And Second Reconstructions Essay, Research Paper
The Goals and Failures of the First and Second Reconstructions
Some people say we’ve got a lot of malice some say its a lot of nerve. But, I
say we won’t quit moving until we get what we deserve. We have been bucked and
we have been conned. We have been treated bad, talked about as just bones. But
just as it takes two eyes to eyes make a pair. Brother we won’t quit until we
get our share. Say it loud- I’m Black and I’m Proud.
The First and Second Reconstructions held out the great promise of rectifying
racial injustices in America. The First Reconstruction, emerging out of the
chaos of the Civil War had as its goals equality for Blacks in voting, politics,
and use of public facilities. The Second Reconstruction emerging out of the
booming economy of the 1950’s, had as its goals, integration, the end of Jim
Crow and the more amorphous goal of making America a biracial democracy where,
“the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave holders will be able to
sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” Even though both movements, were
borne of high hopes they failed in bringing about their goals. Born in hope,
they died in despair, as both movements saw many of their gains washed away. I
propose to examine why they failed in realizing their goals. My thesis is that
failure to incorporate economic justice for Blacks in both movements led to the
failure of the First and Second Reconstruction.
The First Reconstruction came after the Civil War and lasted till 1877. The
political, social, and economic conditions after the Civil War defined the goals
of the First Reconstruction. At this time the Congress was divided politically
on issues that grew out of the Civil War: Black equality, rebuilding the South,
readmitting Southern states to Union, and deciding who would control
government.1 Socially, the South was in chaos. Newly emancipated slaves wandered
the South after having left their former masters, and the White population was
spiritually devastated, uneasy about what lay ahead. Economically, the South was
also devastated: plantations lay ruined, railroads torn up, the system of slave
labor in shambles, and cities burnt down. The economic condition of ex-slaves
after the Civil War was just as uncertain; many had left former masters and
roamed the highways.2
Amid the post Civil War chaos, various political groups were scrambling to
further their agendas. First, Southern Democrats, a party comprised of leaders
of the confederacy and other wealthy Southern whites, sought to end what they
perceived as Northern domination of the South. They also sought to institute
Black Codes, by limiting the rights of Blacks to move, vote, travel, and change
jobs,3 which like slavery, would provide an adequate and cheap labor supply for
plantations. Second, Moderate Republicans wanted to pursue a policy of
reconciliation between North and South, but at the same time ensure slavery was
abolished.4 Third, Radical Republicans, comprised of Northern politicians, were
strongly opposed to slavery, unsympathetic to the South, wanted to protect newly
free slaves, and keep there majority in Congress.5 The fourth political element,
at the end of the Civil War was President Andrew Johnson whose major goal was
unifying the nation. The fifth element were various fringe groups such as,
abolitionists and Quakers. Strongly motivated by principle and a belief in
equality, they believed that Blacks needed equality in American society,
although they differed on what the nature of that should be.6
The Northern Radical Republicans, with a majority in Congress, emerged as the
political group that set the goals for Reconstruction which was to prevent
slavery from rising again in the South. At first, the Radical Republicans
thought this could be accomplished by outlawing slavery with the passage of the
Thirteenth Amendment. But Southern Democrats in their quest to restore their
rule in the South brought back slavery in all but name, by passing Black Codes
as early as 1865. Both Moderate Republicans and Radical Republicans in Congress
reacted. Joining together in 1866, they passed a bill to extend the life and
responsibilities of the Freedmen’s Bureau to protect newly freed slaves against
the various Black Codes. President Johnson vetoed the bill, but Radical and
Moderate Republicans eventually were able to pass it.7
The Black Codes and President Johnson’s veto of all Reconstruction legislation
that was unfavorable to the South caused Moderate and Radical Republicans to
change their goals from just ending slavery to seeking political equality and
voting rights for Blacks.8 The new goals, were based on humanitarian and
political considerations. Northerners had grown increasingly sympathetic to the
plight of the Blacks in the South following numerous well publicized incidents
in which innocent Blacks were harassed, beaten, and killed.9 The extension of
suffrage to Black males was a political move by the Republicans in Congress who
believed that Blacks would form the backbone of the Republican Party in the
South, preventing Southern Democrats from winning elections in Southern states,
and uphold the Republican majority in Congress after the Southern States
rejoined the Union. As one Congressman from the North bluntly put it, “It
prevents the States from going into the hands of the rebels, and giving them the
President and the Congress for the next forty years.”10
Until the 1890’s, this policy of achieving equality through granting political
rights to Blacks worked moderately well. During Reconstruction, newly freed
slaves voted in large numbers in the South. Of the 1,330,000 people registered
to vote under Reconstruction Acts 703,000 were Black and only 627,000 were
White.11 Even after 1877, when federal troops were withdrawn12, Jim Crow laws
did not fully emerge in the South and Blacks continued to vote in high numbers
and hold various state and federal offices. Between 1877 and 1900, a total of
ten Blacks were elected to serve in the US Congress.13 This occurred because
Southern Democrats forged a unlikely coalition with Black voters against White
laborers14. Under this paternalistic order Southern Democrats agreed to protect
Blacks political rights in the South in return for Black votes15.
