Freedmen (former slaves) and previously-free African-Americans gained may rights and opportunities as a result of the Civil War. This activity deals with how they lost many of those rights and opportunities in the years following the end of Reconstruction.
Step 1: Read the information below.
As time went on, white
Southerners became more and more opposed to Reconstruction. They blamed their
problems on Congress, the federal troops, and the freedmen who now helped
run the governments. They set out to win back their places in the state governments
in the South. All over the South, white southerners formed secret groups or
societies. The main purpose of these societies was to keep blacks from voting.
The Ku Klux Klan was the most well known of the secret groups.
Members of this group dressed in white robes. They rode at night to beat or
kill those blacks who voted or held office in the new governments. They also
attacked white supporters of blacks. By keeping blacks from voting, the whites
soon gained control of the state governments.
Following the end of Reconstruction in 1877, poverty became a major problem southern blacks had to live with, but it was not the only problem. Many southern whites had not forgiven Congress for the Reconstruction laws. As soon as these whites regained control of the state governments, they drew up a new set of laws to keep whites and blacks apart, or segregated. These laws were called Jim Crow laws. The name Jim Crow may have come from a well-known song of the 1830s. One of the first Jim Crow laws said that blacks and whites had to ride in separate railroad cars. Blacks took these laws to the Supreme Court. In 1896 , in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the Court ruled that" separate but equal" railroad cars for black people were lawful. The decision opened the way for more Jim Crow laws. These laws separated blacks from whites in restaurants, hotels, schools, and hospitals. Under segregation laws, black people did not seem to benefit much from the ending of slavery.
Beginning in Mississippi in 1890, the states in the South adopted new constitutions. These new constitutions took the vote away from many blacks. Some states limited the right to vote to persons who could read and write an article of the United States Constitution. These were called literacy tests. Other states taxed each person who wanted to vote. This poll tax, as it was called, was small. However, it kept many poor blacks from voting. Finally, some southern states passed laws that allowed a man to vote if his father or grandfather had voted in 1867. This law, the so-called “grandfather clause,” allowed many poor whites to vote even if they could not read or write or afford to pay the tax. Of course, many blacks did not qualify because their fathers and grandfathers had not been allowed to vote in 1867. Because of these laws, the number of black persons who were able to vote dropped sharply. This meant that black Americans had little or no voice in local government.
In addition, many blacks were not safe from personal harm. Blacks were sometimes lynched. This meant that they were judged guilty without a trial, and then killed by a mob. From 1880 to 1910, over 3,000 black people were lynched in the South, mostly by hanging. Often a single crime by a black person, or the rumor of a crime, sent white mobs streaming into black neighborhoods, ready to burn homes or kill innocent people. In many cases, this treatment continued without strong protest from people in the North.
After the Civil War many white and black people began moving from the farms to nearby cities. By 1900 thousands of southern blacks were also moving to cities in the North. They were looking for jobs in the many new factories being built. Among these cities were New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit. Blacks new to the cities had to get used to a life much different from farm life. Most had little or no money. They had to live in the poorer areas. Jobs were hard to find. Blacks faced discrimination in housing and jobs. In fact, many practices were as discriminatory as those in the South.
Step 2: study the cartoons on the following screens and answer some questions about what you see on your viewing guide.
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