Slavery After Emancipation Essay, Research Paper
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After President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, former slaves took on a new role in American society. This role was one of more significance and self worth than in slavery, but this class of freedmen was anything but appreciated.
Without the manpower of the slaves, the south’s agricultural society would fail, and without the agriculture there would be little money or food in the south.
The passing of the Louisiana Black Code in 1865, confirmed that whites felt as if blacks could not handle the responsibility or the rights of true citizens. Whites thought they did not deserve these rights because they were inferior to themselves and simply less than human. These restrictions were so harsh; it is, as slavery had never ended. The blacks were free, however many of the negroes everyday rights were abolished. Section 3, of the Louisiana Black Code states ?No negro shall be permitted to rent or keep a house within said parish.? Section 9 declares that ?No negro shall sell, barter, or exchange any articles of merchandise or traffic within said parish.? And one of the worst of these codes is in Section 4 of the Louisiana Black Code. ?Every negro is required to be in the regular service of some white person, or former owner, who shall be held responsible for the conductor of said negro.? (Doc 1) This was basically returning payed-slavery. Many blacks remained on these farms and plantations because they did not know what else they could do after emancipation. However, now they were being forced into staying because few knew anything other than farming. In December of 1865, Congress voted to stamp out these codes. Testimony to the southern white sentiment showed what would have happened if states were allowed to employ their own laws in regards to slavery. (Boyer, 503)
Blacks soon develop a sense of freedom and want to create lives for themselves. They do not want to remain in a place and continue to be employed by those who previously treated them as animals. Mr. Lewis, a former slave, tells a planters wife, Mrs. Henry, I want to move away and feel ontirely free and see what I cen do by myself.? Even kind masters, like the Henry?s, lost many slave due to the want and need of freedom. (Doc 2) Charles Davenport stated ?Freedom meant us could leave where us?d been born and bred, but it meant, too, dat us had to scratch for our ownselves.? (Doc 5) Outsiders made independence nearly impossible though. The sharecropping system, in which most had worked before, was still the only employment available and certainly the only work blacks knew as familiar. Rural merchants tried to give blacks a chance for employment, but often forced them into a position where they would sharecrop. (Boyer, 520)
The Ku Klux Klan was also had a devastating effect on both the black mind and body. The Klan greatly influenced the black freedom. Klan members would harass, beat, and even kill those blacks that did not take the clans advice, usually telling them to vote democratic. One man was taken out by the Klan, beaten, and was told to promise he would ?vote the democratic ticket.? He responded by saying ?I don?t know how I will vote; it looks hard when a body thinks this way and that way to take a beating.? (Doc, 5) Enforcement Acts attempted to reduce the Ku Klux Klan?s activities. These Enforcement Acts first goal was to protect black voters themselves. The elections would also be federally supervised. These Acts went another step forward by limiting the rights of those whom disadvantaged or impeded blacks voting. The president was also given the power and authority to position federal troops in an area declared to be under rebellion of these laws. Unfortunately, Grant withdrew many federal troops positioned throughout the south and disabled an effective way of enforcing the Acts. (Boyer, 515)
Black family and social life began to steadily improve. Family dynamics were turning toward more traditional ways with the man was at the head of the household completing most of the manual labor. ?the negro women are not disposed to field work, as they formerly were. The man are rather inclined to get their wives into other employment, and think this will be the constant tendency just as it is with whites.? (Doc 2) Many blacks soon wanted to be educated and literate. Many public schools, supervised by the Freedmen?s Bureau, were built so ex-slaves and their children could be educated. Black churches also offered a place where blacks were offered a participatory experience. Funds were raised for schooling and Republican policies were supported in these churches. By 1865, black ministers assumed political roles and the first black conventions were held. (Boyer, 516)
After a case in reference to the monopoly of butcher?s in Louisiana, the 14th Amendment was able to interpret much more narrowly. In 1873, the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment was only applicable to rights of national citizenship in Slaughterhouse, not state citizenship. The federal government was not obligated to protect such rights against violation by the states. This ruling nearly nullified the intent of the 14th Amendment. Later, the case of U.S. v. Reese in 1876, voting rights established in the 15th Amendment became distorted. After this case, the 15th Amendment was made clearer by stating prohibition by race, color, or previous condition was illegal, however voting was not guaranteed. Another 1876 case, U.S. v. Cruikshank ruled that ordinary crimes would be handled by states not federal government. This ruling threw out the effectiveness of the Enforcement Acts. (Boyer, 525) Also in 1876, Republicans negotiate with Democrats over the presidency. They agreed to take all federal troops out of their stations in South Carolina and Louisiana.
While vast improvements of the social rights of blacks were made, most political rights were still restricted. Blacks took two steps forward while being pushed back one. However, they gained their basic freedom and became educated. They would no longer be inferior in their own eyes to whites and would make strives in forward progression throughout the next century.