But voting and election figures hide the true nature of Black political power
during and after Reconstruction. Few Blacks held elective offices in relation to
their percentage of the South’s population.16 And those in office usually did
not wield the power, which during Reconstruction continued to reside with
Moderate and Radical Republicans in Congress, whites who ran Southern state
governments, and federal troops. Emancipated slaves had little to do with either
fashioning Reconstruction policy or its implementation. Blacks political rights
were dependent upon alliances made with groups with conflicting interests White
Northern Republicans and White elites in the South.17 Though they pursued
political equality for Blacks, their goals were shaped more by self-interest
than for concern for Black equality.
By 1905 Blacks lost their right to vote. In Louisiana alone the number of Black
voters fell from 130,334 in 1896 to 1,342 in 1904.18 The number of elected Black
public officials dropped to zero. The disenfranchisement of Blacks was
accomplished through good character tests, poll taxes, White primaries, literacy
tests, grandfather clauses, and intimidation. By 1905, whatever success
politically and socially the Reconstruction had enjoyed had been wiped out.19
Following on the heels of disenfranchisement came implementation of
comprehensive Jim Crow laws segregating steamboats, toilets, ticket windows and
myriad of other previously non-segregated public places. 20
Two historians, C. Van Woodward and William Julius Wilson, both pin point
specific events such as, recessions, class conflicts, imperialist expansion to
explain the rise of Jim Crow. Wilson’s21 and Woodward’s22 analysis is lacking
because the United States has undergone many recessions and many times minority
groups such as Jews, Irish, and Eastern Europeans and have been blamed for
taking away the jobs of the lower-class; and yet these groups have not had their
votes stripped away from them and did not have an elaborate set of laws
constructed to keep them segregated in society as Blacks have. The only
community of people in the Untied States who have been victims of systematic,
long-term, violent, White Supremacy have been Native Americans. And Native
Americans, like Afro-Americans, have been predominately powerless economically
and politically. This points to the conclusion that the systemic demise of the
First Reconstruction stems from the failure of Reconstruction leaders to include
economic justice for Blacks as a goal; thus dooming the Reconstruction movement
from the outset. The failure of pursuing a policy of economic redistribution
forced Blacks into fragile political alliances that quickly disintegrated (as
can be seen in 1877 and 1896); Blacks were forced to rely on the Radical
Republicans and Federal troops to give them their rights and later their former
slave masters, the Southern Democrats, to safeguard their rights.23 The
disintegration of these agreements were caused directly by the events that
Woodward and Wilson point to, but these political agreements were inherently
fragile and would have inevitably unraveled because of their very nature. These
political alliances had conflicting interests. The poor sharecropper and the
White elites of the South were inherently unequal. The former slaves were looked
on not as equals, but as inferior.24 Whatever well meaning reforms were
instituted were done so paternalistically and for Southern Democrats own
interests. And when an alliance with Blacks no longer served the interests of
the whites they were easily abandoned. When the Blacks agreement with the
Southern Democrats unraveled Blacks were left economically naked except for the
loin cloth of political rights. But this loin cloth was easily stripped from
them, because lacking economic power, they were unable to make other political
allies, their economic position allowed them to be easily intimidated by White
land owners, they had no way to lobby the government, no way to leave the South,
few employment opportunities, and for many Blacks no education.25 The leaders of
the Reconstruction failed to understand that without economic justice Blacks
would be forced into a dependency on the White power structure to protect their
rights and when these rights no longer served the interests of this power
structure they were easily stripped away. Reconstruction Acts and Constitutional
Amendments offered little protection to stop this stripping away of Black
The Reconstruction leaders failed to understand the relationship between
political rights and economic power, if they had they might not have rejected
measures that could have provided former slaves with the economic power to
safeguard their political rights. Two possibilities presented themselves at the
outset of the First Reconstruction. A Quaker and Radical Republican Congressman
from Pennsylvania, Thaddeus Stevens, proposed that the North seize the land
holdings of the South’s richest land owners as a war indemnity and redistribute
the land giving each newly freed Negro adult male a mule and forty acres.26
Thaddeus Stevens a bitter foe of the South,27 explained that a free society had
to be based on land redistribution:
Southern Society has more the features of aristocracy then a democracy….. It
is impossible that any practical equality of rights can exist where a few
thousand men monopolize the who landed property. How can Republican institutions,
free schools, free churches, free social intercourse exist in a mingled
community of nabobs and serfs, of owners of twenty-thousand-acre manors, with
lordly palaces, and the occupants of narrow huts inhabited by low White trash?
