My Dearest Great-Grandson,
In the first half of the twentieth century, life as an African American was anything but a stroll in the park. The end of the Civil War sparked the beginning of a new fight; one that would last beyond the day I died. Although slavery was outlawed, it seemed like society tried to find every way possible to assure that I remained a second-class citizen. The Era of Reconstitution left America exploring new systems to replace slavery. White supremacy left black America powerless to fight it’s overt evil. Even the highest authorities in America proved their ignorance and utmost disrespect. One incident I recall was my job at Gibson Island, working as a busboy. I was waiting tables when a United States Senator approached me saying, “Hey nigger… nigger, I want service at this table” (48). Although blacks in the North suffered racial discrimination and de facto segregation, I would be lying if I said the conditions in the South were half as good as the North. Blacks in the South experienced harsh discrimination, known as Jim Crow Laws. Words do not give these inhumane laws justice. My writing to you will only give you the slightest understanding of how it felt to be black in the deep South. I simply cannot express the inequality of living conditions for African Americans. Being African American, you lived under the Supreme Court Ruling “Separate but Equal.” However, black life was anything but equal. To elaborate, this meant that you were to use the “colored only” restrooms, drinking fountains, and facilities that were kept filthy and poor. Going to the South was an eye-opening experience for anyone who wanted to see the brutal reality of what it meant to be African American. You could not walk around town without fear of being a target of violence, or social degradation.
The unjust treatment of African Americans prevailed even in the court of law. Treatment consisted of unfair trials and rulings. Blacks experienced decisions made by all white-juries, never by any of their own peers. George F. Porter was even “thrown down the front steps of the Dallas courthouse for insisting on his right to serve on a county jury” (101). At this time, it was not coincidental to hear of false accusations and forced confessions either. The death penalty, and sentencing for life in jail was almost inescapable if a black man was convicted of a crime. African Americans were left ultimately vulnerable to the powerful word of a white man.
The struggle of racial inequality continued on, and “as World War II broke out, the armed forces remained segregated” (122). It seemed hypocritical that America was fighting for the equality of Jews against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, while the issue of inequality on the homefront was still existent. Blacks and whites were fighting for the same cause but given very different rights. Oftentimes African Americans soldiers received “unfair assignments, phony charges that led to dishonorable charges, and top officers’ failure to give medals and honors to black soldiers.” (125) In effect, the Double V Campaign swept through the nation symbolizing the fight for democracy overseas and at home. The United States has come a long ways from the days of slavery, but needless to say, we have not even come close to achieving equality. I hope the day you read this, is a day where America has surpassed equality for mankind.
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