With Liberty and Justice for All

  • Published
  • By Jessica Lawson
  • 944th Fighter Wing History Office

Continuation of The Founding of America

The legacy of America has always been the fight for freedom. The freedom to be individuals in a country that is a mix of beautifully rich cultures and backgrounds. The ideal that a nation can flourish without the oppression of government and people would live without fear of repression, judgment, or even death. This is the spirit of America’s founding that has been the cornerstone of our nation for 244 years.    

While some believe that the spirit rings true, many would disagree and have lived the struggle that would win their argument. Many people in America were treated poorly based off of their sex, race and ethnicity. These occurrences went against the idea of freedom and to this day the fight for equality continues. 

Our country’s ideals have sometimes been overshadowed by the poor decisions of our predecessors. The wording of our Declaration, “that all men are created equal,” hasn’t always been carried out in the spirit of a free America. Even after the American War for Independence, many still remained bound by the shackles of slavery. It would take a breaking of America, 78 years later, for some to finally understand that freedom is a right for all. On June 19, 1865, two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Texas, the last state to comply, announced that all slaves were now free.

Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, finally gave freedoms to those who deserved it, but it would still be a hard road for America as the years went on. The learning curve was steep for many and some refused to take the journey at all. While the Civil War raged on, another injustice took place. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced thousands of Native Americans from their ancestral homes in the southern region of the United States and relocated them across the country. The journey, filled with death and despair, is now called The Trail of Tears. In 2009, President Barack Obama publically recognized this unlawful act by signing a bill that included an official apology to all Native American tribes, acknowledging the wrong-doings of the past, “the United States, acting through Congress…recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes.”

Many more injustices continued after reconstruction, to include the exploitation of Chinese workers on the Transcontinental Railroad and women’s rights. The 1920s brought a rise in Civil Rights movements, calling out the unjust climate of the country. The Jazz Era saw a rise in rights for women, who had been denied the civil liberties awarded to their male counterparts at the founding of the country. The right to vote had always eluded women but through aggressive campaigning, the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, granting women the right to vote.

The fight shifted gears but continued in the 1940s with the threat of Imperial Japan. Overwhelming fear compelled the U.S. Government to force many Japanese Americans to be unjustly sent to concentration camps across the west coast of the United States.  In 1976, President Gerald Ford publically announced that this course of action had been wrong and a national mistake.

The battle for equality raged on as World War II broke the boundaries of oppression in many ways, especially in the military. The legendary Tuskegee Airmen, an all-African American fighter pilot group, proved their bravery time and time again as some of America’s best pilots in the sky against Germany. Their inclusion in the armed services was the push needed for African Americans to be given the status they deserved within the United States military. The Women’s Air Service Pilots also ensured the inclusion of women within military ranks became a normality as well.

Americans pushed full-steam ahead with The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. It was spearheaded by the renowned Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a peaceful reverend from Atlanta, Georgia, who saw how the divide in the nation was making things worse for marginalized communities. He understood that it was every human’s right to have basic liberties and freedoms-like those outlined in the Declaration of Independence. His undeniable courage and passion to fix the racial disparities of America live on to this day.       

The tireless efforts of faithful individuals during this time afforded minorities, especially African Americans, rights that had been denied to them. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it unlawful to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The act prohibited segregation and stamped out remaining Jim Crow laws. This was quickly followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting.

America, like nations the world over, isn’t perfect, but we have a chance to change it. We all have the opportunity to create a better future, where the ideals of America’s founding continue to come to fruition. We have worked to make sure that “all men are created equal” actually becomes a reality but we have a ways to go to ensure that these words ring true in every corner of this nation. It will take a deep, honest look into our country’s past for us to understand what is necessary to move forward for a better future.

We cannot erase our nation’s history - doing so would invalidate the past two hundred years of struggles. We must acknowledge the harsh reality of what has transpired within our borders and learn to grow from the past. It is riddled with grave wrongs but also lined with the beauty of perseverance, hope and change. We see the bravery of people standing up to these injustices, plowing their way through crowds of naysayers to make a better future. We must take the lessons from our past deeds and use them to collectively better ourselves. The spirit of America is still a strong force, and we have the chance to reignite our passion for freedom.  We can make our nation and our people into something even greater than before. A nation where everyone is truly created equal, with liberty and justice for all.