Stevens plan in the Republican Press though drew unfavorable responses. The plan
was called brash and unfair. Only one newspaper endorsed it and that was the
French paper La Temps which said, “There cannot be real emancipation for men who
do no possess at least a small portion of soil.”28 When the bill was introduced
in Congress it was resoundingly defeated by a majority of Republicans. Stevens
was alone in understanding the tremendous institutional changes that would have
to take place to guarantee the emancipation of a people. If the former slave did
not have his own land he would be turned into a serf in his own nation a
stranger to the freedoms guaranteed to him and a slave all but in name.
The other alternative the leaders of Reconstruction had was expanding the
Freedmen’s Bureau from a temporary to a permanent institution that educated all
former slaves and ensured that former slaves had a viable economic base that did
not exploit them. Instead, the Freedmen’s Bureau lasted merely five years, and
only five million dollars were appropriated to it. Its mission to educate and
protect the Freedmen was meet in only a small way in this short amount of time
and when the Freedmen’s Bureau shutdown it left the education of former slaves
to local governments which allocated limited if any funds.29 Although proposed
by a few Republicans the Freedmen’s Bureau also refused to set a minimum wage in
the South to ensure that former slaves received a fair wage from their former
slave masters. Instead, the Freedmen’s Bureau was instrumental in spearheading
the formation of sharecropping by encouraging both former slaves and plantation
owners to enter into sharecropping agreements.30 By the time the Bureau ceased
operations in 1870, the sharecropping system was the dominant arrangement in the
South. This arrangement continued the poverty and oppression of Blacks in the
South. As one Southern governor said about sharecropping, “The Negro skins the
land and the landlord skins the Negro.”31 The Freedmen’s Bureau missed a great
opportunity; had its mission been broadened, its funding increased, and its
power been extended, it could have educated the Black population and guaranteed
some type of land reform in the South. Because neither Thaddeus Stevens plan for
land redistribution or an expansion of the Freedmen’s Bureau took place, Blacks
were left after slavery much as they were before, landless and uneducated. In
the absence of an economic base for Blacks, three forces moved in during the
1890’s wiping out the political successes of Reconstruction: the white sheets of
White supremacy, the blue suits of politicians all too eager to unify whites
with racism, and the black robes of the judiciary in cases like Plessy vs.
Ferguson in 1896 stripped away Blacks’ social and political rights.
