How far do you agree that the years 1945 – 1955 saw only limited progress improving the status of black people?

Between the years 1945 – 1955 the NAACP had multiple successes through winning legal cases. In 1946, the case Morgan V Virginia made segregation on interstate buses illegal. This helped elevate the status of black people as their constitutional rights were being upheld.

The 14th Amendment, which gave black people full citizenship, was being initiated so that black people would no longer be treated as second class citizens on interstate buses. This highlighted that the Supreme Court were beginning to safeguard black rights.

Alternatively, many attempts did not succeed. This journey to reconciliation organised by CORE in 1947, was seen to be a failure. This is a clear example of how de jure change does not always lead to de facto change.
This limits the improvement of black status on their rights are not being implemented. This shows that save Civil Rights groups can gain success and help improve the status of black people whereas others cannot.

In 945, Truman created the Presidential Committee for Civil Rights. This committee published a document titled “To secure these rights”. It highlighted the problems that black people faced e.g. lynching, bullwhipping and police brutality.

This is significant as it showed that civil rights were on the Presidential agenda and that he was aware of the inequalities black people were facing. Truman also desegregated the army, airport restaurants and his inauguration crowd to show that he was willing to serve everyone regardless of colour.

However, the document to secure these “rights” contained recommendations on how to improve the status of black people, however little was done to implement these recommendations. Truman dedicated less time to civil rights as the Korean War went ahead, thus limiting the improvement of black status.

Other civil rights groups such as CNI helped elevate the status of black people. Their voter registration campaign in Arkansas was a success. The percentage of black voters increased from 1.5% in 1940 to 17.3% in 1947.

This helped elevate the status of black people as their constitution rights was being reinstated. Paver caves through having the right to vote, therefore black people felt that they had a political voice.

Another successful campaign was the NAACP lynching squad. They would send investigators and lawyers to the scene of the lynch, collect evidence and mount a case. Then they would go to court and prosecute those who have committed the crime. This helped elevate black status as criminals were being held to justice in a white dominated legal system that were prejudiced against black people.

Not all campaigns were a success. The UDL’s boycott on buses was not very impactful as it did not last long enough to gain media attention or financially cripple bus companies. Therefore, this campaign did not have any short term benefits, but it did not inspire future campaigns.

Brown V Board of Topeka was significant as it stuck right at the heart of segregation. When the Supreme Court ruled in their favour it showed that they were willing to over the doctrine “separate but equal” which was established in the case Plessy V Ferguson.

It showed that Earl Warren was key in the decision making as he used his influence to convince other members of the Supreme Court to be sympathetic towards blacks. It showed that Southern Schools had failed to provide education that was genuinely “separate but equal” and the only way to ensure equal education at provision in schools was to have an integrated system. This helped improve black status as it meant that they could have the same education as whites.

However, by 1957 only750/6300 had desegregated. Only 3% of black people were educated in mixed schools and by 1968 58% of black kids were in desegregated schools so change was limited.

Overall change between 1945 – 55 was slow due to many civil rights groups not having yet perfected their methods. De jure change did not always lead to de facts change as a clear timeline needs to be set out.

Many legal successes were on a case by case victory only, so there was little to inspire black people to fight against the segregation. It can be seen that a combination of direct action, de jure victories and Federal Government are needed in order to improve black states.

By Libin Farah