U.S. History

Here is a copy of a paper that I wrote for my history class. I really enjoyed the class and I feel like I learned a lot not only about history but also I learned how to more effectively write a paper. It was a very positive experience and makes me look forward to college and University.

Professor Schuster

H106

Michael Shanks

As America entered World War II and passed through the Cold War, the concept of citizenship changed. America had taken on the role of being a major player in the international community. As a result of this, Americans began to see citizenship as a tool in helping to create social change at home and abroad. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, leading America into conflict with the Axis Powers, sought to find a moral high ground that Americans were willing to fight for. He found his answer in the Four Freedoms, that inspired civil rights such as the League of United Latin American Citizens. President Truman also issued a Commission on Civil Rights in 1947. Women and advocates for women fought for an Equal Rights Amendment. In the process of preparing America for war, the Four Freedoms created the basis for post-World War II American citizenship: the advocacy of civil rights.

In crafting the Four Freedoms, President Roosevelt saw American citizenship as the model to export civil rights abroad. Leading up to the Second World War, he argued that Americans must “seek to make a secure” a world where everyone has access to “four essential freedoms.” These essential freedoms were the freedoms to “speech and expression,” to “worship God in his own way,” “freedom from want,” and “freedom from fear.” “To the President this world of universal civil rights was “no vision of a distant millennium.” The four freedoms the President argued for were either from the Bill of Rights or drew on America’s history of citizenship. President Roosevelt used American citizenship to justify bringing civil rights across the world, saying America is a “perpetual peaceful revolution” without the violence of the “concentration camp or the quick-lime.” The President promised support for all those “who struggle to gain those rights or keep them,” harkening back to American citizens’ struggle against the tyranny of the British. This promise of support was to create a world that was “the very antithesis” of that which dictators sought to create. The president said that “freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.”[1] This assumption rang in the ears of American minorities, who perceived the Four Freedoms as a promise of civil rights.

President Roosevelt sought to use citizenship in America as a model to export social change and civil rights across the globe. Roosevelt stated that America must “seek to make secure” a time where everyone on the planet has access to “four essential human freedoms.” Later, Roosevelt stated that “freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere,” showing how the principles of American citizenship must be brought to everyone on the planet.  The Four Freedoms take directly from America’s history of citizenship, the first two freedoms, for example, were the freedoms of “speech and expression” and to “worship God in his way.”  Roosevelt uses this citizenship to target America’s enemies and to rationalize the fight to spread civil rights saying that America is in a “perpetual peaceful revolution” that changes society without the use of “concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch.” Roosevelt promised the support of those seeking to emulate American citizenship, saying that he would support any and all was fighting “to gain those rights or keep them.”[2]

Latin Americans veterans returned home and sought to use their assertive new identity to gain civil rights and reshape citizenship into a racially equal concept. Veterans were angered when they returned home and were confronted with whites saying “We do not serve Mexicans here,” or “Your uniform and service ribbons mean nothing here.” Latin Americans argued that they had earned equal citizenship by fighting against “countries east and west who would impose upon the world a superior people.” To LULAC, all of the excuses whites used to disenfranchise “Mexicans” were false, and that Latin Americans were just as American as “Jones or Smith.” Latin Americans declared that civil rights were due to them by rights of being U.S. citizens, and that civil rights were theirs “as a reward for faithful service.” Using their voices as citizens, LULAC demanded “social, political, and economic equality.” LULAC maintained that there was “ignorance of the cultural contributions” and the “blood sweat and efforts”[3] given by Latin Americans. This clamor for equal rights and citizenship within the United States would create a government initiative that saw benefit in equal rights.

LULAC fought for civil rights at home to transform citizenship into a racially equal structure. The organization felt betrayed by the government when they returned home, as they felt that they were being denied rights, even those guaranteed by President Roosevelt in the Four Freedoms, specifically the “freedom from want.” Many Latin Americans lived in impoverished quarters of cities in the American Southwest. In the words of the League of United Latin American Citizens, “Mexicans” were considered “unworthy of equality, regardless of birthright or service.” This inequality led to a Latin American community “whose voice cries out in desperation,” in the words of LULAC. This desperation created anger that lead to demands of “social, political, and economic equality.” Veterans who subscribed to LULAC felt that these civil rights were due to them not only because they had served in the military to “defeat countries east and west” who would impose a “superior people, a superior country,” but because those rights were “a delegated right guaranteed by our Constitution.”[4]

