Emancipation Led To Increased Inequality Essay, Research Paper
The ratification of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments prompted the beginning of a new era for Negro men and women. The intent of the constitutional additions were to create an environment in which the black man could live in equality with the white man. This was not the case. While the amendments provided a starting point for political equality, the social inequality was raised to a more distant level. Further, state legislation served as a check to the constitution. No longer was the need for slavery the rationale behind labeling blacks as inferior. A new mentality of discrimination based on ignorance and hatred was established. It was this mentality that actually decreased racial equality.
“Aye, the very fact that the Negro has been used to defeat this rebellion and strike down the standards of the Confederacy will be a stimulus to all their hatred, to all their malice, and lead them to legislate with greater stringency towards this class than ever before.”1 Abraham Lincoln created a new war effort in the later stages of the Civil War. Previously the war was labeled as a “war to save the Union.” To put pressure on the South he passed the Emancipation Proclamation, changing the war to an effort to free the slaves. The conclusion of the war brought the South to believe that blacks were the ultimate reason for the Southern failure. Enter ignorance and hatred. Racism became a way for the South to lay blame on someone other than themselves. This blame came many forms. The most effective were political and social barriers imposed by those against racial equality. These included Jim Crow laws and methods to promote segregation. In essence the newly emancipated blacks lived in a society that was progressing to a more unequal state.
“I regard it as cowardly and dishonest for any of our colored men to tell white people of colored people that we are not struggling for equality. If money, education, and honesty will not bring to me as much privilege, as much equality as they bring to any American citizen, then they are to me a curse, and not a blessing.”2 As a slave a black man has very little need for money and education. A slave is able to survive simply by being obedient. As a citizen of the United States a black man has a great deal of need for money and education. Freedom comes with the responsibility of being self sufficient. Those in opposition to black equality found a way to circumvent constitutional issues to ensure oppression. Blacks had no way of being competitive with whites in any situation. Because of this many blacks where forced to slavery like conditions. What made these conditions worse than their original status is that they were forced to these conditions within the bounds of the law and under the shadow of freedom.
“The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time, it remains true to its principles of constitutional liberty. But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.”3 On a political level blacks were technically free. However on a social level blacks enjoyed no freedom at all. The government has no provisions to mandate the mentality of anyone. With each law passed that promoted equality the ignorance of whites increased.
Emancipation led to a situation of enormous racial clash. The only solution to what seemed to be a impossible problem would come in the perseverance of those who deemed equality as crucial. The results of their work can be seen in the difference between racism now and racism in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
1 Frederick Douglass, 1865. Speech to the American Anti-Slavery Society.
2 John Hope, 1896.
3 John Marshall Harlan