African Americans History & Politics 1865-2000 Constitutional Amendments 1865

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African Americans

History & Politics 1865-2000

Constitutional Amendments 1865

  1. 13th: abolishes slavery “except as punishment for a crime”

  2. 14th: all persons born or naturalized in the US have rights of citizenship regardless of race, religion, national origin, or previous condition of servitude

  3. 15th: right of men to vote regardless of race etc.

Race, Gender and 14th & 15th Amendments

  1. Battles over the 15th amendment split women’s rights and Blacks’ rights advocates

  2. 14th and 15th amendments do not apply to non-White immigrants because they are not allowed to become naturalized

  3. but do apply to non-Whites born in the US

  4. this becomes an important part of Asian American politics

1865-1876 Reconstruction

  1. Union army occupies the south.

  2. Blacks vote. Whites who have been in Rebel army cannot. Black elected officials.

  3. Some reforms. Some improvement for Blacks. Some land reform (has future effects)

  4. Much turmoil, resistance. Attempts by Whites to re-create racial domination

  5. Conflicts around 15th amendment disrupt the previous coalition between feminists and supporters of African-American rights.

Blacks/ African Americans: The White Counter-Revolution

The End of Reconstruction

  1. Compromise of 1876 ends Reconstruction to break election deadlock, elect Hayes.

  2. Union army leaves the south, agreement to let southerners do what they will about race. White southerners can vote again.

  3. Healing” White nation by sacrificing Blacks

  4. Denials that the war was about slavery

  5. [Later, Confederate soldiers are even made eligible for US veterans’ pensions with the same standing as Union soldiers]

1877 - 1920 Era of Explicit Racism

  1. Slavery was over, but a new racial order was created

  2. It was created by using proxies for race, circumventing the strictures of the 14th amendment

  3. Origins teach you how a system was built, once in place hard to see why things are as they are


  1. 90% of all Blacks live in rural areas, 90% in south

  2. most in cotton farming, dependent on landowners, subject to violent repression.

  3. Lynchings and KKK terrorism increase

  4. KKK = local White authorities in sheets

  5. Blacks demand reparations for slavery immediately after the war. (Whites ignore.)

  6. Some emigrationism, 500+ actually emigrate to Liberia. Most want to stay.

Creating the New Racial Order

  1. 1880s - 1890s Southern states pass Jim Crow segregation laws.

  2. 1893 Plessey vs Furgeson, "Separate but Equal," US Supreme Court effectively guts the 14th amendment.

  3. Failure of land reform. White elites reconsolidate class privilege

Politics & Race

  1. Democratic Party = alliance of southern White planters and northern industrialists and working class.

  2. Republican Party anti-slavery in 1850s (Lincoln).

  3. 1876-1891 debate whether to support Black rights

  4. after 1891 abandon Black rights entirely

  5. Populist movement threatens trans-racial alliance among southern working class

  6. elite Whites work to disenfranchise Blacks (and working class) to eliminate threat.

Black Disenfranchisement

  1. No disguise, overt White efforts to disenfranchise Blacks, but accomplish racial goals without explicitly using race (which is illegal)

  2. Example: Louisiana, 130,344 Blacks registered in 1895, after constitution rewritten, only 5,000 in 1898 and 1,772 in 1916.

  3. Poll taxes, literacy requirements, personal and periodic registration at difficult-to-reach places, White primaries. “Grandfather clause” protects Whites.

  4. Blacks lose all political power.

  5. Same tools in the north disenfranchise White workers especially immigrants.

1895-1920 Virulent Racism

  1. Presidents Taft and Wilson are explicit racists

  2. US Supreme Court guts the 14th amendment

  3. Hundreds of African Americans are lynched (murdered) in the south.

  4. "Scientific racism" is taught in college science classrooms. This ideology distinguishes northern Aryan from southern Europeans, as well as what we now understand as "races."

  5. Explicit opposition to any form of mixing of "races.“ Intermarriage illegal. Includes Asians

Black Resistance 1880-1920

  1. There is resistance to Jim Crow.

  2. Bus boycotts & consumer boycotts against segregation in the cities.

  3. Petitions, speeches. Rhetoric of citizenship, equality.

  4. Northern, educated Blacks speak out for equality, citizenship. But lose 1880-1920


  1. Pockets of Black development

  2. Black migration (cowboys; movements into cities)

  3. Black schools, colleges

  4. Black political movements

  5. Too weak in this era to win, but set up the future (we will return to these)

Insert Strategies of Resistance Here

20th Century African American History

Historical Overview

  1. 1880-1920 Racism strong, Blacks lose

  2. 1920-1954 Moderate progress for Blacks

  3. 1954 – 1965 Civil Rights Era “The Second American Revolution.”

