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Assess The Role Of Different Presidents Of The Usa In Reducing Racial Discrimination Between 1861 And 1969

1863 words - 8 pages

‘No man can occupy the office of President without realizing that he is President of all the people.’ – Franklin D. Roosevelt, October 31, 1936
As clarified by Roosevelt, the President of the United States holds the most vital position in changing public attitudes and authorising society-changing acts. From Abraham Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to the moment Lyndon B. Johnson signed the civil rights bill in 1964; many Presidents of the United States of America have proved highly significant in reducing racial discrimination. In the near-hundred year period from 1861-1969, America had undergone a massive transformation in terms of race relationships and the rights of ...view middle of the document...

Presidents who have made positive contributions in the progression of civil rights can be evaluated and discussed in depth as to if their significance was genuinely filled with passion, or if supposedly major figures were more passive than history illustrates them.
Abraham Lincoln, known as ‘The Liberator’, holds iconic status in American history; a sculpture of the man completes the Mount Rushmore line-up, and a memorial to him in Washington D.C is visited by millions of tourists each year. In 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, proclaiming the freedom of slaves in the ten states that were still in rebellion during the American Civil War. In the words of Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the leading black abolitionist of the period, America regards Lincoln as ‘the first American president who rose above the prejudice of his times’ yet further investigation into Lincoln’s beliefs and values suggest he wasn’t the hero he seems to be. From the viewpoint of someone born into the harshest slavery possible, Lincoln’s actions would have been a break-through, a revolutionary decision, but Lincoln’s apparent reasoning behind his decision may not have been for the good of America’s African-Americans. The proclamation said slaves in Confederate States were free, but allowed slavery to continue in the slave-owning Union states and in any other state that had been occupied by Union armies or that would return to the Union before January 1863. In practice, the proclamation did not liberate a single slave, suggesting military rather than idealistic motivation. Lincoln declared slavery ‘the greatest wrong inflicted on any people’, but had been willing to accept its continued existence in the South. In addition, he spoke in favour of colonisation and the departure of all blacks. ‘There must be the position of superior and inferior’. He favoured ‘having the superior position assigned to the white race’. He told a black audience that, unalterably and undeniably, ‘not a single man of your race is the equal of a single man of ours’. ‘It is better for us to be separated’. The North was struggling in 1862 and the proclamation aimed to hamper the Southern war effort. In 1863, Lincoln wrote that black soldiers were ‘a resource which, if vigorously applied now, will soon close the contest. It works doubly, weakening the enemy and strengthening us’. Nearly a quarter of a million blacks served in the Northern army, entering it just when the North’s forces were becoming dangerously depleted. Military necessity was probably Lincoln’s main motive. Nevertheless, Lincoln understood that the Federal government's power to end slavery was limited by the Constitution, which before 1865, committed the issue to individual states. He argued before and during his election that the eventual extinction of slavery would result from preventing its expansion into new U.S. territory. At the beginning of the war, he also sought to persuade the states to...

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