African-Americans may sometimes wonder at the contradictory facts about their history presented in many standard history texts. These texts state that blacks were given the right to vote in 1870, yet the same texts will acknowledge that this right did not really exist for African-Americans until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Similarly, the first public accommodation law was passed in 1875, but history shows that it took 91 years before it was acknowledged and African-Americans were allowed to the full benefits of citizenship.1
It is common knowledge that the American Civil War provided freedom and certain civil rights, including to right to vote, to the African-American population of the nineteenth-century. What is not generally known, and only very rarely acknowledged, is that after freeing the slaves held in the Southeastern portion of the U.S., the federal government abandoned these same African-Americans at the end of the Reconstruction period.2
The Republicans were losing their political clout. By agreeing to what has become known as the Compromise of 1877, the Republicans effectively abandoned the people they had fought so long to free. This was because this compromise between Democrats and Republicans effectively repealed the constitutional strides, which had been made thus far toward offering the black population of the U.S. equality.3
The passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States gave African-Americans recognized rights under the law. However, a national commitment to the civil and political rights of all U.S. citizens without regard to matters of race was destined to last less then a decade.4
There are certain historical facts, which have been lost in the public memory, as certain legends have taken the place of reality. In order to fully understand what happened, it is necessary to comprehend that the Northern states were far from being uniformly the champions of equal rights that is generally indicated by popular belief. By this understanding, that is that the abandonment of African-Americans did not constitute a drastic change of moral position for many people in the North, it is easier to understand their subsequent actions in ignoring the plight of African-Americans in the South after the Reconstruction era.5
An example of one to these overlook...
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..., “The Forgotten Constitutional Moment,” Constitutional Commentary, No. 1 (Winter 1994): 121-22.
21. Tad Tuleja, American History in 100 Nutshells (New York: Fawcett Columbine Books, 1992), 163-64.
22. Tad Tuleja, American History in 100 Nutshells (New York: Fawcett Columbine Books, 1992), 164.
23. Tad Tuleja, American History in 100 Nutshells (New York: Fawcett Columbine Books, 1992), 164.
Byrd, Robert C. The Senate, 1789-1989: Addresses on the History of the US Senate, Vol. 1. (New York: Bernan Associates, 1989).
Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction. (New York: Harper and Row, 1990).
Foner, Eric and John A. Garraty. The Reader’s Companion to American History. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991).
McConnell, Michael W. "The Forgotten Constitutional Moment," Constitutional Commentary, No. 1. (Winter 1994).
Phillip, Mary-Christine. "Yesterday Once More: African-Americans Wonder If New Era Heralds," Black Issues in Higher Education. (July 1995).
Stampp, Kenneth M. The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877. (New York: Vintage Books, 1965).
Tuleja, Tad. American History in 100 Nutshells. (New York: Fawcett Columbine Books, 1992).
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