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The two documents chosen for this essay share a theme that describes one of the prominent problems of American society at the beginning of the twenty firstcentury – racial segregation and the movements supporting it. Many different racial and ethnic groups had been arriving to the USA over years, but only the black people were brought there against their own will. After the victory of Northern States in Civil War and successful adoption of the thirteenth amendment of 1865, which abolished slavery in the country, the colored people were still discriminated. The US Constitution and federal law ensured that everyone regardless of their race, sex, religion or nationality was equal. However, from the early 1920s, there has been so much racial inequality, for instance in Southern States, that the white and black people had to live in separate areas along with going to different schools and occupying different places in public transport. Furthermore, some sinister groups have been created with the purpose of intimidating black population of the Southern States. This was the Ku Klux Klan whose hatred was almost always directed against the helpless and poor black families who were very vulnerable to attack. Two documents selected describe the typical Ku Kluxer and the discrimination of black people in army during the World War II, and demonstrate that people have been really slow in achieving any advances in combating the racial segregation and discrimination.
Who produced the documents and why? What was the intention?
The first document which describes the average KKK member was written by a journalist Gerald Johnson for the American Mercury magazine in 1924, and it was intended to show what was the way of thinking of KKK members like and how an ordinary Ku Kluxer perceived their mission. Since many Americans were against them, the journalist made KKK look rather ridiculous and foolish. The second document dated 1943 was actually the letter written by a group of colored soldiers serving in the armed forces who often faced racial discrimination from those serving along with them. They addressed their letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, asking him to print it so that everyone could see their mistreatment.
What was going on in American society when the document was produced and what changed between the production of two documents?
The two documents effectively reflect the problem of racial inequality both in the society and in the army. What could be obviously noticed when reading these documents is that after more than 50 years after the abolition of slavery not so much have been actually changed. Between the time the first and second documents was produced there were not any significant advances, and only afterwards, decades after the World War II, some changes were noticed. However, even today, one still can see some evidences of racial discrimination around the world.
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Did the views expressed in the documents have any influence on the course of events?
It seems that these two documents could not influence much the course of the events described because the true objective of both journalist and soldiers was not to stop racial inequality. In the former case, the intention was to ridicule the absurdity of Ku Klux Klan idea and to expose all its members: “Bursting with noble ideas and lofty aspirations, he accepts the nomination. The trouble is that this incantation doesn’t work, as none of others work, except in his imagination”. In the latter case, the aim of the soldiers was to “let everyone hear our story and us a chance to prove to the whole world that colored people are no one’s fools”. They merely wanted the article to be printed and their voices to be heard.
What do these documents reveal about U.S. history, 1896-1945, more broadly?
The most important thing these two documents reveal about the U.S. history is not some particular situations concerning racial issues, but a broad historical context because this period in history is characterized primarily by the Depression, emergence of Black Cabinet formed by Roosevelt, establishment of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), World War II and so-called Jim Crow Army. All these issues had a tremendous impact on the racial problem. For instance, NCAAP tried to provide better life for black people through getting rid of segregation and helping them gain their voting rights, as well as the right to equal education. Its members protested many times against lynching and segregation. Some political parties realized that black people’s vote was getting more and more important. It is no accident that Roosevelt has decided to form a “Black Cabinet” for the purpose of dealing with needs of black people. Moreover, the impact of the Depression was rather notable concerning the racial issue since it was Afro-Americans who suffered the most during it; more than a half of them were totally dependent on financial support of the government. The World War II also exposed the segregation issue mentioned in the second chosen document. White and black people were even fighting separately, which led to passing the Military Act in 1940 prohibiting segregation in troops training.
To conclude, it is necessary to say that the problem of racism was rather pressing during the period described above. Having carefully examined the chosen documents, one can assume that much was done to combat segregation, but it was still not enough and people have not been really interested in achieving it. That is the reason why the world still faces some racial inequality issues today.
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