Racial Tensions and Its Effects after the Civil War
Darrell J. Bradford
Professor Pawel Goral
HIS 105 Contemp U.S. History
November 26, 2013
After the Civil War, America was supposed to have been united in ways to bring the country to the forefront of the world. Yet, the South, being highly upset at the loss of the war, was not going to give in so easily. They still believed that the North were nothing but bullies and wanted to infringe on their rights as American citizens. So, still in the South, the blacks were suffering. Slavery was now deemed illegal in the states, thanks to the 13th Amendment, and blacks had an abundance of new opportunities to succeed in this country. But blacks still were not treated as citizens with equal rights. In fact, the South did many statewide acts in order to make sure that the newly freed slaves “knew their place” in the South. For example, soon after the war ended the South “enacted a series of restrictive laws known as "black codes," which were designed to restrict freed blacks ' activity and ensure their availability as a labor force now that slavery had been abolished” (2013, The History Channel website). These new laws still held blacks back from holding judicial offices in the South, blocked interracial marriages, and prevented blacks from getting better economic backing. The South had still believed in separation of the races. Another drastic measure that the South had pursued was the creation many white supremacists groups with the intent of terrorizing blacks. The most popular one of this time was the Ku Klux Klan. Founded right after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan, or KKK for short, only stood for stopping equal rights for blacks and harming all who were against them. It didn’t matter if you black or white; if you support equal rights then you were their enemy. The KKK had a lot of motives, but politics was a major one. They “sought to do away with Republican influence in the South by terrorizing and murdering its party leaders and all those who voted for it” (Rise of the Ku Klux Klan, PBS). The government tried to do all within the powers to eliminate the KKK, but because of the strong support from the South, it was very difficult. It wasn’t until 1882, when the United States Supreme Court would eventually deem the KKK unconstitutional. A third tactic that the South used to control the newly freed slaves was the system of sharecropping. This system allowed blacks to rent and farm plots of land owned by whites, and in return they had to share their crops and profits with those landowners. Normally, blacks were subjected to give more than half of their crops over to whites. In return, blacks never really had a chance to make much money, therefore it was quite hard for them own any land. And this concept was even applied to poorer whites. So as whole, it seemed the South was inclined to keep the poor poorer. Yet, blacks weren’t going to sit down and just accept the actions of the South. Soon after the Civil War ended, Congress created the Freedmen’s Bureau. Its main agenda was to assist freed slaves in getting on their feet. The bureau would establish and build new schools for education, find homes and jobs for former slaves, and even provide medical care and food for poor black and white Southerners. The Freemen’s Bureau would even attempt to reunite torn families as a result of wartime or separation during slavery. Speeches were also a good form of showing assistance blacks with the struggle. In 1895, Booker T. Washington delivered a speech in Atlanta, Georgia. His target audience as set for whites and was to convince them that blacks were not trying to intermingle and just wanted to create their own economics in order to survive. The speech has since been known as the Atlanta Compromise. He states in his speech, “It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges” (Washington, 1895). He emphasizes that the Constitution applies to all living in America and it would unwise to ignore this obvious fact. Lastly, some former slaves knew that the government of the South had a strong grip on how the states acted. They knew that they would have to get into some government position and exercise their rights as free citizens. This unfortunately was no easy task. Schultz states that blacks “were rarely elected to high positions, and until 1990 no black person was ever elected or nominated to serve as governor” (Schultz, 2013). He did notate that South Carolina was the only state that had a black judge at the time which sparked others to step up. Many became policemen, sheriffs, and tax collectors. They brought a sense of fairness to the South that had not been seen in the past. Thing were indeed going better for blacks and minorities after the end of the Civil War, but they were not still equal by any means. And it seemed that there were many instances where the country was trying to keep them done. During the Industrial Age, Social Darwinism became a common justification of the leaders of the time. Social Darwinism is the theory that states that people are also included in Charles Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest.” Big time corporations and tycoons used this because they believed they were the most successful in their business. While this might have been true, blacks and other races, including women, were considered to be inferior because they lacked the right to vote and own property. Whites used this concept to “prove” that the white race was more biologically superior to blacks and that if you are weaker then you should perish. A second extreme that the South created were the Jim Crow Laws. These laws were meant to show how whites were superior to blacks in every way. These included “but not limited to intelligence, morality, and civilized behavior; sexual relations between blacks and whites would produce a mongrel race which would destroy America; treating blacks as equals would encourage interracial sexual unions; any activity which suggested social equality encouraged interracial sexual relations; if necessary, violence must be used to keep blacks at the bottom of the racial hierarchy” (David Pilgrim, 2000). These laws allowed whites to punish blacks at any given minute even using brute force. The North was highly disgusted by the actions of the South and passed many laws to try and put things back in proper order. Another state law that was created was in Mississippi in 1890. This law called the “Second Mississippi Plan” was a form of racial disenfranchisement. It was created to allow the state to evade practicing the newly developed 14th and 15th Amendments. They implemented a range of laws, not really legal, including “residency length requirement, poll tax, literacy test, and clean criminal record requirement” (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 2013). This plan drastically reduced the amount of black voters in the southern states, since most couldn’t read or write and didn’t have enough money to own property. The racial events of the nineteenth has had a lasting effect on our country that is still felt today. As an example, the United States elected its first non-white African American president. Barack Obama has faced many hurdles in his journey to become president and in his journey as president. There have been racial threats against him and his family. Other political parties even refused to associate themselves with him. Another example of how racial tension has poured over into today’s society is the event that took place in Florida with the Trayvon Martin shooting. Trayvon was shot down by a white man, George Zimmerman, as a self-defense claim. Yet, George was in no danger by this young man. Trayvon’s death occurred because he was young black male and was profiled as such. This tragic event shows that the South still has strong racial roots that have been passed down from generation to generation. Every year there are similar stories that involve the battle the races, and yet in the end, no one really is the winner.
American Experience: TV 's most-watched history series.. (n.d.). PBS. Retrieved November 24, 2013, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/grant-kkk/
Black Codes. (n.d.). History.com. Retrieved November 24, 2013, from http://www.history.com/topics/black-codes
Schultz, K. M. (2013). HIST (3rd ed.). Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth ;.
Second Mississippi Plan. (n.d.). The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/jim-crow-and-great-migration/timeline-terms/second-mississippi-plan
What Was Jim Crow?. (n.d.). What was Jim Crow. Retrieved November 24, 2013, from http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm
References: American Experience: TV 's most-watched history series.. (n.d.). PBS. Retrieved November 24, 2013, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/grant-kkk/ Black Codes. (n.d.). History.com. Retrieved November 24, 2013, from http://www.history.com/topics/black-codes Schultz, K. M. (2013). HIST (3rd ed.). Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth ;. Second Mississippi Plan. (n.d.). The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/jim-crow-and-great-migration/timeline-terms/second-mississippi-plan What Was Jim Crow?. (n.d.). What was Jim Crow. Retrieved November 24, 2013, from http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm