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Two social movements your high school history textbook probably missed

Think back to your high school history textbooks and try to recall how much space publishers allocated to various social justice movements. Columnist Aram Ghoogasian argued that textbooks’ underrepresentation of different communities’ histories generates the misunderstanding efforts like the recently passed College of Letters and Science’s diversity requirement aims to remediate. Here are two social movements you might have missed in primary textbook publishers’ effort to save space or erase alternative interpretations of history.

The American Indian Movement

Feb. 8, 1887 – Congress passed the Dawes Act, which allowed Native American tribal land to be federally divided and allocated to Native Americans.

  • Native Americans were incentivized with citizenship to live in the federally allocated zones, in isolation from their former tribes.
  • The goal of the act was to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream society to reduce conflicts that were ongoing until the early 1900s.
  • The act led to the dispossession of lands among many Native American tribes and was a direct attack on Native American culture until Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934, which outlawed allocation.

Nov. 9, 1969 – Richard Oakes along with a group of Indian supporters started a symbolic occupation of Alcatraz Island, which soon turned into a full-scale occupation that lasted 19 months.

• Though its exact history among indigenous people is unknown, Alcatraz Island is a part of multiple Native American groups’ pasts. After becoming a federal prison, it held many Native American prisoners.

• The occupation evolved into a movement to reclaim the deed to the island and establish an American Indian university. Though federal negotiators tried to offer much smaller concessions, the movement grew in strength and refused to accept anything less than their original requests.

• Though participants were eventually removed from the island by the Nixon administration, it is partially credited with shifting the tone of American policies that granted Native Americans more autonomy in their rights and access to land.

Aug. 11, 1978 – The American Indian Religious Freedom Act became a federal law which granted Native Americans access to sacred lands and objects.

• The law was intended to address the problems created by the government’s mass reallocations of Native Americans over two centuries. The division and redistribution of indigenous territory left tribes without access to many of the sacred lands core in their religious beliefs and shared culture.

• The legislation also protected the use and preservation of formerly illegal objects used in worship, such as animal bones and peyote.

• Symbolically, the law also acknowledged that the federal government had infringed upon Native Americans’ religious freedom through past policies and sought to remediate the injustice.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Movement

June 23, 1952 – Dale Jennings, who was arrested in what is now MacArthur Park for lewd behavior and allegedly soliciting a police officer, went to trial.

  • Jennings was a founding member of the Mattachine Society, a Los Angeles gay activist group started in 1950 by gay men to advocate for their rights. The group publicized his case, drawing in volunteers and donations.
  • The society created a committee to bring attention to the issue of police entrapment. Members said police officers purposefully engaged suspected homosexuals in order to charge them with lewd behavior and believed the practice should be outlawed.
  • Jennings admitted to being homosexual, but pled not guilty to the charges. Most men entrapped by the police at the time pled guilty to avoid public scrutiny. The jury voted to acquit Jennings, finding evidence of police intimidation, harassment and entrapment.

Jan. 13, 1958 – The Supreme Court of the United States decided the first amendment applies to LGBT culture in ONE Inc. v. Olesen.

  • Los Angeles Postmaster Otto Olesen, the United States Post Office Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation objected to some of the content published in ONE: The Homosexual Magazine, including some pulp fiction and erotica, on the grounds that it was obscene, lascivious and filthy.
  • Eric Julber, a young attorney who had authored one of the magazine’s cover stories, filed an injunction against Olesen. Before the Supreme Court, the district and appeals courts rejected his suit, deciding that an injunction would imply homosexuals exist as a privileged class.
  • The Supreme Court reversed the lower courts’ decisions without hearing any oral argument. ONE Inc. wrote in its next issue that the decision affirmed that homosexual relationships and their descriptions were not obscene.

June 28, 1969 – After a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, violent protests erupted in the streets and lasted for six days. This uprising has come to be known as the Stonewall Riots.

  • The riots came at a time when there were still strict laws against sodomy and homosexuality, which was considered a mental disorder.
  • LGBT individuals were some of the most marginalized, and had extremely low social prospects because of systematic discrimination.
  • It is one of the first important protests on behalf of equal rights for LGBT individuals, and was a catalyst for several pro-equality movements on behalf of these communities.

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