Civil War Essay, Research Paper
The Blacks Struggle following the Civil War
After the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln, the slaves of America were free. This was a huge step in making our country truly free to all people. The construction of the South did not however work out smoothly for the freed slaves. There were many roadblocks along the way such as the Black Codes, the Plessy vs. Ferguson case, and the terror of the Ku Klux Klan. In this essay, we will look at the struggles that faced the blacks following the Civil War.
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. It was almost as if 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, 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. (Weinstein 167)
Many blacks remained on farms and plantations because they did not know what else they could do after emancipation. However, many were being forced into staying because few knew anything other than farming. Some slaves however would do anything just to leave the farm. Even kind masters lost many slaves due to the want and need of freedom. A former slave once stated, Freedom meant us could leave where us d been born and bred, but it meant, too, dat us had to scratch for our own selves.
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.
The Ku Klux Klan also had a devastating effect on the blacks. The Klan greatly influenced the black freedom. Klan members would harass, beat, and even kill those blacks that did not take the clans advice, which was usually telling them to vote democratic. 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 who 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
Another very important factor in black history was the Plessy vs. Ferguson supreme court case in 1896 which ruled that segregation in not necessarily discrimination and that blacks and white should be separate but equal. This was mainly a factor in southern schools. For example, whites typically got 70% of state funding, while black children were forced to go to school in a shack. (Johnson 54) Blacks were also forced to use different public restrooms and water fountains. Obviously, the separation was not equal. The separate but equal issue continued in the 20th century. In fact, it was not actually until about 50 years ago that blacks were allowed to use that same restrooms and whites.
There were, however, some positive effects on the black community following the war. Black family and social life began to improve. Family structure turned toward a more traditional model, with the man at the head of the household completing most of the manual labor. 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 given an environment in which they could participate. 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.
As we can see, freedom for the blacks did not come directly as a result of the emancipation proclamation. Each step toward real freedom had to be fought for. And there were plenty of obstacles and people who tried to stop them. However, slowly and surely the black community earned their right to be recognized.
Weinstein, Allen. Slavery After Emancipation. New York Oxford University
Johnson, Redmond. Slavery During Reconstruction. Mnemosyne Publishing Company