Category: civil rights

When women got the vote, around the world.

New Zealand was first, and Saudi Arabia was most recent – although women still do not have full voting rights there, as they may only vote or run for office in municipal elections not national elections.

When women got the vote, around the world.

New Zealand was first, and Saudi Arabia was most recent – although women still do not have full voting rights there, as they may only vote or run for office in municipal elections not national elections.

If I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom

While British and American suffragettes get all the attention, Japan had a contemporary suffragette movement. It began after the Meiji Restoration when major educational and political reforms started educating women but excluding them from participation in the new “democratic” government. By law, they were barred from joining political parties, expressing political views, and attending political meetings. Japanese women, more educated then ever and slowly participating in Japan’s workforce, began fighting for the right to participate in the new civil democracy as well.

Unfortunately, when Western white women began winning the right to vote after World War I, Japanese women’s participation in politics was still fighting for basic rights. In 1921, for instance, a court ruling overturned the law forbidding women from attending political meetings. This led to a flowering of women’s suffrage organizations in the 1920s, in addition to literary circles which began publishing feminist magazines during the interwar period.

Japanese women kept the issue alive, but did not win the right to vote until 1945, when election laws were revised under the American occupation.

Ed Dwight was a test pilot for the US Air Force in the 1950s, while getting a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. In 1961, the Kennedy administration selected Dwight to be the first African-American to train as an astronaut. His selection drew international media coverage. After Kennedy was assassinated, NASA forced Dwight out of the program by assigning him to a German test pilot school that did not exist, making Dwight resign in 1966.

After NASA, Dwight worked as an engineer in real estate and at IBM, before learning how to operate a metal casting foundry in the mid-1970s, and getting a Masters of Fine Arts. His career in sculpture took off from there. He is noted for his pioneering use of negative space, and has created over 100 public sculptures, all involving blacks and civil rights activists. Today he owns and runs a studio in Denver, Colorado.

In 1956, a photographer and a writer for Life Magazine traveled the American south, to document segregation. These are from Alabama.

Incredible behind the scenes photos of civil rights activists training to endure the harassment and violence they would face.

Couple at a roller skating rink. Chicago, 1941

History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them.

The United States’ government interned ethnic Japanese who lived in the western United States in camps, at the outbreak of World War II. In addition, all Japanese-American men of draft age, except those already in the armed forces, were classified as 4-C, enemy aliens, forbidden to serve their country. The Japanese government used the internment camps, and military prohibition, as propaganda in Asia. Look, they said – this is a racial conflict! All Asians might fight against the anti-Asian Americans!

In response, the United States government decided to allow some Japanese to join the military. In 1943, the Army started recruiting in the internment camps for a special, segregated unit. This would be the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team. Many military leaders were reluctant to have Japanese Americans fighting under them. General Eisenhower’s staff had initially rejected the idea of Japanese-American troops, but General Mark Clark, commander of the Fifth Army in Italy, had said that he would “take anybody that will fight”.

The 442nd became one of the most decorated units in World War II. And after 25 years, twenty surviving members of the 442nd would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor – the United States’ highest award for valor. Sadly, it took 25 years for the US government to look past the skin of men who died to protect it.