February is Black History month, a time when many will recognize the achievements of Afro-Americans. There are varied opinions concerning the progress made during the nearly 25 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington.
How far have Afro-Americans progressed in the quest for civil rights? Are conditions continuing to improve for blacks, or are the gains of the past slipping away?
I feel that, during the 1970s and '80s, blacks have made real progress in many fields. But this is not due to their fighting for their rights. In any progressive society, racial and ethnic prejudice will inevitably fade.
Since Martin Luther King's death, blacks have allowed this gradual change instead of fighting for equal rights. Sometimes to fight for change is even worse than letting it take its course, as with the abolitionist John Brown of the 1800s.
We need a subtle, but strong leader for our cause. Prejudice will continue to exist as long as the color of your skin or what church you go to matters. Only when we are no longer classified as black or white will we finally be able to be proud to call ourselves Americans. Only then will prejudice finally be gone.
RAMON McKAY DuVal
Thousands of people sacrificed their lives to make a better way of life for future generations. Through marches, rallies, boycotts and strikes, slowly but surely, this dream for equality came true. Where would we be if not for the determination of these people?
Being a young person, I did not experience many of the actions taken to improve equal rights, but I am very aware of the results and changes that have taken place since. If those people could be around to see how we are free to visit any place, attend any schools and have any career, they would say it was well worth it. I am grateful to have had people who cared enough to make a difference.
ALLYSON KING Oxon Hill
Although Afro-Americans have attained civil rights, they are still categorized as a minority, which defeats the purpose of unifying all people. The civil rights protests of the '60s have made people aware of equal rights, but steps taken to ensure these rights sometimes end up separating the people even more.
When one goes to fill out an application, he is asked his race. Equal Opportunity Employment and scholarships have been created in an effort to ensure opportunity for Afro-Americans where opportunity did not exist before.
However, this same helping hand is a constant reminder of being a minority and being separate. The past was separate and unequal, and now, sadly enough, the focus on the past helps to make a distinction between all people instead of serving as a unifying factor. Only when all people are seen as one instead of as blacks, Mexicans, the handicapped, women, etc., will there cease to be problems. Progress has been made, but "the dream" has still not been realized. HOLLY STEWART Frederick Douglass
Afro-Americans haven't come far enough since the civil rights marches. The only difference between then and now is that racism and discrimination are not shown as openly as in the past.
Several laws have been passed to appease Afro-Americans, but what's written on paper has yet to materialize. Many employment firms state on their applications that they don't discriminate because of race, sex, creed or color; but just recently a woman was about to lose her job because of her "corn-row" hairstyle. Now if that isn't discrimination, what is?
Martin Luther King Jr. and the others didn't march just to change laws, but more importantly to change attitudes. As King said, ". . . not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Until this view is accepted by all, Afro-Americans will continue to struggle. TIRINA HARRISON Largo
Afro-Americans have progressed tremendously in the quest for civil rights, but if they stop striving for their rights, the gains of the past will eventually slip away.
Afro-Americans today are the proprietors of businesses, principals of schools and presidents of large companies, which would have been highly improbable just 25 years ago. On the other hand, they must not become complacent about their influence in American society. If this happens, they will soon find themselves in the same plight as their ancestors. Afro-Americans must not stop the quest for civil rights and become victims of past injustices. HOWARD HEARD Forestville
Since the March on Washington, the plight of the Afro-American has somewhat improved. For instance, the opportunity for advancement in the work force is greater than it once was. Yet unemployment among blacks is the highest in the nation. One question remains: "Could our situation be better?" The answer is yes. As long as Americans hold "Jimmy The Greek" attitudes, the goal of equal rights cannot be fully achieved. Once the mentality of the people changes, Afro-Americans and other minorities will have a fair chance of reaching their full potential as Americans and as human beings. FAITH HUMBLES Elizabeth Seton
The progress in the last 25 years has been limited. People seem to believe that because there was a Civil Rights Amendment to the Constitution, that the quest is over. People need to be reminded that the Civil Rights Amendment was a reaffirming of rights that should have been guaranteed to everyone by the Constitution.
Progress is now at a standstill and will only continue when we realize there is progress left to be made. The progress and the issue have now turned to a different light. America is supposedly giving blacks an equal chance; but blacks still, and for a long time will, never have an equal past and background.
The direction in which civil rights should be heading now is toward achieving an equality of consideration. HOKE GLOVER III DeMatha
February is Black History Month. During this month, we set aside time to honor the achievements of "Afro-Americans." Why? Why did society find it appropriate to honor blacks only one month out of the year? Blacks did not achieve all of their accomplishments only in the month of February. Black history too often is kept in the closets of our classrooms. It is brought out a few days before King's birthday and "re-storaged" near the end of February.