  4. 1965-1980 Consolidation of Black gains, battles over implementation + “White backlash”

  5. 1980s-2000. Black political influence erodes. Improvement for Black middle class + decline for Black lower class.


  1. 1916-1925 Marcus Garvey. Back to Africa. Militant separatist, Black capitalist. Black religious icons.

  2. 1919 Bloody race riots in many cities, Whites attacking and killing Blacks.

  3. 1920s NAACP under James Weldon Johnson begins the concerted campaign of lawsuits to chip away at segregation,

  4. begin the path towards Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka (1954).

  5. Early victories provide resources that increase Black education.


  1. 1920s - 1940s. A. Philip Randolph. Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Strong Black union, political platform.

  2. 1920s - 1930s Blacks shift voting patterns, become potential swing voters.

  3. From “knee-jerk Republicans” (holdover from 19th century, Republicans anti-slavery, Lincoln freed the slaves) to willing to vote for whomever supports them and their issues.

  4. 1936 Blacks play a key role in Roosevelt’s New Deal Coalition. Become significant political players.


  1. 1941 threatened March on Washington, led by Randolph. Called off when FDR agrees to ban racial discrimination in war industries.

  2. 1942-1945 World War II. Political watershed

  3. 1945-1960. Post-war politics. Communism and anti-Communism. “Hearts and Minds” Anti-colonialism, independence for African nations. US racial policies become international embarrassment.

What Changed between 1880 and 1960?

Major source:

Doug McAdam. Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency. University of Chicago Press, 1982.

The Great Migration:
Rural South to Urban North & South

  1. 1890 Blacks are 90% rural, 90% southern. No political leverage. Economically dependent. Illiterate. Threat of numbers in southern areas leads to extreme measures to keep them suppressed.

  2. Between 1900 and 1960 Blacks Move:

  3. South to North. From 90% southern in 1900 to 60% in 1960.

  4. Rural to Urban. Southern Blacks: from 9% urban in 1890 and 34% in 1930 to 58% in 1960. The 40% of Blacks in the north are virtually all urban.

Consequences of Urbanization

  1. Voting in North. Swing votes, parts of political machines. Black Congressmen.

  2. Less daily domination. More able to gather without White oversight. Positive consequence of physical segregation.

  3. Able to support independent Black professionals (ministers, morticians, barbers & hairdressers).

  4. Economic independence=political independence.

  5. Rising education, income, political awareness

  6. Black newspapers, magazines, news sources.

Organizational Infrastructure Grows

  1. Black Churches. Larger, can support full-time ministers. Autonomous, Blacks control.

  2. Social gospel movement = role of church in society.

  3. Black Colleges. Lawsuits force the equal part of separate but equal. Obtain White money. Massive growth in educated youth. Students economically independent of Whites

  4. NAACP is a White-dominated organization at the national level, but a Black grassroots organization at the local level mobilized to support & defend Blacks.

Rising Political Influence

  1. 1865-1920 those Blacks who could vote were staunchly Republican (the anti-slavery party, Lincoln freed the slaves). But after 1880, Republicans do nothing for Black rights

  2. In 1920s, NAACP and others urge Blacks to vote for whatever party will support Black rights, proportion voting Democrat goes up

  3. In 1930s, Blacks are part of Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition, get some benefits; Eleanor Roosevelt supports more strongly

Rising Education

  1. Growth in Black education & Black colleges a direct result of NAACP litigation in the 1920s and 1930s

  2. Court cases forced the “equal” in “separate but equal”

  3. Southern states had to pay for Black education to defend segregation (but Blacks still lagged way behind Whites)

  4. These lawsuits also laid the groundwork for 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education


  1. Cognitive liberation” = belief that change is possible (McAdam)

  2. Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954: hope that change was possible, federal government would intervene.

  3. Blacks more positive about Whites in the Civil Rights era, believed Whites were ready to change

  4. Blacks more integrationist when Whites seem willing to change & are open to integration and power sharing, are more separatist when Whites are more racist and conservative

Politics 1930-1960

  1. After 1930, Blacks become increasingly important “swing vote” in some northern areas, part of the New Deal coalition

  2. Blacks voting predominantly but not uniformly Democrat 1930-1960

  3. 1960 both Republicans and Democrats are backing Civil Rights AND trying to gain White southern votes.