The Civil Rights movement came nearly ninety years after the First
Reconstruction. The goals of the Second Reconstruction involved at first tearing
down the legal Jim Crow of the South, but by the March on Washington in 1964 the
goals had changed to guaranteeing all Americans equality of opportunity,
integration both social and political, and the more amorphous goal of a biracial
democracy.32 But the goals did not include the need to transform the economic
condition of Blacks. Instead they emphasized the need to transform the political
and social condition of Blacks.33
At the beginning, the Civil Rights Movement sought solutions to racial injustice
through laws and used the Federal courts to secure them. The Supreme Court set
the stage in 1954 with Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka Kansas: the
Brown decision focused the attention of dominant Black institutions such as CORE
(Congress On Racial Equality) and the NAACP (National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People) on fighting the illegality of segregation in
Congress and courts. Subsequent organizations that came to play larger roles in
the Civil Rights Movement such as, SNCC (Students Non-violent Coordinating
Committee) and SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Council) fell into this same
pattern– combating mainly legal segregation. Although they pioneered different
tactics– sit-ins, boycotts, and marches, the goal was to focus attention on
getting rid of Jim Crow.34
The Civil Rights movement, successfully pressured Congress and the President to
enact the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Civil Rights
Movement also brought about a fundamental shift in public opinion; de jure
racial discrimination became a moral wrong for many Americans. The Civil Rights
Movement by 1965 had broken the back of legal Jim Crow in the South. However, in
the North, Blacks living under de facto segregation by economic and racist
conditions. Segregated schools and housing were unaffected by the progress of
the Civil Rights Movement.35 By the middle of 1965, the Civil Rights Movement
had stalled; never recovering its momentum.36
C. Van Woodward views the failure of the Civil Rights Movement to realize its
goals and its disintegration in the same myopic way he views the failure of the
First Reconstruction. He points to three different events, from 1965 to 1968, to
explain the disintegration of the Civil Rights Movement: riots in urban areas
which created a White backlash37, the rise of racial separatism and extremism
within the Civil Rights Movement and Black community, 38 and the Vietnam War
which diverted White liberals’ attention. Woodward’s analysis fails to provide a
broad perspective of why these events destroyed such a strong movement. There
had been riots in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, yet these riots neither spread
nor crippled the movement.39 Black separatism had been a vocal movement before
1965 in the form of the Nation of Islam.40 And mass opposition to the Vietnam
War among White liberals did not pickup momentum until the late 1960’s after the
Civil Rights Movement had stalled.
On the other hand, William Julius Wilson provides a more coherent explanation of
the demise of the Civil Rights Movement. Wilson says the movement failed because
it did not effectively address the economic plight of inner city Blacks living
in the North. This failure was caused by the leadership of the Civil Rights
Movement which had little connection with Blacks in the ghetto. The leaders of
the movement were from the Southern middle-class Blacks; who were either college
students, teachers, preachers, or lawyers.41 Like the leaders of the First
Reconstruction, the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement lacked understanding of
the economic needs of the Black lower-class. Instead of addressing the economic
plight of Northern Black ghettoes, the Civil Rights Movement continued to push
for broad political and civil rights. Inhabitants of Northern Ghettoes, were
trapped not by Jim Crow, but by poverty and de facto segregation. Nonviolent
protests, marches, pickets, and rallies did nothing to change poorhousing, lack
of employment, and inferior schools.
However, the Civil Rights Movement’s battles to end Jim Crow in the South and
obtain passage of Civil Rights acts in the 1960’s raised awareness of lower-
class Blacks in the ghetto to racism and increased their impatience with police
brutality and economic injustice. This heightened awareness of racism in their
community and desperation over their plight, turned poor urban Blacks into
matches and ghettoes into kindling. The Riots from 1965 to 1968 became a way to
raise economic issues the Civil Rights Movement had ignored. The Riots were
caused, not just by desperation, they had been desperate for years, not just by
a heightened awareness of racism, they had been aware of it before 1965, but
because they found no answers to their plight. Neither White politicians nor
civil rights leaders had solutions for their economic needs.42
Wilson’s analysis thus far provides as answer for the riots and subsequent White
backlash. However, Wilson’s explanation of the emergence and appeal of Black
Power is lacking. Wilson says Black Power’s emergence was caused by riots in the
summers from 1965 to 1968. But these riots occurred after Black Power had
emerged inside the Civil Rights Movement. In the spring of 1965 the leadership
of SNCC and CORE had expelled its White members, rejected integration as a goal,
and elected black separatists as presidents.43 Instead, I see the emergence of
the Black Power Movement as related to the failure of the Civil Rights Movement
to address lower-class frustration with economic injustice, and de facto racism
in the North. Black Power, as a movement, had many facets and leaders. Black
Power leaders were from the lower-class while the Civil Rights Movements leaders
were from the middle-class. Stokely Carmichael, a poor immigrant from Trinidad;
Eldridge Cleaver, the son of a Texas carpenter, and went to jail for rape44;
Huey Newton, before becoming a political leader, was a hustler. Other leaders
such as Angela Davis gravitated to the movement because of its mix of Marxist
and nationalist economic politics.45 The rise of these leaders was a result of
the Civil Rights Movement’s failure before 1965, to articulate a program of
racial justice for poor Blacks in the North; in this absence violent, vocal and
angry leaders emerged to fill this void. Leaders such as H. Rap Brown called for
“killing the honkies,” James Brown called for Black pride with his song “Say It
Loud- I’m Black and I’m Proud.”
