In 1964, numerous demonstrations were held, and the considerable violence that erupted brought renewedattention to the issue of voting rights. The murder of voting-rights activists in Mississippi and the attack by state troopers on peaceful marchers in Selma, AL, gained national attention and persuaded President Johnson and Congress to initiate meaningful and effective national voting rights legislation. The combination of public revulsion to the violence and Johnson’s political skills stimulated Congress to pass the voting rights bill on August 5, 1965.
The legislation, which President Johnson signed into law the next day, outlawed literacy tests and provided for the appointment of Federal examiners (with the power to register qualified citizens to vote) in those jurisdictions that were “covered” according to a formula provided in the statute. In addition, Section 5 of the act required covered jurisdictions to obtain “preclearance” from either the District Court for the District of Columbia or the U.S. Attorney General for any new voting practices and procedures. Section 2, which closely followed the language of the 15th amendment, applied a nationwide prohibition of the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of race or color. The use of poll taxes in national elections had been abolished by the 24th amendment (1964) to the Constitution; the Voting Rights Act directed the Attorney General to challenge the use of poll taxes in state and local elections. In Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966), the Supreme Court held Virginia’s poll tax to be unconstitutional under the14th amendment.
Because the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the most significant statutory change in the relationship between the Federal and state governments in the area of voting since the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, it was immediately challenged in the courts. Between 1965 and 1969, the Supreme Court issued several key decisions upholding the constitutionality of Section 5 and affirming the broad range of voting practices for which preclearance was required. [See South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 327-28 (1966) and Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U.S. 544 (1969)]
In the early stages of American history and settler-colonization times, Native Americans were often relocated, forced to assimilate to Anglo-Saxon culture, or even murdered at times. An example of Native American assimilation is the Carlisle Indian School, which featured a school newspaper, called the “Civilization of the Indians,” that would include articles on students who have been recently Americanized and transformed to be more like the Anglo-Saxon Race. Even though these students at the Carlisle Indian School were stripped of their culture and everything they knew, it was a better outcome than many other American Indians received. The founder of the Carlisle Indian School, General Richard Henry Pratt, and those who helped run the school had a mission to save American Indians and offer them an education that would Americanize them. To this day, Native Americans are still affected by their mistreatment received at this time and can never truly regain their culture and history.
In an effort to boost Anglo-Saxonism in America, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech on American motherhood before the National Congress of Mothers in Washington in 1905. Roosevelt was scared of a potential race suicide for Anglo-Saxon Protestants, which was his description of the downfall of white folks in American society and the increase of representation by immigrants, African Americans, and other races of people. Due to this concern and fear, he encouraged people to start having more children fast and raising them properly so that Anglo-Saxonism remains strong and does not get outnumbered. This speech was delivered as an effort of nation-building domestically in an attempt to assert dominance and establish a culture within America. At this time, Roosevelt and the Anglo-Saxons he is preaching too weren’t shameful or even cautious about who they were excluding. In an article, written by Michael Dunne in 2011, “Exceptionalism of a kind: the political historiography of US foreign relations,” the shame Americans feel in modern society is referred to. Dunne points out that Americans were naive and did horrible things in their early years and that guilt and shame have helped the US to turn into a “beacon for democracy” and most past their societal wrongdoings. Instead of worrying about other cultures and races of people, Roosevelt was direct and straightforward with his message to Anglo-Saxons, which was to grow and spread the race rapidly. Similarly to the example of the Carlisle Indian school’s effort, American exceptionalism and the spread of white American culture is embodied in this speech.
The intelligence of the remark is on a par with its morality; for the most rudimentary mental process would have shown the speaker that if the average family in which there are children contained but two children the nation as a whole would decrease in population so rapidly that in two or three generations it would very deservedly be on the point of extinction, so that the people who had acted on this base and selfish doctrine would be giving place to others with braver and more robust ideals. Nor would such a result be in any way regrettable; for a race that practised such doctrine—that is, a race that practised race suicide—would thereby conclusively show that it was unfit to exist, and that it had better give place to people who had not forgotten the primary laws of their being.
While immigrants poured into Ellis Island, many were full of hope and desire in their quest for opportunity and new life. This image features of a group of European immigrants consisting of men, women, and children. The group of people featured in the picture looks like a mixed group of different ethnicities and slightly different skin colors. It symbolizes hope and freedom for the people shown. Whether these people came to America to escape poverty, to find jobs, to get enough money to return home, or for other forms of opportunity; they are a handful of the 13 million immigrants who migrated to America between 1901 and 1914 who all contributed to the melting pot America was soon forming in to. This image and the representation of more immigrants was beautiful and advanced in terms of American society but was not in line with Roosevelt’s message before it about expanding the Anglo-Saxon race and not increasing the numbers of immigrants.
