|Type of paper:||Research paper|
|Categories:||Discrimination Civil rights|
The aim of this paper is to examine the lives of the African Americans deeply the following reconstruction. The paper argues out that following the reconstruction, the African Americans continued to suffer at the hands of the Whites because the existing systems and the laws did not favor them.
Reconstruction was the time when the government was building the South after the Civil war-wrecked, and it lasted from 1866 to 1877. Its main aim was to reorganize the Southern states after the Civil war hence providing means which it could readmit them into the union while ensuring that the whites and the blacks lived together in the nonslave community (African American Odyssey). It is during the Civil War of 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln announced that slavery must end in the United States, and the Congress, as well as the states, voted to change the constitution hence making slavery illegal. The Northern Victory in the Civil War decided the fate of the Union as well as that of slavery, but it presented numerous problems. With the lack of slave labor, what system of labor would be used; the challenge of uniting the nation and the status of the former slaves (Khan Academy). The end of slavery meant that all the slaves in the south to be set free. Some of the freed slaves decided to leave the plantations, and they moved northwards to work on the railroads, work as cleaners, nannies among other activities including setting up their own businesses. Others, however, went to the West to be cowboys or settlers, while others remained and practiced sharecropping with their owners who had set them free (Khan Academy)
The civil war, marked the beginning of a long struggle for freedom among the African Americans in the United States, with regards to participation in politics and acquiring civil rights (History.com). A majority of them worked as slaves especially in the south, and a majority of them especially who worked in the plantations were oppressed. The Reconstruction that began after the Civil War was a sign of hope to many African Americans because it indicated that they would now be free to live better just like the whites. Little did they know that the struggle for freedom had just began. According to Khan Academy (n.p) even after the slaves in the south were freed, a majority of them stayed where they were before because they did not own any land, and the white people attacked those that had tried to acquire land.
A majority of the freed folks kept on planting and picking cotton, and they became sharecroppers instead of slaves, but to them it did not make so much difference only that there were not so many beatings as before and one could live with their families, as they were not taken away (Du Bois 32). The white individuals still terrify the African Americans because they killed them for almost nothing. Regarding the court systems in the south following the reconstruction, no change had taken place. No white judge would send a white man to prison for killing a black man and the whites still killed the black forks without any form of trial (History.com). This highly indicates that oppression, even without slavery had not abandoned the African Americans.
The southern states viewed reconstruction as a humiliating and a vengeful imposition on them and hence did not welcome it, as expected by the northern states. It should be observed that although the African Americans in the South were free, the provisions for them were scarce. The forty acres and a mule program were rolled out, and a minority of the blacks succeeded to establish farms, and they began to sustain themselves (History.com). However, this did not last long because the white landowners who had been stripped of their lands petitioned for the return and even in the North where they had favored the emancipation started to lose interest in the plight of the black man. The racist feelings according to Du Bois (487 ) reached a fever pitch, and the whites began feeling that the whites in the north cared more about the blacks in the south than their own. To respond to the racial violence and lynching in the south, a policy was signed to allow those who petitioned for their lands to be returned to be handed back to them thus causing the blacks to be stripped of the lands they had been given, and returning them to become labourers with very low wages (History.com).
The years after the war the black and white teachers from the north, and the south as well as the churches, missionary organizations and schools worked without rest, thus giving the emancipated populations the opportunity to learn (African American Odyssey). The former slaves in the south took this to the advantage including an opportunity to become literate. Everyone from the grandparents to grandchildren sat in classrooms seeking the tools for freedom (Du Bois 84). The Thirteenth, Fourteenth and the Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution, as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1866, was protected, and during this period, every American enjoyed a period which they were allowed to vote and participate actively in a political process. This was short lasting, because, the opponents in the south would soon rally against the former slaves and find means of eroding the gains that have caused people to shed their blood while fighting for it (African American Odyssey). From this statement, it can be noted that African Americans had just been given a test of freedom, and they were not about to let go, including the chance to be literate like a majority of the white Americans (African American Odyssey). The Black churches doomed the centerpieces of the African American culture as well as the community, and not only the places of the personal spiritual renewal and communal worship. They were also the centers where the blacks would learn, socialize and organized politically (African American Odyssey). It is to be observed that the Black ministers were the community leaders, who led people not only to spiritual growth but ensuring that they remained united as a community.
