July 25, 2013
01.06 Face of Freedom
"Explain how freedoms for African Americans were socially, politically, and economically limited from 1865 to 1900?"
The period after the Civil War seemed full of promise for African Americans. New constitutional amendments seemed to open up the doors of opportunity for formerly enslaved people. The Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery, while the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments guaranteed equal treatment and voting rights to African Americans. But, within a few years, African Americans found that their new rights came with some limitations. State laws were passed that weakened these constitutional amendments. Few liberated African Americans could escape the violence, poverty, and discrimination – All supported by the government. This caused the freedoms of African Americans to be limited socially, politically, and economically from 1865 to 1900.
Generally, the freedoms of African Americans were limited socially from 1865 to 1900. Southern states passed laws that increased racial discrimination. In Plessy v. Ferguson, the court upheld segregation as being lawful. As long as the services provided to white and black citizens were of equal quality, it was legal for the races to be separated. However, the services provided to blacks were not of the same quality of the services provided to whites. Segregated Southern schools educated white students and African American students, but the white students had new textbooks and clean, well-lighted facilities. African Americans had no choice to make use out of torn books that were outdated. Also, in black schools, hundreds of baclks were stuffed into a single room. Leaving the South seemed to be the only option for many blacks that were fed up.
In addition, the freedoms of African Americans were limited politically from 1865 to 1900. Literacy tests and poll taxes were used to keep black voters away from ballot boxes. Some states limited the right to vote to those who could pass a literacy test. Often, white voters were given easier passages than African Americans. White election officials had the final say on whether a potential voter passed the test, and the system was blatantly biased. The government also kept African Americans from voting through poll taxes. This annual tax was required to be paid before a vote could be cast and, sharecroppers (blacks) often did not have enough money to pay the tax. To allow only white citizens to cast ballots, many Southern states created a grandfather clause which stated that anyone whose father or grandfather had been eligible to vote before January 1, 1867 was guaranteed the right to vote. That date was important because before that time, freed slaves did not have the right to vote. Poll taxes, literacy test, and the grandfather excluded many African Americans from participating politically.
Finally, the freedoms of African Americans were limited economically from 1865 to 1900. Soon after Reconstruction ended, more than 50,000 African Americans moved west toward Kansas and the Oklahoma territory. African Americans faced segregation and discrimination in many northern cities as well. Labor union leaders who did not want them as members discriminated against African Americans because they feared blacks would take their jobs. Real estate agents kept blacks from buying homes in certain neighborhoods and, business owners hired African Americans only if no other labor source was available. So, hiring blacks was always the last option. African American workers were often the first ones fired when business slowed. These were just a few of many challenges that African Americans had to face. The freedoms of African Americans were limited from 1865 to 1900 and, the struggles of African Americans continued into the 20th century.