The belief that Americans have a long history of welcoming immigrants is only moderately true. The newspaper article featured in The Nation is about immigrants in the early 1920’s and how they were mistreated and not defended properly by the law. The article starts off by speaking on “The Immigrants Day in Court”, which is part of the Carnegie Corporation’s Americanization Studies. It is an example of how the court and the laws implemented fail to represent immigrants in the United States. Herbert Miller states: “Our system was devised to meet the needs of a rural homogeneous population, and it has never been reorganized to meet the needs of an urban heterogeneous population.” In this source, Miller is speaking on behalf of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant’s viewpoint in American life and how they weren’t used to immigrants with different cultures, backgrounds, and styles of living; therefore they wanted nothing to do with them. As well as the first couple of sources presented such as the Carlisle Indian School example or the speech by Roosevelt, this article is another case of American exceptionalism shown in a very negative way domestically. White folks see this act of exclusion as a prideful thing and want nothing to do with immigrants because they are seen as un-American and different.
“Whole families toil their lives out; sewing all day and far into the night in reeking tenements finishing garments for the merest pittance, making myriads of artificial flowers, neckwear and the like.” The living conditions are even worse in the mining and mill towns. Here the company is also the storekeeper and sells the food and necessities for the family at exorbitant prices. Often a system of charging and counter-charging goes on so that the wages are paid by the company back into its own pocket and the workers are kept always in debt, always in fear of eviction and always facing the spectre of unemployment which means starvation.”
Charles A. Lindbergh’s speech labeled “America First” was delivered at the America First Committee meeting in New York City on April 23rd, 1941. His speech “championed American isolationism” and embodied American exceptionalism. The purpose of his lecture was simply for Americans to refrain from getting involved with international affairs and focus on how to boost as much internal American success as possible. Lindbergh emphasizes how the United States is the most powerful and capable nation in the world, and that they would only gain more power and status by focusing internally and not wasting time, effort, and money on global affairs. Most American’s agreed with Lindbergh as well. A poll in 1939 showed that 94% of Americans were in favor of refraining from war, in fact (LoProto, Mark. “Why Didn’t America Join the War Sooner?”). Obviously, once the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the US had no choice but to respond and join the war. Some European immigrants, who had immigrated to America not long before WW2, would be more in favor of joining the war earlier as some had ties in the war. An example would be how a Polish person would want to join the war as the Polish were being invaded by the Germans. Although, the general agreement of Americans prior to being attacked was something special as almost everybody bought in to the idea that America was more advanced than other countries and was bigger than the war going on. Link to “America First” speech
This short film, “Duck and Cover” was published in 1951 and sponsored by the U.S. Federal Civil Defense Administration. The film includes a set of safety precautions and guidelines for children so they are prepared and informed on how to act in response to an Atomic bomb attack. The reason a film of this nature was necessary in 1951 is because the U.S. was in the midst of the Cold War, which was essentially a state of geopolitical hostility between the United States and the USSR. Although the state of the U.S. was scared throughout the Cold War, there was also a sense of patriotism and pride that was prevalent at this time. The act of containing communism was a nation-wide effort that boosted national pride and confidence. Just as Americans felt united and superior prior to World War 2, their competition with Russia during the Cold War was a time when national pride was key, and the Americans embraced that challenge as they felt exceptional and superior over Russia.
This image, taken in 1958 in the White House, represents a powerful and groundbreaking moment for African Americans and their civil rights. The photograph features President Dwight D. Eisenhower; Lester Granger, executive secretary of the National Urban League; Dr. Martin Luther King, President of the Southern Leadership Conference; Asa Philip Randolph, vice president of the AFL-CIO; Roy Williams, executive secretary of the NAACP; Attorney General William P Rogers; E. Frederick Morrow, Administrative officer of the White House; and lastly Rocco Siciliano, assistant to the president. President Eisenhower is discussing the important issues of school integration, and other social and economic issues African Americans are dealing with in the 1950s. Obviously, at this time, African Americans are dealing with segregation in the forms of endemic unemployment, disenfranchisement, red-lining, housing, schooling, and anything else imaginable. Only so much is can be shown from a photograph, but the looks on everyone’s face prove that Eisenhower has met at some common ground with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other African American men present. The meeting and conversation captured in this picture is not something you would see in other countries and governments in the year 1958, showing how the US is more advanced and progressive in terms of civil equality than other nations at this time.