The Truman Commission on Civil Rights saw citizenship as requiring an increase in civil rights to protect the world from international communism. The Truman Commission on Civil Rights saw a need to grant civil rights to all Americans, to improve America’s political reputation, the economy, and the fight against communism. To the Truman Commission, the improvement of citizenship by granting human rights was important to fixing a “moral erosion.” According to the Truman Commission, the denial of the vote to minorities was destroying the “morality underlying universal suffrage.” Equal citizenship must be created, they argued, because inequality creates a “vicious circle” of lower wages and fewer jobs. Equal citizenship must be established so that those in the military would not have a reason to “look down on their fellow citizens.” To the Truman Commission, the United States could no longer bear “these inroads on its moral fiber.” Not only was the need for equal rights a domestic need, but also one of national security, as it would prevent the Soviet Union from trying to prove the United States “a consistent oppressor of underprivileged people.” In the words of the Truman Commission, the U.S. was not strong enough to “ignore what the world thinks of us.”[5]

The Truman Administration found that the civil rights issues of American citizens must be resolved to create peace of mind for American citizenship. The Commission on Civil Rights argued that many inequalities, such as lynching in the South, were people “take the law into their own hands and deprive the victim of their life” were “outrages” to American citizenship. The Commission maintained that a “moral erosion” occurred in the South where many were denied civil rights that are a part of American citizenship, such as the right to vote. This commission was established to root out inequality in America, like that affecting Latin Americans to improve its relationship with other countries. To the commission, “our civil rights record has been an issue in world politics,” referring to America’s competing with the Soviet Union for global influence. To the commission, the duty of citizens to be loyal and stand for national security extended to fighting for civil rights of Americans at home, as it allowed the US to escape the Soviet Union’s “shameless distorting” of life in America.

Women witnessed the rising racial equality in America, and used citizenship to try gain economic and political rights to equal to men. Throughout the nineteen-seventies, women campaigned to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which would outlaw discrimination based on gender. Women were tired of being tied to their husbands, whether through “joint bank accounts being the sole property of the husband” or a husband’s control over “his wife’s use of “his” credit cards.” Women spearheaded an effort to pass the amendment, which swept congress and secured ratification in thirty-five states. This fight for civil rights was pressured using American citizenship, and women fighting for what they believed in. Women fought to be recognized as “full persons under the law.” Women wanted to be granted the full rights of citizens by being allowed equalized “military entrance standards” and opportunities. Women wanted the same social status as men, such as “equal time for equal crime.”[6] All of the social and economic rights that women fought for were reflected by their use of citizenship, and the growing assertiveness of minorities throughout the late twentieth century.

Women living in the nineteen-seventies saw the rise of the civil rights movements and the governments steps for promoting equality, and used their vote to fight for civil rights and a gender equal concept of citizenship. A brochure supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, which would make it illegal to discriminate based on sex, show frustration that women are not considered legal persons, that “a joint bank account is considered the sole property of the husband,” and that “women and men do not receive the same benefits.” This frustration with the political system shows the same focus on economic and political rights that Latin Americans held. It reflects women living under a government that supports the equal rights of all citizens, which women had been for fifty years. The rights demanded by women matched the “social, political, and economic equality” that LULAC demanded. Women grew to demand “equal time for equal crime,” to be “full persons under the law,” and to have “equal pay for equal work.”[7]

Presidents, Latin Americans, and women have sought to use citizenship and civil rights in conjunction to improve society abroad and at home. Franklin Delano Roosevelt used American citizenship as a model to promote civil rights abroad in a war torn political landscape. Latin American veterans brought these concepts home to their communities, who used citizenship to fight for civil rights and economic equality at home. This struggle was found by the Truman Administration, who realized that by mobilizing citizenship to crusade for civil rights at home could benefit national security by defeating one of America’s largest weaknesses in the Cold War. Women in America saw this campaigning for civil rights and realized that they were citizens like Latin Americans, and they deserved the same social, political, and economic rights that their husbands had. This crusading for civil rights continues to shape our society, with the ongoing struggles in racial tensions and the LGBTQ movement being central to American political identity.

[1] Rosenman, Samuel I., The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (New York 1938-1950) 672.

[2] Rosenman, Samuel I., The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (New York 1938-1950) 672.

[3] LULAC, World War II and Mexican Americans (1945) 5-6.

[4] LULAC, World War II and Mexican Americans, (1945) 5-6.

[5] The Report if the President’s Commission on Civil Rights (Washington D.C. 1947) 99-103, 139-48.

[6] Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Brochure on the Equal Rights Amendment.

[7] Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Brochure on the Equal Rights Amendment.

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