Home » African American » African Americans During Radical Reconstruction Essay

African Americans During Radical Reconstruction Essay

After the Emancipation Proclamation (millions of slaves were freed on January 1, 1863 due to Emancipation Proclamation) and the end of the Civil War, countless African Americans who were once held in bondage were considered free. With slavery demolished, and the once enslaved Africans freed, there came the question of what about the freed African Americans and what would become of the South?

You see, “under the administration of President Andrew Johnson in 1865 and 1866, new southern state legislatures passed restrictive “black codes” (which would prevent blacks from owning land and from getting an education) to control the labor and behavior of former slaves and other African Americans. ” (“Reconstruction”)Then, “during Radical Reconstruction, which began in 1867, newly enfranchised blacks gained a voice in government for the first time in American history, winning election to southern state legislatures and even to the U. S. Congress.

In less than a decade, however, reactionary forces-including the Ku Klux Klan-would reverse the changes wrought by Radical Reconstruction in a violent backlash that restored white supremacy in the South. ” (“Reconstruction”) During the 1860’s and throughout the 1870’s African Americans began to rise taking part in politics and going to school, but as they rose the South became more aggressive and the North became more indifferent to it all and eventually, “all of their (African Americans) gains were undone and by 1877 Reconstruction was declared over. (“A Blood Red Record: the 1890s and American Apartheid”)

African Americans did vote, the numbers of African Americans voting steadily rose, but disenfranchisement soon made it harder for African Americans to vote. Segregation (Jim Crow Laws) also made African American and Caucasians separated, further dividing the races and making everything further unequal. The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendment are all amendments that affected freed African Americans. The Thirteenth Amendment guaranteed that slavery was and is forever abolished.

The Fourteenth Amendment assured equal rights for all individuals who are American citizens. The Fifteenth Amendment stopped anyone from denying a person the right to vote based on their race. With the Thirteenth Amendment all enslaved individuals were freed, this affected their lives because they were being released from captivity and were allowed to have their life back (not the life they would have had in their homeland, but they were given their freedom). Before the amendment was ratified there was still slavery in both Delaware and Kentucky, so those slaves were not freed until after the 13th Amendment.

So, the amendment guaranteed former sla their freedom and from there their lives were changed. They would never be forced back into bondage; these affected the lives of freedmen because from then on they were free and were not to be pushed against their will back into captivity. The Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed the former slaves equal rights, and the amendment was sent out so that the states could ratify the amendment (from the Reconstruction Act of 1867 the ratification of the 14th Amendment was needed along with the state’s new constitution).

This 14th Amendment made is so that every freed person had equal rights, rights they could not be stripped of. The Fifteenth Amendment made it so that all citizens had the equal opportunity to vote and were not denied just because of their race. From there African Americans could not be stopped from voting because of their race, but soon Jim Crow Laws and disenfranchisement soon prevented African Americans from voting. African Americans and Caucasians became further divided with segregation, you see that in public places blacks were assigned to one area while whites to another.

The idea of even though they were separated, they were still getting equal treatment was used, but the idea was a lie that was used to uphold segregation. The case of Plessy v. Ferguson (a example of how segregation went against the idea of equal rights that was pushed out for all citizens), was a major case that first started when a man named Homer Plessy went to board a car that was strictly for whites and he was arrested since, it was supposed to be that whites and blacks were separated but it was considered “equal”. So, in the case Plessy v.

Ferguson in April 1896, “the state of Louisiana argued that the law was necessary to avoid the “danger of friction from too intimate contact” between the races. In separate cars, all citizens enjoyed equal privileges. Plessy’s lawyer, Albion Tourgee, replied that the question was not ‘the equality of the privileges enjoyed, but the right of the state to label one citizen as white and another as colored. ” (“Chapter 20: Industry and Empire. “) With this landmark case, it was ruled that the races could be separated, as long as everything was equal.

So, they segregated people on the grounds of the races being separate, but everything still “equal” or so they said. The Southern Government segregated African Americans by making them sit in separate cars (railroad), while traveling they were arranged in different areas, also they were made to use different public places, and etc. Segregation was even seen in the workplace. “Segregation was also enforced by terror. The threat of lynching poisoned relations between races, and African Americans learned that they could be tortured and killed for committing a crime, talking back, or simply looking the wrong way at a white woman.

Many African American southerners fought segregation with boycotts, lawsuits and disobedience. Segregation was constantly negotiated and challenged, but after 1896 it was backed by the U. S Supreme Court. ” (“Chapter 20: Industry and Empire. “) To prevent African Americans from voting various practices were added in for an individual to be able to vote, which made it the hardest for African Americans (also poor whites) to vote. A literacy test was one of the things required of voters, and it was used as to prevent certain individuals from voting.

The number of voters decreased over time from the 1880’s to the 1890’s, where “in the South, the disappearance of voters was easy to explain. As Jim Crow laws multiplied, southern states disfranchised African Americans (and one out of four whites) by requiring voters to demonstrate literacy, property ownership, or knowledge of the Constitution in order to register. Louisiana added the notorious grandfather clause, which denied the vote to men whose grandfathers were prohibited to vote. (“Chapter 20: Industry and Empire”)

So, to prevent African Americans from voting (even though voting was a right each citizen had and the 15th Amendment was supposed to prohibit anyone from denying a citizen the right to vote) the government would make it difficult for a person to register to vote, by using different practices to stop persons from voting. Not only literacy test and property possession, but poll taxes made it difficult also. By using these practices it didn’t just eliminate African Americans, it eliminated poor individuals from any race from voting.

African Americans were given several rights with the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment, but segregation and disfranchisement infringed on such rights. With the 15th Amendment every citizen of America has the right to vote and no one can deny such a person based on their color, and disfranchisement infringed on the people right to vote with using various practices to stop individuals from registering. For a time the number of African American voters rose, but it soon declined when practices were introduced to stop certain ones for voting.

Practices such as using literacy test, demanding property ownership, using poll taxes and etc. Each of these stopped African Americans from voting, and the number of African American voting plummeted by the 1890’s. Then with the 14th Amendment everyone has equal rights, but segregation infringed on such rights with having people separated into different areas and facilities, with some places being better than others. The case of Plessy v. Ferguson shows how they saw things being “separated” but still considered “equal”, but segregation still violates the 14th Amendment.

I learned that different tactics was used to stop African Americans from voting, and with preventing African Americans from voting they were infringing on the African American right to vote. Then with segregation, with this they were violating the 14th Amendment. Altogether, African American had gained their freedom and had begun to rise up, but soon disfranchisement and segregation (scare tactics to insure segregation) soon pushed against the accomplishments of and for African Americans.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.