Take a few moments to carefully examine the photo below. Here, we see an African-American man drinking from a water can that is labeled “colored”. To both sides of him there are signs that indicate two separate restrooms for men and women: one for white and one for “colored”. The seperate-but-equal doctrine not only allowed, but justified racial segregation. A scene like this one was typical of the everyday lives of southern African-Americans. Drinking fountains and restrooms were not the only places for segregation. There were separate schools, movie theaters, restaurants, stores, and churches for African-Americans. It was also a common practice to refuse service to customers based solely on race. Buses on the other hand transported both white and “colored” passengers; however, they had a divider where the African-American passengers were required to sit in the back of the bus. After looking at this photo, what thoughts come to mind? What sort of feelings arise? What would your reaction be if you saw this kind of scene today? Is there anything else you see that is not shown in the picture? In a few sentences, briefly write your reflections below in the comments section.
Mahatma Gandhi dedicated his life to fight British oppression over India through nonviolent protests in the first half of the twentieth century. Gandhi was deeply influenced by Henry Thoreau’s philosophies in his essay “Civil Disobedience”. Thoreau believed that if there exists a law that is unjust and evil, it is okay as well as necessary to disobey that very law. As a young man, Gandhi went to London where he attended law school. It was in London where he discovered the Sermon on the Mount. These Christian teachings profoundly shaped the strategy in which he would later execute his fight against the British. The Sermon on the Mount upheld the idea that if your enemy strikes you on your left cheek, offer that same enemy your right. It was here that Gandhi was convinced that the path of nonviolence was the way he would pursue his crusade. Gandhi would meet his untimely death when he was assassinated on January 30, 1948. Gandhi’s efforts profoundly changed India’s history. Gandhi’s work has since been renowned throughout the world, and was the basis for many future leaders in their crusade to uplift their people from those who oppressed them.
One of the many followers of Gandhi’s nonviolent philosophies was Martin Luther King, Jr. Reminiscent of Gandhi’s nonviolent efforts, King sought to fight racial segregation in the South through peaceful marches, boycotts, strikes, and protests. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This was King’s firm belief that the way to put an end to hate and violence of racial segregation for good is to counter act it with love and peace. King would go on to seek equality for all African-American and put racial segregation to end, once and for all. King was an educated minister graduating with his Ph.D from Boston University. He was also an extraordinary orator. King ultimately became the vehicle that drove African-Americans to victory during the American Civil Rights Movement. Like Gandhi, King would also have a tragic end, he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. King’s work in the American Civil Rights Movement helped change the course of our nation’s history and his victories that were won over racial segregations will forever be remembered.
You are an African-American teenager living in the South during the 1950’s. Segregation is very much embedded in the American mindset. Write a diary entry that describes what is happening around you in your everyday life. Write what you are reading in the newspapers, listening to on the radio, or watching on television that pertains to segregation. Write your entry in the comments section below. Your entry is to be a minimum of 150 words. Begin your entry with the traditional “Dear Diary,” and be sure to write the date of when you are writing the entry (i.e., December 5, 1957). Keep in mind the historical accuracy of the date from which you are writing from and the chronology of the events that occurred in the 1950’s. (So for example, you would not write about Brown v. Board of Education if your entry was dated June 12, 1952). Below are a few questions to help get you started:
What are the everyday struggles you encounter?
What do you see about your daily life that differs from white teenagers?
What are your thoughts on “separate-but-equal”? How equal is it?
What are some of the major events/people/topics that are attracting media attention?
What changes would you like to see take place concerning racial segregation?