  4. 1960 Close election, Kennedy vs. Nixon. Kennedy wins, Blacks seen as swing vote. Kennedy gives support to civil rights, while trying to keep White southern vote.

The Civil Rights Era 1954-1969

Events & Themes


  1. 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education. Bans segregation, but allows graduate implementation.

  2. 1954 Emmett Till murdered. Widespread publicity among Blacks.

  3. 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, rise of Martin Luther King, Jr. Nation-wide publicity.

  4. 1950s Malcolm X preaching on the streets of Harlem.

  5. 1957 Martin Luther King, Jr. founds Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)

White Resistance 1950s

  1. 1954-1970 (and continuing?) White resistance. Violence against Blacks, close public schools, mobilize organizations

  2. 1957. White riots at Little Rock High (Arkansas) to block small-scale integration. US Troops protect integration.

  3. 1954-1960s NAACP persecuted in south. Banned as “Communist.” Teachers, others fired for being members. (Same people who were members of NAACP involved in other Black organizations, involved in Black churches.)

The Civil Rights Advance 1960s

  1. 1960- Sit-ins start (SNCC = Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee)

  2. 1961 Freedom Rides (CORE=Congress of Racial Equality)

  3. 1963-65 major civil rights marches, major civil rights legislation

  4. 1963 March on Washington

  5. 1963 Kenney killed. President Johnson (a southerner) vows to be the “civil rights president.”

  6. 1964 Public Accommodations Act

Drama of Civil Rights

  1. Movement uses nonviolence, claims moral high ground

  2. Segregationists respond violently

  3. Confrontation leads to disruption

  4. Federal government, economic elites want peace, less committed to segregation.

  5. Disruption + moral high ground of non-violence leads “bystanders” to support the Black movement.

  6. However, many blame the movement for “causing” the violence by challenging people known to be violent

Separatism 1960s

  1. Nation of Islam (Black Muslims) Elijah Muhammad.

  2. 1960 TV show: “The Hate that Hate Produced.” Expose, controversy

  3. Malcolm X: most visible. Charismatic, articulate. Rejected non-violence, said Blacks should defend themselves if attacked

  4. Controversial among Blacks as well as Whites


  1. Freedom Summer. White college students go south. Civil rights workers killed.

  2. Battle over the Mississippi delegation to national convention. Fanny Lou Hamer “Is this America?”

  3. Johnson re-elected. The shift of the White racist vote to the Republican Party.

  4. Malcolm X travels to Mecca, embraces nonracial Islam, changes his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz


  1. Watts riot 1965.

  2. 1963-1968 Black urban riots. Militancy. Northern/ western. Policing, poverty – not just “rights.” White fears.

  3. 1965 Malcolm X assassinated

  4. 1965 Selma, the last big civil rights march. Voting Rights Act

  5. 1966 “Black power” Stokeley Charmichael and SNCC. Marginalization of Whites in the movement. Power rhetoric frightens Whites.

The End of the Civil Rights Era

  1. 1966-1967 King takes the movement north. Much less success. “Where Do We Go From Here?” Stresses need to address economic issues

  2. 1968 ML King assassinated. Huge wave of riots.

  3. 1966-1971 White students increasing involved in anti-war movement. White campus riots over the Vietnam war.

  4. 1969 Nixon. “Law and order.” The beginning of the decline of Black political influence.

Timing of Black Protests, Riots

Issues addressed by Movement

Anger and Polarization

  1. White segregationists resisted even moderate reforms

  2. Non-violence as tactic (vs religious principle for MLK)

  3. Growing Black activist anger at White reactions

  4. Segregation laws a narrow goal: cannot address the economic, political, cultural deprivation of a people

  5. Riots 1963-1970: Eruptions of the Black lower classes. White responsiveness + White fear

  6. Belief in possibility of race war by late 1960s

  7. Black turn to separatism, “Black power,” “Black pride” magnifies themes long present in the culture

  8. White flight. Race-coded “law and order” & “anti-crime” rhetoric.

Black prison admissions & disparity rise 1940-1980

Black Movement Since 1970

Politics 1964-2000

  1. 1964 election pits strong Civil Rights activist LB Johnson against far right conservative Goldwater. Self-conscious racists shift to Republicans, Democrats come to be viewed as the party of Blacks & civil rights.