I don't think there should be a Black History Month. Black history is history, and should be included in our history texts and classroom instruction. Black history should not be extracted from our classrooms only to be reserved for one month of observance, and then remain hidden the rest of the year. EDWIN JOHNSON Crossland
We, one white and two black high school students, feel Afro-Americans as a whole have progressed during the 25 years since the March on Washington. This progression has been illustrated by events and activities such as the crowning of the first black Miss America, the candidacy of the first major black presidential candidate, the gradual acceptance of interracial relationships and improvements in jobs, housing and education opportunities.
Although these are great achievements, Afro-Americans as a race still have a long way to go. They still have not overcome some of the racial injustices experienced in past generations. With the racial slurs of Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder and Al Campanis, the progress of the Afro-American is overshadowed. The resurgence of racial violence makes one question how far Afro-Americans have really progressed.
Afro-Americans will continue to progress as long as they follow "the dream" of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Until this dream is accomplished, total equality will always be in the distance. DONOVAN KIRKLAND RON McBURROWS KEVIN BYRD Gwynn Park
Black Americans have made great progress in achieving their civil rights since Dr. King led the civil rights marchers on Washington in 1963. At that time, racial injustice was blatant and visible. Blacks could only attend schools that were all black and poorly funded. They sat in the back of the bus and used restrooms labeled "colored."
Today, nearly 25 years later, blacks are mayors of cities, successful in business, the arts and other professions. Schools are desegregated. Blacks and whites live in the same neighborhoods, eat together and socialize together.
Segregation no longer exists, but the pace of improvements is slowing. Too many of the poor are black. When economic conditions worsen, blacks' jobs are threatened. Blacks don't have the seniority, which, too often, counts more than how well the job is done. KIM TEGELER High Point
"I have a dream!" Those immortal words spoken by a man immortal in memory. I believe that if Martin Luther King Jr. was alive today, he would be proud to see that much of his dream has been realized. Afro-Americans have gained all the legal civil rights that white Americans have. It is now illegal to discriminate because of color at any time or place for any reason. Blacks are also gaining considerable power in the running of our country.
These gains by blacks are great and will never "slip away," but if our nation is to really live in harmony and grow as a whole, we must learn to see through colorblind eyes. As far as we have come, there is still a lot of rivalry and distrust between the blacks and the whites. The day this ends, blacks will have fully gained their civil rights and America will truly be the great nation we claim it to be. DEB LAUNT Central
If we must ask about the progress of blacks in this country, then is it really progress or is it a step backward for blacks in this country?
When progress is shown in any other field in America, there is no need to discuss it. For example, the disease polio was combatted, and now no one discusses it because it has been beaten -- successfully and for the good of America.
Once blacks have reached such heights, then America won't have to ask, "How is the progress of blacks in America?" KIRK ELLISON Tall Oaks
I feel Afro-Americans have progressed in many ways in the quest for civil rights. They have progressed politically, socially and economically. Afro-Americans have earned their equal rights over the past 25 years. There are no longer segregated schools or bathrooms. There are now Afro-American governors, mayors and congressmen.
Blacks have gone from slavery to being labor workers and maids to being doctors and lawyers. Black people have come a very long way since the days of slavery. If it weren't for the civil rights leaders, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., black people wouldn't be where they are today. Blacks are now moving up faster and faster. STACY MALES Friendly
Afro-Americans have progressed significantly, but there is still room for improvement, particularly in the South. The attitude towards blacks in many of the smaller southern cities has a great need for improvement. There are still exclusively white businesses that refuse to cater to blacks.
Unfortunately, prejudiced attitudes toward blacks are passed on from parents to children who grow up disliking blacks for no reason other than the difference in skin color. It is a real shame that these people limit themselves to friendships that do not extend beyond their skin color. It is hard enough to find one true friend out of all of the people with whom you come into contact. You hurt the people against whom you are prejudiced and you hurt yourself.
What a waste. SAHAR ALLEYNE Laurel
Blacks have achieved much since the March on Washington. I can do things that my parents and grandparents only hoped for.
The generation of today takes its freedom for granted. It takes something like Black History Month for us to realize that we didn't always have it this good. Blacks could not vote, or sit or eat where they wanted, and were sent to separate schools; all of this because of the color of their skin.
So yes, we have progressed in the quest for civil rights. We will not let the gains of our past diminish, because with what we know today and what we will know tomorrow, we can only gain more.ZINA ROUNTREE Surrattsville
Speak Out topic for February 25:
What are the issues that most concern teenagers today? What do you believe the future holds for your generation?
Responses should be no more than 150 words in length and typed or written legibly. Political-style cartoons on the topic are welcome and should be drawn on posterboard. All submissions should include the student's name, school, age and grade.
Responses should be addressed to: Weekly High School Section The Washington Post 1150 15th St. NW Washington, D.C. 20071 Deadline for responses is Monday, Feb. 22.