African Americans and Southern Racism During Reconstruction

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Christine Orsini
HIST 202-02
Professor Schulte
March 25, 2012
Paper 1

Introduction
At the end of the Civil War, America faced the difficult task of uniting not only two separated territories of the United States, but also two races long separated by racism and culture. Devastated and embittered by the damage of the war, the South had a long way to go in order to achieve true equality between the former slave owners and former slaves. The majority of the South remained set in racist behavior, finding post-Civil War legal loopholes to diminish African American rights (Tindall & Shi, 2010, pp. 757-758). Southerners continued to marginalize Blacks in their behavior toward ex-slaves and the later African American generation, continuing the escalation of racial tensions through white terror and discriminatory attitudes (Tindall & Shi, 2010, p. 759). Most subversively, southern newspapers propagated stereotypes against African Americans in their coverage and descriptions of constitutional conventions (Logue, 1979, p. 342). Although Radical Reconstruction offered some progress toward social equality after the Civil War, its success was short-lived as African Americans suffered vast disenfranchisement through racist rulings, attitudes, and media representation in the South at the turn of the century. Rulings against African Americans

After the Civil War had come to an end, African Americans in the South quickly made use of their new-found political and social rights, employing their right to vote from the Fifteenth Amendment and serving as prominent political figures (Tindall & Shi, 2010, p. 722). However, the formerly fervent commitment to Radical Reconstruction soon dwindled (Tindall & Shi, 2010, p. 739). Many of the advances toward civil equality were soon erased: In 1883, the Supreme Court declared the Civil Rights Laws of 1875 unconstitutional, and the political power Blacks had gained, especially in the South where 90% of Blacks lived, was completely undone. Black voter participation dropped from 96% to 26% in South Carolina in just 12 years (1876-1888); in those same 12 years, voter participation of Blacks dropped from 53% to 18% in Georgia (Burris-Kitchen & Burris, 2011, p. 5). Even while African Americans enjoyed an uninhibited freedom to voting rights, many still suffered disenfranchisement at the hands of rampant racial discrimination in the South. Although discontent Southerners could not impede the Black right to vote, they found ulterior methods to marginalize African Americans. “Since the Fifteenth Amendment made it impossible simply to deny African Americans the right to vote, disenfranchisement was accomplished indirectly, through such devices as poll taxes (or head taxes) and literacy tests” (Tindall & Shi, 2010, p. 757). “Jim Crow” laws mandated racial segregation in public areas in the South and were often accompanied by physical abuse and terror to African Americans (Tindall & Shi, 2010, pp. 756-759). These underhand activities in the South demonstrated that while African Americans were technically free, they continually suffered from unjust rulings and actions. These sprang from the rampantly racist attitudes in the South: Although great strides were made toward political and economic freedom for Blacks following the Civil War, the progress made was quickly squashed by political movements and rhetoric, which implied that Blacks could not handle their newly-found freedom and that the White working class was threatened by Blacks who were trying to take their jobs, their property, and their government away from them (Burris-Kitchen & Burris, 2011, p. 5). Racist Attitudes

Many Southerners continued to believe and propagate these ideas that African Americans had a subversive agenda to the White working class. These ideas culminated in deep-seated attitudes against African Americans in the South: “During the 1890s the attitudes that had permitted moderation in...
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