Progression of African Americans
The historical progression of African Americans has been one of great trials, tribulations, and triumph. The ancestors of African Americans fought long and hard to overcome obstacles on every hand. It was not an easy journey to say the least. From the slave house to the White House, African Americans have made significant progress from 1865 to the present time. In this paper, I will discuss the different issues that African Americans faced throughout history and how they were overcome.
In unit one, which covers the time period of 1865-1876, life for African Americans was rough. One social/cultural issue that they faced was “black codes”. When the new government was created, it did not allow African Americans any political rights or make any effective provisions for black education. In addition, each state passed a series of “black codes” which only applied to African Americans. These “black codes” did grant African Americans some rights that had not been enjoyed by slaves. They legalized marriages performed under slavery and allowed black southerners to hold and sell property and to sue and be sued in state courts (Davidson, Delay, Heyrman, Lytle, & Stoff 2008).
Yet their primary purpose was to keep African Americans as property less agricultural laborers with inferior legal rights. The new free men could not serve on juries, testify against whites, or work as they pleased. South Carolina forbade blacks to engage in anything other than agricultural labor without a special license; Mississippi prohibited them from buying or renting farmland. Most states provided that black people who were vagrants could be arrested and hired out to landowners. Many northerners were infuriated by the restrictive black codes (Davidson, Delay, Heyrman, Lytle, & Stoff 2008).
The Black Codes also prohibited blacks from serving in state militias. A principle reasons for these laws was probably a concern for insurrections and armed violence. However, a corollary concern was that the presence of armed black soldiers encouraged undesirable attitudes in blacks. For example, in Florida, the state legislature drafted resolution requesting that black Union Army troops be withdrawn from their lands because their presence alarmed whites and encouraged insubordination among blacks. Florida also passed laws prohibiting blacks from carry fire-arms or weapons. If blacks wanted to own a gun, these laws often required blacks to obtain a license from the county judge and to have witnesses, usually white, vouch for their non-violent temperament. The vagrancy statutes were particularly harsh on freed blacks. While these statutes did not specifically target blacks in their language, they were predominately applied to blacks because of their impoverished condition (Bindas, 2003) In general, vagrancy statutes stipulated that any person a law enforcement officer or judge deemed to be unemployed and not owning property could be arrested and charged as a vagrant. It was easy to arrest blacks for violating vagrancy laws because the freed blacks lacked wealth and land owning to their previous condition of servitude, and to a lesser extent because the federal government reneged on its promise to deliver forty acres and a mule to 40,000 freed slaves (Bindas, 2003). The African Americans’ response to the “black codes” was a simple one: Patience. They waited on the change that was promised to them. Their patience paid off. In March 1865, President Andrew Johnson vetoed the civil rights bill designed to overturn the most severe provisions of the black coeds. The law made African Americans citizens of the United States and granted them the right to own property, make contracts, and have access to courts as parties and witnesses. For most Republicans Johnson’s action was the last straw, and in April 1866 Congress overrode his veto. African Americans were making progress (Davidson, Delay, Heyrman, Lytle, &...
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