On December 1, 1955, black seamstress and civic activist Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery (USA).

Her act had a great public response.

Parks was prosecuted for disturbing public order, but this led to the outbreak of mass protests and subsequently to the abolition of segregation laws in the United States.

From slavery to segregation

In today's United States, slavery has existed for nearly two and a half centuries. 

According to historians, the War of Independence did not initially change the position of slaves in the United States at the state level.

If the northern states at the beginning of the 19th century abolished slavery by local regulations, then in the south of the country it was just developing.

In 1860, about 4 million African slaves lived in the United States.  

In the middle of the 19th century, relations between the northern and southern states of the United States escalated.

The southern regions of the country have taken a course towards leaving the unified state.

This resulted in the Civil War.

One of the slogans of the northerners was the abolition of slavery.

The northern states won, and in 1865 the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was proclaimed, which officially prohibited slavery.

“Immediately after the Civil War, the central authorities pursued a fairly tough policy towards the southern states.

They were actually occupied by the troops of the northerners, ”American political scientist Dmitry Drobnitsky said in an interview with RT.

According to him, maintaining a tough course towards the South could lead to a new aggravation of contradictions, so the White House decided to make concessions to the Southerners.

  • Runaway slaves from the southern states of the United States

  • globallookpress.com

  • © Mary Evans Picture Library

“In the end, they didn’t start a“ witch hunt ”against the southerners, they were not accused of high treason, they were not tried for their position.

The infrastructure of the South has been preserved.

And after a while, the southern states began to adopt the so-called "Jim Crow laws" - regulations aimed at establishing racial segregation, "said Vladimir Vasiliev, chief researcher at the Institute of USA and Canada, RAS, in a conversation with RT.

According to the director of the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation for the Study of the United States at Moscow State University Yuri Rogulev, segregation was based on a special political and legal formula.

“People were formally equal before the Constitution, but they lived separately.

Although, of course, in fact, there was no question of any real equality.

All power belonged to whites - both economic and political, ”the expert emphasized.

According to historians, the situation was aggravated by the fact that in the United States, primarily in the southern states, unofficial norms of "racial etiquette" were in effect, deviation from which was considered a violation of public order.

According to these norms, blacks were obliged to give way to whites, to shoot before

them hats.

The norms on separate education, health care, catering, leisure, workplaces, as well as the prohibition of interracial marriage were in force officially.

Their violation was suppressed by both law enforcement agencies and members of radical groups, for example, the Ku Klux Klan.

In addition, blacks suffered more from unemployment.

  • Segregation in the USA

  • © loc.gov

“In the US Army, blacks were formed into separate units, which were entrusted with the most thankless tasks.

African American soldiers believed that if they did their duty, they should receive civil rights, but this did not happen.

Returning from the wars, they remained "second class" people.

Moreover, even in the northern states in the first half of the twentieth century, attitudes towards blacks worsened.

They agreed to work in factories for less pay than white workers, and this led to racial riots that escalated into massacres, "Andrei Koshkin, head of the Department of Political Science and Sociology at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, told RT.

Struggle for civil rights

As Andrei Koshkin noted, the prehistory of the movement for civil rights of blacks in the United States is rooted in the events of the late 19th - first half of the 20th century.

However, at this time, it was about the activities of individual lawyers and preachers, as well as about spontaneous self-defense against racist pogromists.

In addition, many of the civil rights activists were interested in left-wing ideas, so the authorities were very suspicious of them.

According to the expert, the situation around segregation began to change in the middle of the twentieth century due to a whole range of reasons.

The worldwide condemnation of Nazi racial laws, the courage shown by African Americans during the Second World War, and political contradictions in the United States itself played a role in this.

“Democrats, concerned after World War II with expanding their electoral base, drew attention to the black minority, which was politically passive due to segregation laws.

At this stage, the anti-segregation actions of blacks began to find support among the democrats, ”said Vladimir Vasiliev.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a black civic activist who worked as a seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her bus seat to a white man.

The woman was arrested and fined on charges of disturbing public order.

The local black population responded by boycotting public transport.

The protests were joined by preacher Martin Luther King, who became the informal leader of the black civil rights movement.

Despite pressure from local authorities, law enforcement agencies and radicals, black activists defended their position both at protests and in courts.

“Beginning in 1956, federal courts began to side with African Americans, recognizing segregation norms as unconstitutional.

Blacks were allowed to use public transport and receive education with whites.

The radicals responded with bombs, gunfire and massive fights.

African American children were taken to school under the protection of armed paratroopers, ”said Andrey Koshkin.

  • Taxi "Only for whites"

  • © loc.gov

The situation became even more tense in the early 1960s, he said.

The decision to admit black students to universities was made by the US Supreme Court.

They were not allowed into the buildings of universities by high-ranking representatives of local authorities.

Black activists were killed and explosions thundered in their meeting places.

“In 1964, a civil rights law was passed, prohibiting racial discrimination in services and trade, and a year later, a law on voting rights.

By 1968, most of the segregation norms in US law had been abolished, although they remained indirectly at the local level for a long time, ”Koshkin said.

  • Rose Parks in 1955.

    In the background - Martin Luther King

  • © USIA / National Archives and Records Administration Records of the US Information Agency Record Group

As Vladimir Vasiliev said, the stake made by the Democratic politicians to support the voting rights of blacks worked.

Today, most African Americans vote for the Democratic Party.

However, in practice, racial problems in the United States have not yet been resolved.

In 1992, Los Angeles was engulfed in riots after a jury acquitted police officers who beat a black US citizen Rodney King while being detained for speeding.

In 2012, indignation among black Americans sparked the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida by white volunteer vigilante George Zimmerman.

In 2014, the United States was gripped by thousands of protests after white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old African American Michael Brown in the suburb of St. Louis Ferguson, Missouri.

In 2020, a wave of mass protests swept across the United States over the death of an African American, George Floyd, after police arrest.

In more than 25 major cities in the United States, the authorities had to impose curfews, and the forces of the National Guard and federal security forces were introduced into some localities.

In the United States and in some other countries, the mass social movement Black Lives Matter began to gain popularity.

Got from the protesters and the monuments, which allegedly claimed the "supremacy of the white race."

Vandals have destroyed monuments to the commanders and leaders of the Confederation, Christopher Columbus, missionary Junipero Serra, author of the American anthem Francis Scott Key, the first US President George Washington.

In Seattle, several neighborhoods were occupied by protesters for a time.

They declared the area the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone".

Portland turned out to be another "hot spot".

Here local authorities sided with the protesters.

A new incident gave impetus to the protests: an African American was shot and killed by police in Atlanta during his arrest.

  • Promotion of the "Black Lives Matter" movement

  • Reuters

  • © Eduardo Munoz

However, all this did not prevent the court in October from releasing police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of Floyd's death, from arrest.

A bail of $ 1 million was paid for him.

“Inequality continues to work.

The black population lagged behind in all socio-economic parameters, and lags behind.

In terms of living standards, unemployment, education and many other issues, a significant gap still persists.

The police behave inappropriately with blacks.

In fact, a full-fledged restoration of the rights of the black population did not take place, ”concluded Yuri Rogulyov.