The last 100 years saw the dream of equal rights be spread throughout the world.
“Suffragettes” in England and the United States began in the late 1800s to campaign for women to have the right to vote. In 1903, suffragists in England refused to eat when imprisoned and assaulted politicians.
An American Quaker named Alice Paul organized a 5,000 woman suffrage pageant at President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. Those watching the inauguration witnessed a near riot. The suffragists were arrested and thrown in jail.
The suffragists pursuit of equality began to draw the attention of Congress. In 1920 Congress passed the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
In 1909, W.E.B. Du Bois and sympathetic whites formed the National Negro Committee. The name would later be changed to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP sought to promote equality of rights among the citizens of the United States; to advance the interest of African-Americans; and to make sure that there are equal opportunities in education, employment and in the courts.
One of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century that was a catalyst for the human rights movement was the Holocaust.
During World War II, Adolf Hitler ordered the extermination of Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals. A total of about six million people from these groups were persecuted and killed just because of who they are.
In 1954, the Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education ruled that separate facilities were unequal. The Court’s decision did not end segregation, but provided a spark for the movement.
A year later in Alabama, an African-American named Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat to a white man, as required by law. She was to be taken to jail and made to pay a small fine. Her arrest began the Civil Rights Movement of the mid 50′s and 60′s.
African-American leaders in Alabama organized a boycott of Montgomery County buses. A leader for the movement would emerge from this boycott. His name was Martin Luther King Jr. He followed the ways of Gandhi (who used nonviolent means to end British colonial rule of India0 and would help a race of people finally achieve equality.
The 20th century also saw the end of apartheid in South Africa. After being released from prison, Nelson Mandela, along with F.W. de Clerk, led South Africa toward racial unity. Mandela would go on and become the first black African President of South Africa.
The fight for equality is something that began before the 20th century and will continue well into this century.