Black Power provided poor Blacks with psychological and economic solutions to
their problems. Psychologically it brought about a shift in Black consciousness
a shift that made being Black beautiful, no longer as W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in
1905 were Blacks a “Seventh Son.” But equally important the Black Power Movement
tried to provide economic answers to urban Blacks with answers such as: racial
separatism, moving back to Africa, taking over the government, and taking “what
was theirs” from whites. Although these solutions ultimately proved unworkable
for solving economic problems, they tried, while the Civil Rights movement did
not attempt solutions.
The failure of the Civil Rights Movement in articulating and pursuing a plan of
economic justice for lower-class Blacks doomed the movement’s goal of
integration, furthering de facto segregation in housing and schools. The end of
Jim Crow did not end the income difference between Whites and Blacks. In 1954,
Blacks earned approximately 53% of what whites earned, and in 1980 they earned
57% what an average White earns. At this rate racial equality in average income
would come in 250 years.46 This racial inequality in income left unaddressed by
the Civil Rights Movement, forces poor Blacks to remain in deteriorating slums
in cities, while whites flee to the suburbs. The de facto segregation that has
emerged has shifted the good jobs to suburbs and relegated lower-class Blacks in
cities to diminishing job prospects. This has caused rising rates of
unemployment, economic desperation, and jobs predominantly in the low-wage
sector. This poverty cycle among lower-class Blacks remains after vestiges of
legal Jim Crow have disappeared.47 White flight to suburbs and the poverty trap
of the inner city for Blacks has been so great that in 1980 the number of
segregated schools surpassed the number of segregated schools before 1954.48
Both the First and Second Reconstructions left Blacks with no economic base,
dependent on others for their social and political power. And as in the First
Reconstruction, when those political alliances did not serve the needs of the
whites in power, Blacks were abandoned and their political and social goals
wiped out. In the 1990’s most political leaders have long given up on the plight
of the Black urban poor. Mandatory busing is fast being eliminated in major
cities, and Black leaders cry out for help to a President and Congress more
interested in balancing the budget, cutting welfare costs, and spending on the
military then dealing with the complicated cycle of urban poverty.
Though, the two Reconstructions held out great promise and hope to Blacks in
America, both failed to achieve their broad goals and in subsequent decades much
of their accomplishments washed away. Yet, both brought significant permanent
changes. The First Reconstruction ended slavery and the second ended legal
segregation. But just as the First Reconstruction disintegrated by the 1890’s
because of the failure of the federal government to create a viable economic
base for freed slaves, the Second Reconstruction did not result in a fully
integrated society because it too failed to fundamentally change the economic
condition of poor Blacks.
The Black experience in America is a contradiction for there is no one black
experience just as there is no one white experience. In the same way, the
failure of the First and Second Reconstructions was caused not by one event but
by many. The failings of these Reconstructions are not as simple as racism,
politics, or individual events; to single out one to explain such complicated
periods gives an incomplete picture of both history and the nature of racism.
The leaders of both the First and Second Reconstructions fell into this trap and
sought to solve racial inequality through political means. Their failure to see
the economic dimensions of racism was key to the demise of the First and Second
Reconstructions. While far from the movements only failing it is a factor that
has been ignored by historians such as C. Vann Woodward and William Julius
Wilson. America still has a long way to go to reach a place where “little Black
boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little White boys and White
girls as sisters and brothers.” We are still a divided society- economically if
not legally. We are divided between the inner city ghettoes of South Central LA
and the mansions of Beverly Hills; between Harlem’s abandoned buildings and the
plush apartments of Park Avenue. Racial injustice will never be solved with mere
politics and laws, anger and separatism. If we fail to bridge this divide the
question of the Twenty-First century like the Twentieth will be that of the
1 Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution (New York: Harper
and Row, 1988) p.228.
2 Ibid. pp.124-125.
3 Eli Ginzberg and Alfred S. Eichner, Troublesome Presence: Democracy and Black
Americans (London: Transaction Publishers, 1993) p. 148.
