Freedom and civil rights in the U.S essay

civil rights / freedom / society / government / nineteenth century / revolution / rights / women / equity / voting / slavery


            The struggle of African Americans and women for freedom and civil rights in the U.S. was colored with blood and disillusionment. While some of them were seeking consolation in the sincere fight for natural human freedom, others were trying to prove to themselves and the rest of the American society that the government did not have the power to govern civil relations in the U.S. Slavery and obedience are forever carved into the 19th century’s history in the United States, having turned into a continuous fight for the right for self-realization. For the majority of African Americans, their journey to freedom has turned into the journey to civil rights revolution – the revolution that has brought with it the new reality, where white dominance was no longer relevant. Thesis: all men have the right for revolution; but revolutions do not necessarily lead to the formation of a new democratic society; rather, revolutions result in the emergence of a new type of civil majority that can hardly achieve all goals and objectives of this revolutionary movement.

            The struggle for freedom and the opposition to civil obedience was difficult, bloody, and tiresome. For the majority of enslaved African Americans, the fight for freedom was the central goal of their miserable lives. Kidnapping and violence were characteristic of their daily performance, but none of them was prepared to reconcile with the increasing social discrepancies between the black and the white. “From what I can recollect of these battles, they appear to have been irruptions of one little state or district on the other to obtain prisoners or booty. Perhaps they were incited to this by those traders who brought the European goods I mentioned amongst us. Such a mode of obtaining slaves in Africa is common, and I believe morc are procured this way and by kidnapping than any other” (Equiano). It is difficult to neglect the anger, hatred, and rage with which Africans were fighting for their natural right to be free; it is difficult to neglect the anger and hatred with which they were treated after being enslaved. It is difficult to neglect the feeling of dominance that governed white people in their striving to acquire more slaves and to turn them into the instruments of unbearable labor. Enslavement could not have any social, economic, or legal justifications; yet, it remains and will forever remain a part of our history. The life of slaves was far from fabulous; many of them found themselves “regretting their own existence, and wishing themselves dead; and but the hope of being free, they had no doubt that they should have killed themselves, or done something for which they should have been killed” (Douglass). Nothing could push the slaves to changing their negative attitudes to life, except for release from enslavement and long-anticipated freedom. While slaves were vainly fighting for freedom, they have gradually realized the futility of their social attempts to overcome long-term social traditions.

For years, the American society was characterized by the growing pressure of the so-called “white dominance” imposed on other nations under the cover of “technical advancement and economic progress”. Simultaneously, the American government was creating a new type of civil vision, where citizens were primarily subjects, and only afterwards, human beings. “All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable” (Thoreau). Thus, how could one speak about the equality and equity of civil rights between the races, while the government officially refused to promote public democratic ideals? Slavery was one of the darkest periods in human history; yet, the abolition of slavery in the United States did not bring the anticipated results, and those fighting for freedom found themselves in the civil vacuum, unable to protect themselves from external social pressures.

            All men have the right for revolution; the fight for freedom and the civil movement against slavery was just another proof for the fact that America was incapable of developing and implementing effective legislative policies that would support the civil rights of the black majority. “No man with a genius for legislation has appeared in America. They are rare in the history of the world. There are orators, politicians, and eloquent men, by the thousand; but the speaker has not yet opened his mouth to speak who is capable of settling the much-vexed questions of the day” (Thoreau). While African Americans were dreaming of becoming free, women were similarly preoccupied with their striving to establish gender equality. As African American slaves viewed their masters as tyrannical by nature, the same were female attitudes toward men who had the right to vote: “that your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute; but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up – the harsh tide of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend” (Adams). Unfortunately, the fight for gender equity and the fight against slavery were nothing more but the realization of one’s right for revolution. It is difficult to argue to Thoreau: all men (and now, women) have the right for revolution, but the fight for equity and freedom was thorny, and beyond winning the right for freedom and the right to vote, the fighters had a difficult task of changing public perceptions about themselves. Revolutions bring dramatic changes, but they rarely lead us to achieving the anticipated social results. Moreover, revolutions can never satisfy all our social needs and cannot satisfy all participants of the particular social fight. African Americans have finally defeated the long lasting stereotypes regarding subordination of the black people; simultaneously, the current social emphasis on the increasing domination of the white society suggests that African Americans were not able to achieve all social goals. Women have certainly won the right to vote, but have they become happier? “All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I case my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail” (Thoreau).

            All men and women have the right for revolution. All men and women have the right to defend their civil freedoms and equity. All men and women, however, find themselves unable to satisfy all social needs, and with one revolution coming to a logical end, the need for another revolutionary movement is never satisfied. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, The Letter between Abigail Adams and her Husband John Adams, Thoreau’s On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, and Narrative of Life of Frederick Douglass suggest that the social fight and the striving to have more civil rights will never come to an end. Rather, it will turn into a continuous process of proving to ourselves that we are still able to use our right for revolution, even when such revolutions do not bring the anticipated civil and social results.    


            The way of African Americans to freedom was not easy; nor was the way of women to gender equity. However, with the right to vote, and with the right for being free, have these people become happier? Certainly, primary historical documents imply the growing need for changing the existing structure of social relations; yet, these very documents imply that we were unable to satisfy all social needs. Abolition of slavery and gender equity have turned into the two revolutionary achievements that have turned the course of history and have also predetermined gradual change of social attitudes towards voting rights and slavery. However, as African Americans and women were proving their right for rebellion, they faced the growing social challenges in the form of long-lasting attitudes toward slavery and voting rights. Ultimately, when the need for one revolution is satisfied, it necessarily brings the need for another revolution, turning rebellion into a never ending historical process.  



Works Cited

Adams, A. “Letters Between Abigail Adams and Her Husband John Adams.” 1776. The Liz

Library. 30 November 2008.

Douglass, F. “Excerpt from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” 1845. The

Teachers, Schools, and Society Reader. 30 November 2008.'07/Frederick%20Douglass%20Narrative,%20excerpt.pdf

Equiano, O. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the

African.” 1789. Washington State University. 30 November 2008.

Thoreau, H.D. “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” 1849. Project Gutenberg. 30 November



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