Post Civil War Life of African Americans

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Slavery is a tough time in history for Americans to look back on, but it doesn't mean we get to erase it from history. Beginning in the mid-1600s the enslavement of African Americans began. Slave owners were brutal and stripped their slaves of their humanity. As the Northern part of the country began to thrive industrially, the South continued to stick with their old ways. As time persisted, the tension between the North and South grew stronger due to thoughts on slaves. In 1861 the Civil War began and lasted four long years. The war was between the North and South and went down in history as the war with the most casualties. Six-hundred and twenty thousand American Soldiers died due to starvation, disease, and combat. As the end result, the North was victorious, resulting in freedom for African Americans. As slaves walked free, they soon were confronted with many issues such as their rights, jobs, segregation, and economic struggles.

President Lincoln issued a preliminary emancipation proclamation. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln deemed it official that slaves within any state, or designated part of a state in rebellion, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free. (Civil War and Emancipation,1861) Thus slaves were free to walk, except a handful of slaveowners continued to work their slaves. Apart from those few, three billion black slaves walked free, causing the south to lose the bulk of its labor forces, also putting a delt in the souths stability during the war. (Civil War and Emancipation,1861) About 186,000 black soldiers joined the Union Army in combat. The war ended in a victory for the union, guaranteeing freedom for some four million slaves. (Civil War and Emancipation,1861)

The 13th Amendment was adopted in late 1865. It abolished slavery but the questionable status of freed blacks remained. (Civil War and Emancipation,1861) As the south began to reestablish civil authority in 1865 and 1866, they created a series of laws better known as the black codes. The codes were designed to restrict the freedom of blacks and ensure their availability as a labor force. (Civil War and Emancipation,1861) ( Contrary to the Black Codes, the Federal Government created the Freedman's Bureau. The Bureau was established in 1865 by Congress. It was designed to help millions of former black slaves and poor whites in the South who were stuck in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Bureau provided food, shelter, and medical aid. It established schools and offered legal assistance. It also attempted to help ex-slaves live on land which had been abandoned or confiscated during the war.

However, the Freedman's Bureau was unable to carry out its programs due to reconstruction, racial politics and a lack of funds. The parish of Lafayette was the double murder of Daniel Lanet and Alexander Snaer who were business partners. The two were murdered by four black in their store during a robbery. (Vandal, Gilles, 1997) The four men set fire to the store and later on, the murdered men were discovered. Three of the men were caught and executed by a lynch mob of over a thousand people, but the fourth man escaped being hung, through telling the truth. (Vandal, Gilles, 1997) Murders during robberies were a new phenomenon and were seen as a major characteristic of the post-Civil War era. These crimes were seen as the direct consequence of emancipation. Many blacks refused to work on plantations again and they struggled to find work for making a living. The alternative was being petty thefts, grand larceny, and robbery. (Vandal, Gilles, 1997)

All of these crimes became part of their everyday lives. On the other hand, whites struggled to adjust to the new social and economic conditions. Whites felt increasingly insecure before what they thought as the inability of the civil authorities to cope with the wave of property crimes. Hundreds of whites periodically joined lynching parties. (Vandal, Gilles, 1997) They saw mob violence as their only resort to correct an intolerable situation. The civil war brought the emancipation of slaves along with a new land of economic ruin and social disruption.(Vandal, Gilles, 1997)

Post Civil War, violence became popular, especially among one group who was refered to as the KKK or the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was initially a large rural organization made up of people from lower social classes. The second klan is recognized as having a social and political movement which attracted the support of white Protestants across the social spectrum. African Americans were the main targets but the klan was also after Catholics, Jews, Immigrants, and alleged moral offenders. The KKK was not merely a hate group. (Lay, Shawn, 2001) Alabama Klansmen were advocates of better public schools, effective prohibition enforcement, expanded road construction, and other initiatives. By the mid-1920s the klan evolved into a powerful political force in Alabama. (Lay, Shawn, 2001) Big political figures like J. Thomas Heflin, David Bibb Graves, and Hugo Black had joined the Klan and successfully wielded the votes against industrialists and Black Belt planters which dominated state politics. (Lay, Shawn, 2001) KKK members were confident that they had governmental protection and that they launched an unprecedented wave of physical terror across Alabama, targeting both blacks and whites. (Lay, Shawn, 2001) Traditional business and political leaders struck back against the Klan and officials began to crack down on Klan violence. The Alabama Klan was defeated in the Hoovercrat revolt of 1928. Despite the defeat, a significant Klan continued throughout the 1930s and 1940. (Lay, Shawn, 2001)

Segregation continued throughout the country but in the 60s, there was an end to discrimination and segregation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the passage that ended racial segregation and it came into act in the year of 1964. The most obvious impact of the act was the elimination of racial discrimination in public places. Five months later, Lyndon Johnson, the successor of John F. Kennedy, signed the 1963-1964 civil rights bill. The bill came into law and the supreme court ruled that the commerce clause of the Constitution allowed Congress to obtain all the legal power to integrate hotels, restaurants and other public places, into the bill. (Hubert H. Humphrey; Joseph L. Rauh Jr. et al., 1997) Along with new accommodations for African Americans and other minorities in the public, the Civil Rights Act instituted the cut of of U.S Government funds to governmental programs.

These programs were programs which practiced discrimination. The people behind this provision has hoped that the need/desire for money would inspire the state and local government in all states but specifically the southern states. (Hubert H. Humphrey; Joseph L. Rauh Jr. et al., 1997) Congress used the cutoff as a way to get state governments to agree with the congressional law. When Congress passed legislation guaranteeing equal access to public facilities for women and the physically handicapped.

Although the most obvious impact was the destruction of discrimination, some people would argue that the increase in equal employment opportunity. (Hubert H. Humphrey; Joseph L. Rauh Jr. et al., 1997) After the act, there was an immediate increase in jobs in factories and offices, many women and other minorities worked these jobs. The U.S. professional workforce went from being a mostly white male to having increased proportions of women and minorities. (Hubert H. Humphrey; Joseph L. Rauh Jr. et al., 1997)

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Post Civil War Life Of African Americans. (2019, May 23). Retrieved July 16, 2024 , from

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