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Black Status: Post Civil War America

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Black Status: Post Civil War America

After the emancipation of slaves in 1862, the status of African-Americans in post civil war America up until the beginning of the twentieth century did not go through a great deal of change. Much legislation was passed to help blacks in this period. The Civil Rights act of 1875 prohibited segregation in public facilities and various government amendments gave African-Americans even more guaranteed rights. Even with this government legislation, the newly dubbed 'freedmen' were still discriminated against by most people and, ironically, they were soon to be restricted and segregated once again under government rulings in important court cases of the era.

Reconstruction was intended to give African-Americans the chance for a new and better life. Many of them stayed with their old masters after being freed, while others left in search of opportunity through education as well as land ownership. However this was not exactly an easy task. There were many things standing in their way, chiefly white supremacists and the laws and restrictions they placed upon African-Americans. Beginning with the 'black codes' established by President Johnson's reconstruction plan, blacks were required to have a curfew as well as carry identification. Labor contracts established under Johnson's Reconstruction even bound the 'freedmen' to their respective plantations. A few years later, another set of laws known as the 'Jim Crow' laws directly undermined the status of blacks by placing unfair restrictions on everything from voting rights all the way to the segregation of water fountains. Besides these restrictions, the blacks had to deal with the Democratic Party whose northern wing even denounced racial equality. As a result of democratic hostility and the Republican Party's support of Black suffrage, freedmen greatly supported the Republican Party.

As a result of the failure of Johnson's Reconstruction, Congress proposed its own plan. The 14th amendment was one of the many things implemented under this plan. Among other things, this amendment forbade ex-Confederate leaders from holding political office, and gave freedmen their citizenship. The Southern rejection of this amendment, largely as a result of the actions of their former Confederate leaders then in state office, paved the way for the Reconstruction Act of 1867. This dismantled all Southern governments and established military control over the South. It guaranteed freedmen the right to vote under new state constitutions, and required the Southern states to ratify the 14th amendment. With the inclusion of African-American votes in southern elections, and with the help of Northerners known as "Carpet Baggers" and other white Southerners known as "Scalawags," the Republican Party gained almost complete control over the American South.
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