According to Du Bois (431).one of the most critical aspects of reconstruction was the active participation of the African Americans in social, political and the economic life of the south. During this era, there was a great extent as defined by the African Americans' quest for autonomy as well as having equal rights under the law not only as individuals but as a black community. It is during the reconstruction that 2000 African Americans held a public office, from the local levels up to the Senate although they did not achieve government representations proportionate to their numbers (Du Bois 433). With high black voter turnouts, the Whites were threatened, both in the north and South, and this made their laws that had been passed previously to be repealed, and thus made the black senators that had been elected to be violently attacked and even thrown out.
With the establishment of the white supremacy movement KKK (Ku Klux Klan) the African American leaders were terrorized in the south, and with the Congress passing that legislation leasing to their arrest and imprisonment, it ended the Klan's terrorism of the Americans for a time (Khan Academy). But after their withdrawal in the 1860s, and throughout the 1870s, various states withdrew the government military presence, and with the 1887 compromise, President Rutherford B. Hayes ordered the last of the federal troops in the south to be withdrawn, and hence there was no one to enforce the Fourteen and the Eighteenth Amendments respectively. The south lynched, disenfranchised and the segregationist laws proliferated. Because the Whites could no longer label the black laborers, they turned to other means of oppression, which included segregation. It is evident according to Du Bois (528) that many Africans during this period felt that the constitution was meaningless in the hands of the whites and that every citizen was created equal unless he or she was black.
It is theoretically true that following Reconstruction, the African Americans were no longer owned by other humans and they were nominally free (History.com). Based on the observation and critique of literature it can be stated that they were "free" but still living under the mercies of the whites. Following reconstruction, the tensions between the blacks and the whites continued to stir, even years after. The social tensions were defined regarding rich versus poor, native-born versus immigrant and capitalist versus worker. A few African Americans found work with the steel mills and the iron foundries, but they were rejected in the textile mills which was the South's major industry, and instead, white women and children were hired (History.com). There was a notion that the blacks were lazy, ignorant and shiftless. A majority of the blacks remained as sharecroppers or tenant farmers (Khan Academy). This indicates that the black communities continued to remain poor, and hence forced to work as laborers with very small wages (Du Bois 528). Even with the end of reconstruction in 1876, the blacks were not about to give up on the struggle for their freedom including political freedom (Du Bois 715).
Although the blacks in the south could not join unions led by the whites, the formed their unions, and it saw them fighting for their labor rights including increased wages among other labor freedoms. The blacks continued to educate themselves as they went to school despite the racial segregation. The black churches remained united, and they remained socially active among themselves. The struggle to deal with the revolution during that period that was ushered by the eradication of slavery continued in the south long after 1876. A century later, the reconstruction would be revived, and this time, it would be in 1960 when the African Americans would fight for social, economic and political equity that had been denied them for long periods of time. It would revive a long struggle for equity, which is still witnessed in the United States up to date.
African American Odyssey. "Reconstruction and Its Aftermath." Memory. Gov. N.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2018.
Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt, ed. Black Reconstruction in America: Toward a history of the part which black folk played in the attempt to reconstruct democracy in America, 1860-1880. Routledge, 2017.
HISTORY.com. "Black Leaders During Reconstruction - American Civil War." HISTORY.com. N.d., Web. 24 Feb. 2018.
Khan Academy. "Life After Slavery For African Americans." Khan Academy. N.p., 2018. Web. 24 Feb. 2018.
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