FROM SLAVERY TO SEGREGATION
What were some of the changes in the South after 1877? What were some of the problems black people faced?
1. The Industrial Revolution came to the South after 1865. In many small towns, business leaders raised enough money to start small factories. Before long, there were many cotton and flour mills and furniture and tobacco factories. Factory workers were chiefly poor whites from the hills. They worked 12 hours a day, six days a week for low wages. The workers depended on the factory owners for their jobs, their houses, and their food supplies.
2. Mining also expanded. Great coal fields were opened in the Appalachian highlands from Maryland to Alabama. Great deposits of iron were found all the way from Virginia through northern Alabama to Arkansas. Birmingham, Alabama, became a busy iron and steel center by 1890. Despite the destruction left by the war, the old railroads were quickly rebuilt while new ones were being built. By 1890 the South had a railroad system twice as large as that of 1860.
3. Despite the new mills and factories, farming remained the chief source of wealth in the South. The war, of course, had brought changes. The freeing of the slaves meant that the southern planters had to work out a new labor system. They had land to be farmed but no money to pay wages. The freed blacks and poor whites had no money to buy or rent the land. But they were willing to work. To get farming going again, the planters divided their land into small farms. Then they rented these pieces of land to farmers. The planters provided cabins, seed, and tools for the farmers, but no wages. When the cotton or tobacco crop was in, the farmers turned over part (usually one-third) of what they raised to the landowner as rent for the land. The farmers gave the landowner another part (often one-third) as rent for tools, seed, and fertilizer. In other words, the farmers shared part of their crops with the planters. For this reason, these farmers were called sharecroppers.
4. Poverty was not the only problem southern blacks had to live with. 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. 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.
5. 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. People had to pass a literacy test to prove their ability to read and write. Because few freedmen had much education, the literacy tests kept them from voting. 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. These "grandfather laws" 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. These voting restrictions meant that black Americans had little or no voice in local government.
6. In addition, many blacks were not safe from personal harm. 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. 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.
spite of their hardships, many blacks in the South
wanted an education. Many of the first schools in black communities were
started with money and teachers from the North. Among these schools was Hampton
Institute in Virginia. One of its first students was Booker T. Washington. He
was born a slave. To stay in school, he worked as a janitor. When Washington
graduated, he became a teacher. Later he founded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
Other blacks eager to learn went to his school. Washington believed ·that
students should learn useful skills, such as carpentry, bricklaying, or
mechanics, in addition to book learning. Such skills would help them earn a good
living and permit them to buy their own homes and farms. In this way,
their white neighbors would come to respect them and grant them their rights. He
also believed that blacks ought to live apart from white people.
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. This movement became known as the Great
Migration. 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. For all their disadvantages, however, the northern cities seemed to
offer blacks a better life than they had in the rural South.
Yet Another Video Review:
A Failed Revolution
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