The bell curve of African American rights has risen and fallen throughout America’s history. The period between the Pre-Civil War Era and the Post Civil War Era, were momentous in displaying the status and rights of African-Americans in the time. As the Civil War approached, the status of African-Americans was an increasingly troubling issue among the American Public. During the War, the bell’s curve had reached its height. And during the Post-Civil War, the curve fell slowly and would not rise again for another 100 years. The cause of this racial bell curve is a series of political and social events that directly affected the lives of African Americans.
The Compromise of 1850 marked the initial rise of Black loss of rights in this period. Previously, it was possible for Northerners to ferry slaves to their freedom. However, “Included in the compromise were funds budgeted specifically for catching fugitive slaves and prosecuting anyone lending assistance in the effort” (Kevin Holloway, The Fugitive Slave Act and the Compromise of 1850). With specific funds that were directed in catching fugitive slaves, white bounty hunters could freely raid the North and search for fugitive slaves. These brutal hunters could now abduct any Black person left alone. Many Blacks that were never in bondage were kidnapped and taken to the South to be slaves. This legislation limited the rights of African Americans and enabled the white populous to oppress African Americans.
The bell curve approached its peak when the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was introduced to American Culture. This novel, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, was a revelation to the North because it displayed the cruelty of the southern trade practice. This single piece of literature created uproar throughout the country. The North was outraged by its tale of tragedy, deceit and hate. The South was outraged by its conception of slavery and its bashing of the southern culture. Either way, it marked an event in American History that would change history forever. African American status was now a major issue among Americans. Abraham Lincoln, in remarks to her book, once said to Harriet Beecher Stowe, “So you are the little lady that caused the big war.” The quote displays the impact in which this one novel brought a social war into the eyes of the public.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was responsible for the increase in the abolitionist movement. Supporters of the abolitionist rallied through the country. One man, a man named John Brown seized this opportunity and believed that he would start a slave uprising. His raid on Harpers Ferry, a federal arsenal, was a failure because his belief that slaves would up rise after the attack was false. This movement instilled fear throughout the South that a slave uprising, or some sort of rebellion would be imminent. The Bell Curve was nearly at its peak; tensions were high, and social well being in danger.
When the shots rang out at Fort Sumter, North Carolina, the bell curve reached its peak. The Civil war began the political and social reform of the American society. For whites, the war began in order to support the existence of the of Union. For blacks, the war was a crusade to free their people. Black soldiers were often given poor supplies and munitions. Their lives were meaningless and were inferior to that of the white soldier. In the South, captured Black Union Soldiers were often executed, while the whites permitted to live. The Blacks were fighting for the Union, but they did not know why. They believed they were supporting a cause that would help them. Abraham Lincoln would not take this into account until he realized the political gain in supporting the abolition of slavery may suggest.
The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was the climax of the Bell Curve. Abraham Lincoln realized the political possibilities of creating a Emancipation Proclamation. He could win the favor of Britain, and continue support of the war in the North. His wise political decision enabled the Black race to be free from the chains of slavery. That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.(Emancipation Proclamation) All blacks that were slaves in the rebelling territories were now free. The tension about the well being of the black race was loosening. The world had changed. When the war ended, the 13th amendment was added to the Constitution. “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 or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (Thirteenth Amendment of Constitution). With this amendment, which was fueled by the Emancipation Proclamation, Black rights were at a better state than ever before.
After the 14th amendment was established, which stated that all naturalized persons were American Citizens, laws to restrict the Black rights movements developed throughout the South. The Black Codes were the first of laws to discriminate against African Americans. These codes or laws restricted the lives of the freed slaves socially and economically. The second type of laws established were the Jim Crow Laws that created a “Separate But Equal” system of segregation that isolated the Blacks from the rest of society. Poll taxes, literacy tests, and other government tricks were also used to subdue Black voting. Although these injustices had occurred, it was still better than slavery, and that is why the Bell’s Curve continued to decline.
The primary reason for the decline of the Bell Curve is because of the existing protections that coexisted with the discriminatory laws. The Freedman’s Bureau was created by Lincoln to educate the Freemen, and to make sure that the Blacks were not totally stripped of their rights. Along with the Freedmen Bureau, various laws and codes were passed (that had little effect) that also protected the rights of Blacks. After the Civil War, it was a time of Reconstruction. The Black Slave Factor was eliminated; blacks were now ignored and would not be heard for another 100 years. The bell’s curve fell.
Between the Pre-Civil War and Post Civil War periods, the rights and social place of Blacks had risen and fell similarly to that of the curve of a bell. The height of the curve reached its peak during the war, and fell after. The Compromise of 1850, Uncle Toms Cabin, and John Brown’s rebellion all marked the rise in the bell curve. The Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamtion marked the peak in the bell curve. The 13th and 14th amendments, along with the Jim Crow laws and the establishment of the Freedmen’s Bureau all marked the decline in the Bell curve. 100 years later, the bell’s curve would reach its climax once again during the Civil Rights Movement, and once again, fall.