How far did the position of black Americans improve in the years 1945-55? (30 marks)
The position of black Americans improved to a certain extent in the years 1945-55. The period certainly saw lots of ‘de jure’ improvements in the lives of black Americans, particularly those in the Southern states, but there were limited ‘de facto’ improvements to go with this. Nevertheless, some progress towards equality had been made in the areas of education, transport, public amenities, voting rights, employment and housing.
There was a significant move towards equality in education in the period 1945-55. Court cases such as Sweatt v. Painter in 1950 and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954 achieved great publicity and initiated the end
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to Congress in 1945. In recognition of the growing political power of northern blacks, American presidents began appointing African Americans to positions in the federal government. For example, William Haist was appointed a federal judge in 1949. Furthermore, the 1948 Presidential election was ground-breaking because, for the first time, the American people elected a President who was committed to challenging segregation. This hinted at a shift in American opinion and voting power as Truman had shown that it was possible to lose the votes of southern racists and still become President of the United States. However, although significant improvements for black Americans took place in terms of voting power and their political representation in the northern states in the decade following the Second World War, little if any progress was made in the southern states. Furthermore, many within the US Congress were opposed to racial integration, shown by the signing of the racist Southern Manifesto by almost a fifth of Congressmen in 1956. Thus, although black Americans in the North saw large improvements in their voting power and political representation in the period 1945-55, southern blacks saw no such change. Also, the US Congress still contained a large proportion of Congressmen who opposed racial integration.
In terms of discrimination against African Americans, the position of black Americans saw a substantial improvement in the period of 1945-55.