Progressive Presidents

Topics: American Civil War, African American, Black people Pages: 6 (1987 words) Published: April 28, 2014
African American’s 1865 to Present

For over 500 years, people of African descent have shaped the course of American history. From the year 1501 to 1865 a total of 12 United States Presidents were slave owners. The group included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Andrew Jackson. President Jefferson and Madison both owned slaves but hoped the institution of slavery would one day die away. "A general emancipation of slaves ought to be gradual, equitable & satisfactory to the individuals immediately concerned, and consistent with the existing & durable prejudices of the nation," wrote Madison in 1819, after he had left the White House (Warner, 2005). Other presidents had less compassion for their slaves and ordered them to be whipped and abused. Abraham Lincoln thought that those who spoke of the benefits of slavery should be subjected to the same treatment in an essence to see how it feels. Ulysses S. Grant was the last president to own a slave and finally freed his only slave in 1859. African American people had no rights and were subjected to segregation, discrimination, hatred, isolation, and many forms of abuse. They lacked the freedom and equality that they wanted. However in 1861, they were allowed to fight in the Civil War, but still treated poorly and subjected to segregation and discrimination. In 1863 President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in states that are in rebellion against the United States. It does not free slaves from states that stayed in the Union. From slavery to the March on Washington and many other events, African Americans have fought for their rights in United States, and have achieved their identity through many historical movements.

Slavery is officially abolished when Congress passes the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in January of 1865. Nearly 4 million freed slaves begin to struggle to make a home for themselves as during this period that begins Reconstruction era (Bowles, 2011). Radical Reconstruction was the period after the Civil War from 1865-1867, which involved attempting to reunite the Union northern states and the Confederate southern states. The country was divided on this issue. In the documentary What is Freedom, it is stated that when slavery was abolished, it didn’t appear that way to the blacks who were freed. When Andrew Johnson became President after President Lincoln, he stated this is a “country for white men, and as long as he is president it will remain that way.” He didn’t give blacks any rights and tried to force blacks to go back to work on plantations, and basically force them under the control of the white population.

As African American people tried to make a life for themselves their rights and freedoms were still being restricted by politicians and white landowners. The racial hatred and violence only escalated. The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865, stating "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States." This was the Constitutional end of slavery in the United States” bringing the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation into law (Bowles, 2011).

In 1866 the “Black Codes” were passed by all white legislatures in the former Confederate states, limiting African American freedom and fundamentally re-enslaving them. The control of white over black, however, seemed to be restored, as each of the newly elected state legislatures’s enacted statutes severely limiting the freedom and rights of the blacks. The “Black Codes” restricted the ability of blacks to own land and to work as free laborers and denied them most of the civil and political rights enjoyed by whites. The Supreme Court rulings allowed this to happen by restricting the power of the Fourteenth Amendment by ruling that although the government could not discriminate based on race, privately...

References: Brands, H. W. (2012). Grant Takes on the Klan. American History, 47(5), 42.
Bowles, M.D. (2011). American History 1865-Present: End of Isolation. (Ashford University ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Jones, W.P. (2013). The Forgotten Radical History of the March on Washington. Dissent (00123846), 60(2), 74.
Kunhardt, P., Kunhardt, P., III, and Steiner, N. (Producers). (2002). What is freedom?. [Series Episode] from P. Kinhardt & S. Sheppard (Executive Producers) Freedom: A History of US. United States: PBS. Retrieved from
Remembering Rosa.(Rosa Parks). (2013). Scholastic News/Weekly Reader Edition 3, (15). 2.
The Ku-Klux. (1871, April 1). Harper’s Weekly, p. 281. Retrieved from
U.S. Statutes at Large (39th Cong. Sess. I, Ch. 31, p. 27-30)
Vincent, C. (2011). The Colfax Massacre: The Untold Story of Black Power, White Terror.
Warner, G. A. (2005). Presidential slave owners and a slavery timeline. Orange County Register, The (Santa Ana, CA).
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