Story of American Journey from British Occupation to slaving and racially discriminating its own citizens to vibrant Democracy to Crony Capitalism
The journey of America from a little known land mass inhabited by primitives to what it is today is an interesting piece of history of man and evolution of a nation. Today, America is known to the world as a country built by immigrants and governed by immigrants. Whether some one’s ancestors arrived last year or last century, every American with the exception of Native Americans the Red Indians; has a family tree with roots somewhere else. People have come in to America from all continents- Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Australia. What a wonderful mosaic of nationalities here! America is currently the most religiously diverse nation in the world. It is the quintessential melting pot for world’s major religions, Americans honor the divine in mosques, churches, synagogues, temples, Monasteries, Gurudwaras and they are a multi-cultural, multi-religious nation. At the same time America belongs to the nonbelievers, too.
The many nationalities and religions brought with them their culture, their value systems which we find have beautified and enriched the composite culture, yes, the composite culture, of America. But the making of America of today is a long story of a protracted and grim struggle, trials and travails. The Story of American Journey from British Occupation to slaving and racially discriminating its own citizens to evolving in to a vibrant and functional Democracy is worth studying. It is a long history, from the initial battles in the Revolutionary War which broke out in April 1775 for complete independence from Great Britain to the first commemoration by Philadelphia of independence on July 4, 1777.
I will not go in to details of the history of the freedom struggle. I believe most of us have read about it either at school or at some other point. Nor will I dwell on the Flag of America, the national song of America, the manner of celebration of July 4th. These are commonplace knowledge. But I will certainly touch upon the human aspect of America’s evolution in to a great functional democracy. 1777 brought freedom from colonial rule. But it did not bring freedom to all human beings in America. Unfortunately some Americans especially the African Americans were excluded from the Independence and freedom.
Enslaved men women and children labored to make millions for their masters. The seeds of this slavery were planted with the birth of a nation built upon the labor derived from slave-wages and the contradiction-in-terms produced by claiming freedom and democracy while owning and profiting from slavery at the same time. Millions of enslaved people were bought and sold; practically one third of all Southerners lived in bondage. Even in Washington D C, slave auctions were a daily occurrence with chained human beings marched routinely in front of the Capital of the nation dedicated to the proposition of human freedom.
The de-humanization of black-people being treated as animals, traded as commodity, tortured beyond human tolerance, murdered and lynched in cold blood and their separation from the common run of humanity gave birth to confrontation between North and South on the issue of slavery that tormented the nation for almost a century. I hope, you have seen the wonderful movie “12 Years a Slave” which deals precisely with this subject It took America more than a century to end discrimination. We remember that on August 28, 1963, 186 years after independence, a March to Washington was held with the active support of President Kennedy, in a collaborative effort of all of the major civil rights organizations.
The march had six official goals:
(1) meaningful civil rights laws
(2) a massive federal works program
(3) full and fair employment
(4) decent housing
(5) the right to vote
(6) adequate integrated education. The major focus was on passage of the civil rights law that the Kennedy administration had proposed after the upheavals in 100 cities including Birmingham earlier in the summer. The march was a success, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr King said even after one hundred years after signing of Emancipation Proclamation, (which Lincoln had signed on January 1, 1863) the Negro is still not free, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity and is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. He said, “And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that: Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white me, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” July 2, 1964, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that banned discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” in employment practices and public accommodations.
The bill authorized the Attorney General to file lawsuits to enforce the new law. The law also nullified state and local laws that required such discrimination. President Lyndon Johnson’s call for “Great Society” further expanded and guaranteed access to opportunity by minorities in America while Congress helped support new federal spending in the form of programs such as Medicare and Food Stamps. A year later, on August 6, 1965 Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act suspending poll taxes, literacy tests, and other subjective voter registration tests. It authorized Federal.