Furthermore, as a result of these conditions there was a general failure of black business and entrepreneurships. “Black businesses failed, crushing the entrepreneurial spirit that had been an essential element of the Negro Renaissance.” (the Great Depression: A History in the Key of Jazz)
However this did not crush the general spirit of the African-American people and there was a resurgence of black culture and enterprise in area such as Harlem. Racism and prejudice were also rife during this period and many jobs and posts occupied by African-American were take away and given to whites. In some Northern cities, “…whites called for blacks to be fired from any jobs as long as there were whites out of work.” (Great Depression and World War 11, 1929-1945) in 1930 it is estimated that as much as fifty percent of all African-Americans were unemployed.” (the Great Depression)
The situation was also exacerbated by continued racial discrimination in the South. Racial violence was once again to become more prevalent in the South, and “….Lynchings, which had declined to eight in 1932, surged to 28 in 1933” (Great Depression and World War 11, 1929-1945). the’ New Deal’ that was initiated by President Roosevelt was a set of economic reforms that reduced the impact of the depression and brought relief especially to African-Americans. “The New Deal programs created a liberal political alliance of labor unions, blacks and other minorities, some farmers and others receiving government relief, and intellectuals” (the Great Depression). These alignments and political movements were to continue and with the end of the Second World War there was a resurgence of Black consciousness and the organized expression of the need for civil rights that was to manifest itself in the African-American civil rights movements and the cultural Harlem Renaissance.
5. Martin Luther King and non-violence
Martin Luther King Jr. achieved a profound degree of success with his philosophy of nonviolent resistance. Based on the model and attitude instigated by Mahatma Gandhi in India, this attitude and stance towards racism and political inequality was used to great effect during the civil rights movement. In King’s view this philosophy of action through non-aggression was seen as being”… The only solution that could cure society’s evil and create a just society” (McElrath J.).
He saw this method as a means to combat the problems of racial segregation in the country. The philosophy of non-violence was based on the concept of satyagraha, which refers to “…truth-force or love-force” (McElrath J.). According to this philosophy, the power of love, moral correctness and rectitude were more powerful than violence and aggression; and furthermore that this stance had the advantage of attempting to win over the opposing side to a different and more morally acceptable point-of-view. King stated that, “…the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”(McElrath J.).
This view was implemented in the bus boycott actions in Montgomery. From these experiences King realized that, “…nonviolent resistance was a powerful solution, and he committed himself to this method of action” (McElrath J.). This philosophy was also relevant in relation to the Cold War between Russia and America at the time that formed the background to most of international politics. The Cold War held the threat of nuclear war and world annihilation. In relation to these larger issues, King felt that a non-aggressive attitude and way of solving problems was the best approach to deal with both domestic and international problems. This can be seen in one of the central principles in the philosophy of non-violence; which was the point of nonviolent resistance is not to humiliate the opponent, but instead to gain his friendship and understanding. Further, the use of boycotts and methods of non-cooperation, were the “means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent.” The result was redemption and reconciliation instead of the bitterness and chaos that came from violent resistance.
This was also a philosophy that was meant to combat the negative views and aggression of the racists and segregationists in the South. Through this stance King wished to show the moral legitimacy and correctness of his views and the right of African-Americans to equality. In other words this view was not about ‘defeating’ the ‘enemy’, but rather about winning them over and convincing him of the correctness of your actions.
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Cashmore, E. (2003). Encyclopedia of Race and Ethnic Studies. New York: Routledge. Retrieved June 9, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o=107717605
Great Depression and World War 11, 1929-1945. Retrieved June 13, 2007, http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/timeline/depwwii/race/race.html
McElrath J. Martin Luther King’s Philosophy on Nonviolent Resistance. http://afroamhistory.about.com/od/martinlutherking/a/mlks_philosophy.htm
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