue the school and, for the first time in history, they won the case and therefore the right to send Linda Brown, a black child, to a primarily white school. However, when reexamining this case, it is important to look at background of the Brown family. Leola Brown, the mother of Linda, had actually attended the black school in Topeka and stated in interviews that “the teachers were fantastic” and that the education was wonderful there. The main reason for the switch in schools was because Leola and Oliver believed they should have the right to send their children to whichever school they choose, especially if it is one that is more convenient to attend. When the decision to allow the Browns to send Linda to the white school was made, however, the court voiced it as if they were allowing her to go because she was disadvantaged.
In the decision, the court stated that it was mentally handicapping to send kids to black schools, a very different reason than stated by Leola Brown for ending educational segregation. Although many in history might see this milestone in the civil rights movement as an advancement, African Americans were still the ones who suffered for this decision. Not long after more schools began to mix races, there was a mass firing of all black teachers across Southern states, such as Virginia and Kansas. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his podcast Revisionist History, there should have been more teachers integrated into schools as well.
As a child, having a teacher of your ethnicity does, in fact, matter. If a black child who is equally as gifted as a white child is paired up with a black teacher, they are found to be fifty percent more likely to be placed into a gifted program. However, this is not special treatment. It is simply because their abilities are more likely to go unrecognized by a white teacher. However, this isn’t to say that all white teachers are racist. It’s due to subconscious racism that has been prevalent since 1954, when this court decision was made, and it continues to happen today, leading to more disadvantages and obstacles that must be overcome by African American children.
In my opinion, teacher unions and school boards must make more of a conscious decision to integrate black teachers into the educational system, elementary schools in particular, and start teaching school teachers that their biases may lead to the misidentification of gifted black children. The way that teachers impact students is important and somehow, even when segregation was ending, black educators were still the ones who sacrificed to stop racism and division, a fact that should be recognized more often. To learn more details on this issue, I highly recommend checking out Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History.
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