Unfinished Business

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Unfinished Business

O. D. R.

HIS 204

D. R.

November 09, 2012

Unfinished Business

Since the end of the Civil War, African Americans have fought for equal rights and equal treatment. The African American community has been a part of America’s woven tapestry and to this day, are still longing for a day where hate and bigotry become things of the past. However; in spite of their best efforts, there exists an equal share of both hatred and bigotry in today’s society. This paper will show how African Americans are still working to be seen as equals.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Since this action was implemented during the war, slaves were not entirely set free. “Because the proclamation did not apply to any of the loyal slave states..., military victory was the only way for these ideas to take effect throughout the nation.” (Bowles, 2011) Once the South surrendered at Appomattox in 1865, the President was able to fully invoke freedom from slavery. The Civil War was fought for several reasons, but one of the most important was the South’s fight to preserve their slave based economy. Just as the war had ended, a whole new battleground was about to be embarked upon.

The actions taken in the post-war era would be the beginning of equal rights for former slaves. Even with the assassination of President Lincoln, Republicans implemented the first of three amendments to the U. S. Constitution. In December of 1865, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and made it illegal. Three years later, the 14th Amendment was passed thus allowing all citizens, born in the United States, to be seen as naturalized citizens, including ex-slaves. Finally, in 1870, the 15th Amendment afforded every citizen, regardless of race or color, the right to vote. These three amendments were established to legally implement former slaves, and their future decedents, status as American citizens. However, there were still many in the nation that had no intensions of welcoming their former slaves with open arms. “Culturally entrenched racist beliefs remained in both the North and the South.” (Foner, 1988)

Although many ex-slaves took advantage of their newly given rights by pursuing education, employment, State and Government held positions, the battle for equal rights was ongoing. The Reconstruction Era, as it is most commonly referred to, was to be short lived. Reconstruction was an effort made to rebuild a broken America following the Civil War. “The Compromise of 1877 marked the closing year of Reconstruction, and the beginnings of a slow decline in the gains made by African Americans.” (Bowles, 2011) The Compromise was a prime example of how government policies quickly change when there is a change in political leadership. Newly elected President Hayes removed military presence in the South as trade for his Presidency. Congress agreed on the appointment of Hayes as the President as long as he agreed to withdraw the military. Southern Democrats used the Compromise to institute segregation, painfully reestablishing a color line in the south. “The Compromise of 1877, basically turned ex-slaves over to the intender mercies of their former masters and paved the way for another century of black subjugation under the name of "segregation." (Hinckley, 2005)

The implementation of segregation brought an elevated state of accepted racism and violence, especially in the south. “Jim Crow laws began to sweep the south, laws designed to disenfranchise African Americans.” (Bowles, 2011) Lynching was becoming more predominant as angry white mobs would institute their own level of justice. As African Americans continued to receive maltreatment throughout the country, key leaders continued to fight for equal rights and inspire the masses. One key leader was W.E.B. Du Bios. He encouraged African Americans to seek higher levels of...
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