  2. 1968 – 2000 Blacks vote Democratic 95%+. Republicans ignore the Black vote, seek to shore up the White vote with “race coded” appeals. Democrats take Black vote for granted, chase White votes.

1970s Part 1

  1. Implementation struggles. White resistance changes form.

  2. Black political organizations become part of the “system.”

  3. Affirmative action policies are initiated

  4. Cultural nationalism grows: Black (Afro-American) studies departments; Kwanza invented

  5. Black progress: reduced poverty, increased education, increased college enrollment.

Mobilization precedes external funding

1970s Part 2

  1. Generally difficult economic times: stagflation, gas lines. Political left declines, White activists involved in environmentalism, anti-nuclear.

  2. White backlash.” Anti-busing riots oppose school integration: Boston, Louisville. Rhetoric of “neighborhood schools” & racial attacks.

  3. War on drugs” begins, Black imprisonment climbs.

  4. White working class, not Blacks, are the swing votes.

  5. Split in Nation of Islam 1975: most follow W. Deen Muhammad into mainstream non-racial Islam; Louis Farrakhan leads separatist splinter)

1980s Part 1

  1. Reaganism. Conservatives strike back. Huge cuts in welfare, college scholarship programs, low-income housing, other social programs. Large tax cuts, S&L bailout create deficits.

  2. The effective end of federal support for affirmative action in employment. Whites even use MLK’s equality rhetoric against Blacks.

  3. Recessions. “When White America has a cold, Black America has pneumonia.” Economic disaster in segregated Black urban areas: unemployment, poverty, hunger, infant mortality, segregation, crime all rise.

1980s part 2

  1. Black high school graduation continues to rise, but Black college enrollments drop.

  2. White flight. Limited progress in school integration begins to reverse. By end of the decade, schools are as segregated in 1990 as in 1960. (Trend continues into the 2000s.)

  3. Race coded use of crime as a political issue: “Willie Horton” 1988.

  4. Politicized “drug war” leads to massive incarceration of African Americans.

Black Prison admissions & disparity 1983-1999

1990s Economics

  1. Early 1990s recession followed by long period of boom.

  2. Late 1990s low unemployment, growing wealth of the top 20% (especially top 1%) of the population.

  3. Declining real incomes since the 1970s of the bottom 60%, especially the bottom 40%, with only a slight rise at the end of the decade, decline with 2000s recession. Rise in homelessness of families, particularly of Black families.

  4. Dismantling of the last vestiges of a social welfare system. There is no “safety net” for the poor, few supports for the “working poor.”

  5. Growing self-segregation of the affluent: well-off people rarely even see non-affluent people. More economic segregation than in any prior period.

1990s Race

  1. Growing Black middle class, college educated. Largely segregated in Black middle class areas, as Whites flee even non-poor Blacks.

  2. Declining economic well-being of Black lower class.

  3. Simultaneous growth of integrated, non-racist consciousness among Whites AND of renewed “respectability” of overtly racist images, jokes, language.

  4. Explicit White racist movements growing.

1990s Events

  1. 1992 Rodney King beating & trial. Major shift in the anger of the Black middle class.

  2. 1992 Clinton elected.

  3. 1995 Million Man March. Louis Farrakahn and the Black masses.

  4. Growing Afrocentrism, separatism among middle class Black families. Kwanza celebrations spread. (Note: Most Blacks are Christian; Kwanza is a cultural celebration, not religious.)

  5. 1995 OJ Simpson trial.

  6. 1995. Oklahoma City bombing by White right-wing anti-government terrorist.

Some Themes of the late 1990s & early 2000s

  1. Continuing increases in anti-crime rhetoric, building more prisons

  2. Declining high school graduation for Blacks after gains of the 1970s

  3. Growing segregation

  4. Lack of political unity among Black movement organizations

  5. Debates about affirmative action

The 2000s

  1. Close election dramatizes problems of voter registration, unequal voting procedures, disenfranchisement of felons.

  2. WTC attack of 9/11/2001 – “war.” Implications for African Americans unclear.

  3. Economic downturn – consequences for African Americans?

  4. Attacks on Affirmative Action in college admissions (the last place where it still exists)

  5. Supreme Court rules strict “formulas” cannot be used, but race may be considered qualitatively

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