This newspaper article featured in The Florida News shows the two different sides on the candidates for the election for the governing spot in Alabama. One candidate was George Wallace; a far-right, Southern conservative who had racist intentions, and the other candidate was Albert Brewer, a Southern Democrat who appealed to African Americans and would have offered hope in their strides for freedom. The Alabama Democratic Conference Chairman, Joe Reed, stated: “We can take the ballot and make politicians in Alabama behave again.” Reed, who is an African American, was calling out George Wallace for his poor behavior in an authoritative position and was emphasizing that all African Americans need to vote for Brewer for a change. Unfortunately, Wallace won the election but it wasn’t long before Brewer won the next one and made an immediate impact in many African American’s lives in the state of Alabama. Brewer eventually being elected is another example of progress being made in America just like the progress shown from the image of Eisenhower and the African American Civil Rights leaders. National exceptionalism is in effect when one country succeeds at differentiating themselves from other countries and Brewer helping African Americans become a more integral part of society is an example of that.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr delivered his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech at the University of Oslo on December 10th, 1964. In his speech, King talks about racial injustice and how he has lived through some terrible times, and although not resolved, Americans are making strides towards racial equality and are playing the role of a “relatively small part of a world development.” He agrees with Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal as they both envision positivity and equality emerging in America in the long run because of “belief in the ideals of democracy and fair play,” as Myrdal stated (Gunnar Myrdal and Black-white Relations). King claims that one American success and sign of forwarding progress is how the nation voted to elect Lyndon B. Johnson as president instead of Barry Goldwater, who opposed the Civil Rights movement and would have obstructed African American liberalism if elected. King goes on to cover some other areas in this speech, but his powerful words and examples provided about race really do show signs of progress that he and so many other African Americans were able to help America achieve. The image of Eisenhower and the work of Albert Brewer are contributions to what King is referring to. He emphasizes that when Americans break social boundaries and lead by example, the rest of the world sees and knows what is going on whether they choose to follow in US’s footsteps or not.
“Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”
This source is the audio of Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin on June 12th, 1987. This speech delivered by Reagan is one of the most powerful and critical Cold War moments. Raegan speaks to how much he respects Germany and their economic and social strides made in the last decade. Reagan continues to point out how there has been clear progress made in the West, but that there has been nothing but failure and negativity in the communist world. Reagan challenges the Russian people to understand the importance of freedom and independence, and then directs his command towards Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, and says, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” The act of Reagan confronting Gorbachev and getting involved in this area of foreign affairs truly shows that the U.S. was a prominent global power at this time. American exceptionalism is shown in this example as Raegan and the US government get involved in global issues. This example only furthers Dr. King’s message in his acceptance speech about the US being a part of world development.
Just as Reagan proved the US was a global power in West Berlin, he furthers that idea by sharing it to the students of Kansas State University on October 9th, 1987. Reagan encourages his audience to ignore the doubters and those who wrongly slander the name of America. He states, “Let’s reject the nonsense that America is doomed to decline, the world sliding toward disaster no matter what we do. Like death and taxes, the doomcriers will always be with us. And they’ll always be wrong about America.” Reagan emphasized that America had too many educated, innovative, and creative people to not be a global superpower. One example he gave was how the U.S. provided more food assistance around the world than any other nation and worked harder than anyone else to bring peace and harmony to troubled areas such as the Middle East. This also furthers Woodrow Wilson’s effort to expand globally and spread democracy which the United States did so effectively (“From Woodrow Wilson in 1902 to the Bush Doctrine in 2002”). Reagan’s speech captures the essence of American exceptionalism and how the United State’s resources, advancement, and democratic excellence sets them aside from other nations.
Let me, if I could, just jog your memories for a moment. It was just a short time ago when those doomcriers were telling us that food and fuel supplies were running out. It was only a question of time before famine and misery would engulf America and the world. Price increases in America, they predicted, would zoom up at double-digit rates for the rest of this decade. The price of crude oil would race to $100 a barrel. Interest rates would break all the old records and soar to 25 or 30 percent or even higher. Runaway inflation and interest rates would break the back of the free enterprise system, destroy the value of our currency, the savings of our people, and the ability of our country to project power, promote freedom, and defend peace. But already Americans are proving every one of those predictions wrong. So many so-called experts lack faith in the American people. They just don’t seem to understand there is no limit to what a proud, free people can achieve.
On November 27th, 1995, President Clinton delivered a speech on America’s role in the Bosnian war and in other international affairs. Clinton declared that the United State’s intervention and communication with surrounding European countries have caused the newly found peace agreement produced in Bosnia. He claimed how the core values of American democracy include intervening on terrorist, religious, regional, and destructive issues. He also stated how NATO needs to depend on American leadership in this area because America could offer the privileges of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that other nations cannot. Clinton gave this speech 8 years after Reagan’s speech at Kansas State. As Reagan spread the word of American success and importance in the world, Clinton championed American exceptionalism in a similar way by giving out the message that the United States was essential for not only peace in Bosnia, but also administration and harmony in other world affairs as well.
