The path to freedom has not been an easy one; there have been many ups and downs to get America to where it is today. On this journey there have been many people to help push freedom along, and also those who have hindered this journey. As Thomas Jefferson said, and later, John F. Kennedy echoed, the spread of freedom abroad was powered by ‘the force of right and reason’ and with those trying to hinder freedom were said to be unreasonable men. With freedom being different to each person, many problems arise from these diverse opinions. Through the example America has set, many countries have strived to attain the same freedoms. With this liberty, it becomes a great amount of responsibility to the American people to keep this freedom alive; although many go unnoticed, their impact is still there. Without the bravery and loyalty of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Barbara Johns, the contrasting effects of the Ku Klux Klan, and people who both impacted and hindered progression like Howard W. Smith; the freedom of America would not be the same.

Franklin D. Roosevelt served as the 32nd President of the United States; he served four terms in office during his political career. Being the President during the Great Depression had its many difficulties, but how he conquered these problems is the reason he is often thought as one of the greatest U.S. presidents. Deep in the Great Depression, the government was no longer run by the people, but by those hungry for wealth and power. One of Roosevelt’s promises was that he would balance the economy with his New Deal plan. The New Deal was a series of programs and projects, including the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Public Works Administration, and the Civil Works Administration. With the New Deal, the relationship between the government and the U.S. citizens changed dramatically. With this great unbalance of power, the American people’s freedoms were taken from them, and the people voices had little influence on the government. To a crowd at Madison Square Garden, Roosevelt stated: “I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match, and I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces have met their master.” Though the New Deal had its setbacks and didn’t turn out exactly the way that he desired, his impact was still known.

Barbara Johns, a strong, sixteen year-old girl, didn’t let her age hold her back from speaking her mind. She led a group of four hundred black students to protest inadequate facilities at the segregated Robert R. Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia. With this stand, she followed in the footsteps of her uncle, who was one of the fathers of the Civil Rights Movement. The NAACP agreed to file a lawsuit, Davis v. Prince Edward County, after Johns and another student wrote to them about the conflict. The students boycotted the high school until the local all-white School Board addressed their own complaints. With this protest and four other similar cases, including the famous Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, these efforts ultimately helped persuade the Supreme Court’s decision in 1954 to outlaw public school segregation.

The Ku Klux Klan is one of the most well-known white supremacy organizations against the civil rights of African Americans. The group did not shy away from violence; they were known for the burning of crosses and staging rallies, parades, and marches denouncing immigrants, Catholics, Jews, blacks, and organized labor. The number of members in the organization was not low, and nationwide, they exceeded 4 million members. The passing of the 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship to all people born in the United States, assisted in protecting victims of this group. This didn’t stop the group completely, but it did greatly help prevent the severity of their doings. After 1870, Republican state governments in the South turned to Congress for help, resulting in the passage of three Enforcement Acts, the strongest of which was the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. These Acts were influential in preventing discrimination and the outright violence against minority groups in the U.S., assisting in granting more liberty to them.

Even after winning the right to vote in 1920 by the 19th Amendment, very little improvement was made for women’s rights and equality. Howard W. Smith, former chairman of the U.S. House Rules Committee, saw women’s issues and sought out to amend the Civil Rights Act. When Smith added sex to the list of forms of discrimination prohibited by the act, feminist activists were overjoyed. Though Smith helped in the case for civil rights for women, Smith was less concerned with the original premise of the bill: the civil rights of African Americans. His main efforts with amending the Civil Rights Act were geared toward women. Smith was trying to delay the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, two days before the vote, in order to get “sex” included into the protected class and help stop gender inequality. He was perceived as just attempting to prevent the bill from passing and defeating the whole thing altogether. The bill was passed, and women’s rights were further protected, due to Smith’s efforts.

With all of these influential people, and even the more inferior figures in American history, American citizens’ freedoms have progressed in many ways. Although some were negative, each event made Americans more resilient and caused people to support each other in their quest for freedom. There might never be true freedom, but when the government has too much power over the people, the country slides backwards. By working together as citizens and using our voices in our democracy, just as figures like Barbara Johns and Franklin D. Roosevelt did, we get ever closer to the “American Dream” of freedom that Americans are proud of.

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Popular Questions About Freedom

What freedom really means?
Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state. ... A person has the freedom to do things that will not, in theory or in practice, be prevented by other forces.
What are the 3 types of freedom?
There are three types of freedom. The first kind of freedom is “freedom from,” a freedom from the constraints of society. Second, is “freedom to,” a freedom to do what we want to do. Thirdly, there is “freedom to be,” a freedom, not just to do what we want, but a freedom to be who we were meant to be.
What is freedom in our life?
Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state. ... A person has the freedom to do things that will not, in theory or in practice, be prevented by other forces.