4 Ibid. p. 152.
5 Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution (New York: Harper
and Row, 1988) pp.229-231.
6 Daniel J. Mcinerney, The Fortunate Heirs of Freedom: Abolition and the
Republican Party (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994) p.151.
7 Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution (New York: Harper
and Row, 1988) pp.228-251.
8 The transformation of the goals of Reconstruction was caused by Johnson’s veto
of nearly every Reconstruction bill. This forced Moderates to join the Radical
Republicans in an alliance against President Johnson. Eli Ginzberg and Alfred S.
Eichner, Troublesome Presence: Democracy and Black Americans (London:
Transaction Publishers, 1993) p.153.
9 Ibid. p.159.
10 Ibid. p. 161.
11 A total of twenty-two Blacks served in the House of Representatives during
Reconstruction. C. Eric Lincoln, The Negro Pilgrimage in America (New York:
Bantam, 1967) p.65.
12 In the Presidential election of 1876, the Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, captured
a majority of the popular vote and lead in the electoral college results. But
the electoral votes of three Southern States still under Republican rule were in
doubt, as Ginzberg writes, “In all three states the Republicans controlled the
returning boards which had to certify the election results, and in all three
states they certified their own parties ticket. As the history books reveal, the
crisis was finally overcome when the Southern Democrats agreed to support the
Republican Candidate Rutherford B. Hayes, as a part of a larger compromise (The
Compromise of 1877). Hayes promised in return to withdraw Federal troops from
the South.” Eli Ginzberg and Alfred S. Eichner, Troublesome Presence: Democracy
and Black Americans (London: Transaction Publishers, 1993) pp. 182-183.
13 C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1974) p. 54.
14 Southern Democrats were comprised of Southern elites and formed a coalition
with Blacks to prevent poor Whites from passing economic initiatives such as
free silver, the break up of monopolies, and labor laws. Gerald Gaither, Blacks
and the Populist Revolt: Ballots and Bigotry In the New South (Ann Arbor:
University Microfilms, 1972) p.299.
15 The Coalition between poor Whites was based on a paternalistic order as C.
Vann Woodward explains, “Blacks continued to vote in large numbers and hold
minor offices and a few seats in Congress, but this could be turned to account
by the Southern White Democrats who had trouble with White lower-class
rebellion.” C. Vann Woodward, Origins of a New South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana
State University Press, 1951) p.254.
16 Howard N. Robinowitz, Southern Black Leaders of the Reconstruction Era (
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982) p.396.
17 Ibid. p.398.
18 C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1974) p. 85.
19 William Julius Wilson, The Declining Significance of Race (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1980) p.63.
20 Until 1900, the only type of Jim Crow law (a law which legally segregates
races) prevalent in the South was one applying to passengers aboard trains in
the first class section. C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1974) p. 67.
21 Woodward sees the failure of Reconstruction as related to three events. First,
it was brought about by the rise of racist theories and ideas in intellectual
circles around 1890. These ideas, such as eugenics and social Darwinism eroded
support among elite groups such as Southern Democrats and Northern Republicans
for political equality for Blacks. Second, the rise of United States imperialism
lead by the Republican party starting in 1898, undercut the ability and
willingness of Northern Republicans to be the moral authority on racial equality.
Third, the emergence of the populist movement in the late 1880’s and 1890’s
forced the White elites to abandon their alliance with Blacks. This was because
both the populists and the Southern Democrats sought the Black vote and when
neither could be assured of controlling it, both Parties realized that it would
be far better for them to disenfranchise the Black population than fight for its
votes. C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1974) pp.82-83.
22 Wilson sees the emergence of Jim Crow and disenfranchisement of Blacks as
related to three major events. First, the recession of the 1890’s and the boll
weevil blight brought Blacks and Whites in the lower-classes in intense
competition for a shrinking pool of jobs. This intensification of competition
between these groups manifested itself in White supremacy. Second, the rise of
the labor movement in the 1890’s lead to the rise of lower-class Whites to power
this allowed them to codify into law Jim Crow which reflected their view of
Blacks as competition in the labor market. Third, the migration of Blacks to
urban areas in the North, and the use of Blacks as strike-breakers in Northern
factories, created racial hostility among lower-class Whites toward Blacks. This
forced Northern Republicans to no longer focus on racial equality because it
undermined their support among White labor. William Julius Wilson, The Declining
Significance of Race (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980) pp.59-60.