From our birth, America has always been more than just a place. America has embodied an idea that has become the ideal for billions of people throughout the world. Our founders said it best: America is about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In this century especially, America has done more than simply stand for these ideals. We have acted on them and sacrificed for them. Our people fought two world wars so that freedom could triumph over tyranny. After World War I, we pulled back from the world, leaving a vacuum that was filled by the forces of hatred. After World War II, we continued to lead the world. We made the commitments that kept the peace, that helped to spread democracy, that created unparalleled prosperity and that brought victory in the Cold War.
Today, because of our dedication, America’s ideals — liberty, democracy and peace — are more and more the aspirations of people everywhere in the world. It is the power of our ideas, even more than our size, our wealth and our military might, that makes America a uniquely trusted nation.
Around the world, the United States is leading once more. From Europe to Asia, our alliances are stronger than ever. Our ties with the Americas are deeper. We’re setting the agenda in the region that will shape our long-term security and prosperity like no other — the Asia Pacific.
We’re leading on global security — reducing our nuclear arsenal with Russia, even as we maintain a strong nuclear deterrent; mobilizing dozens of nations to secure nuclear materials so they never fall into the hands of terrorists; rallying the world to put the strongest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea, which cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons.
We are leading economically — forging trade pacts to create new markets for our goods; boosting our exports, stamped with three proud words — Made in America.
Another more recent former United States President, Barack Obama, gave the commencement speech to the Air Force Academy of the class of 2012. President Obama states how the Air Force Academy has had so much to offer to the United States as a nation. Thanks to the Air Force, Osama Bin Laden is no longer alive and al Qaeda is deteriorating in strength after the horrible event attacks on 9/11 about a decade before this address. After the tragic events of 9/11, President George Bush initiated America’s entrance into the global war on terrorism which was an area that the Air Force held strong importance (Globalisation, the New US Exceptionalism and the War on Terror”). President Obama later speaks on how the U.S. is “leading” in his words: “From Europe to Asia, our alliances are stronger than ever. Our ties with the Americas are deeper. We’re setting the agenda in the region that will shape our long-term security and prosperity like no other — the Asia Pacific.” Obama informs the young crowd that the U.S. is exceptional and will stay exceptional throughout the 21st century and so on if the capable youth and students, such as the Air Force Academy graduates, keep working hard and striving for excellence.
George W. Bush’s New National Security Strategy released issued on September 17th, 2002, is in relation to the Bush Doctrine and the core aspects involved. The National Security Strategy was updated in response to 9/11 in an effort to provide safety and liberty within America, and across the globe to those potentially vulnerable to terrorism. President Bush declared that the U.S. can lead by example in the war on terrorism and put an end to it along with the help of forces such as the United Nations, NATO, the World Trade Organization, etc. Bush stated, “We will defend the peace against the threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.” Bush emphasized how the U.S. is capable to lead this fight as their military strength and political and economic influence is unparalleled in global competition. The level of military strength referred to can be seen through the successes of the Air Force, which Obama referred to in the previous source.
We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human freedom: conditions in which all nations and all societies can choose for themselves the rewards and challenges of political and economic liberty. By making the world safer, we allow the people of the world to make their own lives better. We will defend this just peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. We will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.
National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs Motto: “Lifting As We Climb.”
In the 1890s, the growth of the Black Women’s club movements expanded in order to prevent lynching. Ida B. Wells-Barnett made a public press announcement in order to confront and prevent certain issues of lynching, education, equality, and women’s suffrage. Wells-Barnett also helped to found Black women’s clubs.
In 1986, women’s clubs joined forces in order to form the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACW). The motto for this organization was “Lifting as we club.” This motto stood for raising awareness for educational and civic improvements for Black America. Other Black women in the south made efforts to create unions and also forge strikes. The National Urban League for the protection of Colored women also emerged, during this time. Black women then progressed to do local work with the NAACP.
Most of the intentions of the Black women’s clubs were to beautify and promote public libraries and hospitals was significant towards getting Black people involved in educating themselves. Clubs were significant in having a voice in what some of the colored education facilities curriculum consisted of. For example, they wanted classes to educated students on slaves as well as more Black History. These clubs demonstrated how all-women’s organizations were working to improve the injustices of Black women, men, and children.
