The modern principles of American civil society are based on the ideas presented in the Declaration of Independence. The principle of the people’s equality is stated in the preamble to the document. However, there is no single vision of the idea of equality in American society, especially with references to the concept of social justice. Thus, the notion of equality should be discussed from many sides because it depends on different significant factors.
In spite of the fact the idea of equality was proclaimed in one of the most influential documents in the USA and rights movements were developed by workers and women to solve the social and gender issues, the American society between the years of 1860 and 1900 suffered from the obvious unequal treatment of persons according to their race, class, and gender.
The problem of social inequality was urgent for the 19th century, and any attempts to change the situation were ineffective to overcome social injustice caused by the years of race and gender discrimination in American society. In spite of the fact it is impossible to speak about the absolute stagnation in the process of solving the problem of the social inequality about race, class, and gender, the whole picture of the situation in the American society provided more evidence for discussing the issue of social injustice.
Thus, race discrimination was not stopped with the end of the Civil War. The idea of equality of all people presented in the Declaration was discussed from the point of the Founders’ vision. Thus, the Founders concentrated on the idea of human equality in front of God which was given by God during the creation of people. From this perspective, people were equal naturally, but not socially.
The equality of people could be considered as the right given to humans from their birth, but this equality did not guarantee equal treatment or social justice (Faragher et al.). That is why the period after 1860 was associated with developing the laws of racial segregation to accentuate the unequal status of whites and blacks in American society.
It is possible to refer to a lot of examples of the social injustice and accentuation of inequality within the society in spite of the proclaimed democratic principles and ideas. Social injustice associated with the race issues were closely connected with the class inequality.
Thus, black people had no right to take positions similar to those taken by white people, employers rejected to hire blacks because of developed racial stereotypes and prejudice, and Jim Crow laws prevented blacks from having close social relations with whites, accentuating the fact that the representatives of both races were ‘separate but equal’. In practice, the black population of the USA was discriminated in society, and black people were the representatives of the lowest social classes (Zinn 108-111).
The principles of social justice worked only for white people because the equality of races was correlated only with the principles presented in Jim Crow laws and similar documents. Many workers were also dissatisfied with their social position because of low wages and risky working conditions. The representatives of the working class believed that it was possible to overcome the social injustice basing on their powers (Halpin and Cook 1-2).
Thus, the labor and civil rights movements of the 19th century became to develop as the reaction to the increasing social injustice. The rights movements can be discussed as the evidence to support the idea that social justice progressed as well as to support the vision that the developing inequality and injustice make people fight for their civil rights.
It is necessary to pay attention to the women’s rights movement as the reflection of the social injustice about gender issues. During the 19th century, women took the unequal position in comparison with the men’s one regarding the impact on social life (Zinn 218-220). The questions of the women’s suffrage, education, and employment remained to be urgent and rather controversial.
Being influenced by the workers’ rights movement, women intended to organize their movement to overcome the issues associated with gender inequality and discrimination (Faragher et al.). The role of equal human rights was accentuated. However, the development of different rights movements only emphasized the fact that the problem of social inequality and injustice existed.
Although the American society developed the idea of the people’s equality stated in the Declaration of Independence in connection with the developed concept of social justice, the principles of social equality were not followed during a long period in the history of the country.
The second part of the 19th century in the USA is characterized by the developing social injustice about women and their role in the society, representatives of such lower social classes as workers, and blacks who were obliged to live according to Jim Crow laws and principles of the racial segregation.
Faragher, John, Daniel Czitrom, Mari Buhle, and Susan Armitage. Out of Many: A History of the American People. USA: Prentice Hall, 2005. Print.
Halpin, John, and Marta Cook. Social Movements and Progressivism. 2010. PDF file. 08 March 2013. <http://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2010/04/pdf/progressive_social_movements.pdf>.
Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present. USA: Pearson Education, 2003. Print.