23 Howard N. Robinowitz, Southern Black Leaders of the Reconstruction Era (
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982) p.400.
24 Ibid. p.399.
25 Gerald Gaither, Blacks and the Populist Revolt: Ballots and Bigotry In the
New South (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1972) p. 302.
26 Eli Ginzberg and Alfred S. Eichner, Troublesome Presence: Democracy and Black
Americans (London: Transaction Publishers, 1993) p. 134.
27 Ibid. pp. 132-133.
28 Ibid. p.135.
29 W.E.B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk (New York: Bantam Books, 1989) p.28.
30 Eli Ginzberg and Alfred S. Eichner, Troublesome Presence: Democracy and Black
Americans (London: Transaction Publishers, 1993) p. 201.
31 Ibid. p.203.
32 Harvard Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality (New York: Hill and Wang,
33 Although the March on Washington was called a march for, “Freedom and Jobs”
the goals of the March were political and social and not economic. The reason
the March was called a march for, “Freedom and Jobs” was the idea for the march
came from A. Philip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
Randolph first proposed the march in 1941 to get President Roosevelt to open up
defense jobs for blacks. But the march did not gather widespread support at the
time. Then in 1962 Randolph planed a march for economic justice for Blacks. The
idea was supported by CORE, SNCC, and SCLC. Martin Luther King’s SCLC then took
over organizing the march and downgraded Randolph’s economic demands. Ibid.
34 Ibid. p.96.
35 William Harris, The Harder We Run: Black Workers since the Civil War (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1982) p.153.
36 Harvard Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality (New York: Hill and Wang,
37 Between 1965 and 1968 there were over three hundred race riots in American
cities. Woodward concludes that these riots helped bring about the end of the
Civil Rights Movement by creating factions within the movement as different
groups pursued different policies to rectify injustice in the Northern ghettos.
The Riots also created a backlash among the White populace which manifested
itself in the defeat of the 1966 Civil Rights Act and the election of Richard
Nixon in 1968. Ibid. pp..222-223.
38 The rise of racial separatism and extremism manifested itself within SNCC and
CORE and the formation of Black Separatist groups such as the Black Panthers,
the Weathermen, and RAM. The rhetoric of extremists inside SNCC and in other
groups captured television camera’s and although Reverend Martin Luther King
continued to march and speak, the face of the Civil Rights Movement became that
of Angela Davis and Huey Newton; the song of the Civil Rights Movement changed
from Reverend Martin Luther King’s, “We Shall Overcome,” to Stokely Carmichael’s,
“We Shall Overrun.” Ibid. p..217.
39 Ibid. p.145.
40 In 1963, Malcolm X was the most quoted Black spokesman, “He played to the
media, conjuring fantasies of jet fleets, piloted by Blacks, someday bombing all
White neighborhoods.” Ibid. p.154.
41 These Blacks were from what E. Franklin Frazier calls, “the Black
Bourgeoisie.” E. Franklin Frazier, Black Bourgeoisie (New York: Free Press,
42 Leaders have emerged such as Minister Louis Farrakhan and Colin Powell, who
either propose Black Capitalist, and nationalist solutions to the plight of the
urban poor, much like Marcus Garvey in the 1920’s, or they provide
accommodationist views of the Black struggle in America which meets with the
approval of White elites much like Booker T. Washington at the turn of the
century. Cornel West, Race Matters (New York, Random House, 1994) p.57.
43 Harvard Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality (New York: Hill and Wang,
44 Kathleen Rout, Eldridge Cleaver (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991) p.80.
45 Angela Davis, Frame Up (San Francisco: National Committee To Free Angela
Davis, 1972) p.7.
46 Harvard Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality (New York: Hill and Wang,
47 Civil Rights initiatives though have helped the Black middle-class who have
experienced unprecedented job prospects as they have been able to escape the
urban ghettos and take advantage of jobs in the corporate and government sector.
This points to what Wilson calls, “the declining significance of race in
determining poverty,” instead of race dictating someone’s economic status, the
status of their class is what determines their economic future; with the poor
Blacks getting poorer and middle-class Blacks becoming wealthier. Because of
this economic inequality in the Black community has grown more than inequality
in the White community. William Julius Wilson, The Declining Significance of
Race (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980) pp.151-154.
48 Harvard Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality (New York: Hill and Wang,