The Harlem Renaissance was a period of time for Black women to prosper and demonstrate their artistic abilities. Women like Jessie E. Fauset and Zora N. Hurston wrote books, while other women like Augusta Savage created sculptures. These Black women used these their different forms of art in order to critique America’s lack of protection towards Black issues such as education systems. Through their art, they addressed issues of slavery, colorism, injustices, and more. These were critical issues for Black women because they realized that Black America wasn’t being supported in a proper way. They used art as a form to rebel against white supremacy and hatred in a nonviolent and liberal way.
Jessie Fauset’s Plum Bun is a novel that was created and published in the 1920s. The main character is a woman named Angela Murray. She is a Black woman that looks however like a white person. This passage discusses the ideals of “passing” and how certain people reap the benefits of it or don’t based upon their identities. Plum Bun is a representation of the advantages that Angela hopes to obtain by her charm and talents within the white upper-class community. As a young girl, Angela plans to leave New York and get away from her siblings where she can deny her race that she was born into. Angela uses her skin tone as an advantage fit in and also survive within society. Being Black in the 1920s was difficult, especially because of issues such as colorism. In connection to a darker skinned Black girl, Angela clearly has an advantage. Given that this book discusses identity, this can be connected to American beauty standards. During this time the ideologies of beauty standards were if one had a light skin tone and long hair. Therefore, Angela changes her identity in full in order to navigate as a white woman in society. However, in Harlem, NY during the 1920s, Grandassa models challenged these ideals through modeling with their natural hair, embracing their skin tone, and confident personalities.
Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is about a Black woman who leaves her town in Florida, however, she returns. The town is suspicious about where she went in addition to what happened to her husband. Janie describes her life as a slave and being detached from her family because they live in poverty and hardship. Hurston was a very important leader of the Harlem Renaissance. As a Black women, she made so many powerful moves of motivation, during her time. In this passage, she addresses and critiques America in multiple ways. One main thing that Hurston addresses about America is that, if one is Black in America, more often than not it is difficult to escape and start a new life. To escape the backlash of discrimination is difficult. She hints at this when Janie goes to the south and suddenly returns. She allows us to understand that it is hard to be Black in America.
Augusta Savage was an African American woman that started sculpting at a very young age. She was very active in the Work Progress Administration and also maintained a teaching studio in Harlem, New York. This Harp would symbolize a musical contribution for African Americans because the American flag was a symbol for Americans. She received inspiration to create this sculpture by the song Lift Every Voice and Sing. This song is basically a National Anthem for Africans Americans also known as Black America. Savage received a small bronze version of the sculpture as an award at the World Fair. Savage founded the Harlem Arts Guild in 1935 and was the first director of the Harlem Community Art Center in 1937. The sculpture is beautiful. It is clearly made up of African Americans and they are placed on a hand. The front person is kneeling down, while everyone else is standing very poise. Savage did some amazing artwork. The people standing are also singing. In the Black community at this time, singing was an outlet for prayer and optimism through difficult times.
Simone’s song is a very catchy jazz song. The use of loud and hard trumpets are so fierce that the song gives one chills sometimes. Simone uses this song to not only elevate her voice, but to demonstrate some illusions in connection to Blackness in American during this time. She starts by describing her day and what she sees. She describes seeing birds, the sun, and even feeling the breeze. This song is a take on how Simone views the world and how the she feels about the world. This is sort of ironic because while Black people have freedom in society at this time, Maya Angelou continues to advocate for a lack of freedom because Blacks feel like caged birds. Simone discusses the luxury of life and feeling good about it. We can connect this to her being satisfied that a lot of social issues at this time towards African Americans are slowly progressing.
Maya Angelou’s Poem Caged Bird is a direct symbol of Black people in the 20th century. She starts off by describing the ways a free bird acts, when alive. She transitions to discussing how a caged bird is very cautious and examines its cage. As she describes a free and caged bird throughout the poem, the reader becomes sympathetic for the caged bird. The free bird is capable of claiming things, such as the sky, and navigating through life with ease. The caged bird is tied up and restricted from a lot of things. This poem is a very strong poem because the caged bird symbolizes a black man, a black woman, or even black children. They are caged birds because as Angelou discusses, Blacks aren’t capable of being free, but they seek freedom. Singing can also represent their navigation through society because she states, “the caged bird sings with a fearful trill.” Just as Blacks navigate in a white supremacist dominated society. They are unable to be vocal and they especially feel restricted due to 20th century laws such as Separate but Equal. This poem relates back to Black Women’s Cultural and Artistic Critique on America because Angelou utilized her poem as a way to speak for the unheard voices of Black Americans who suffered in silence from slavery, discrimination, and unequal opportunities.