Reconstruction and Segregation: Introduction to Civil Rights

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Reconstruction and segregation
Key issues: Did the Civil War and Reconstruction produce a new and better world for Southern
Political position
after the civil war 700,000 blacks were registered to vote compared to the eligible 600,000 white.
- The fourteenth amendment to the constitution (1868) granted citizenship to all former male slaves.
- The fifteenth amendment (1870) gave the right to vote without discriminating against ``colour, race
or previous condition.''
Despite being outnumbered, the white republican dominated the southern states during
reconstruction. There was neither southern governor nor any black majority in a senate except in
South Carolina (65% black), which had a majority in the lower house.
The African-Americans did receive the vote, however southern legislatures such as grandfather
clauses, income and literacy qualifications as well as black codes prevented blacks from voting.
Economic Position
Reconstruction gave African Americans the freedom of movement but because they lacked wealth
most remained in the south and farmed. Most remained trapped in poverty, working as
Social Position
Blacks gained confidence and opportunity to build and benefit from their own institutions. The
freedmen's bureau and black churches made education more widely available, which resulted in few
doctors, teachers, lawyers, businessmen emerging.
Black churches became immensely popular and influential, although naturally they served to preserve
the racial divisions.
Despite the advancement from the civil war, white remained fearful. A group of southern politicians
created an anti-negro crusading group in 1890s and segregation became preserved through law.
The powers given to individual states under the Constitution made easier the introduction of Jim
Crow Laws that discriminated against blacks. The states controlled not only voting but education,
transport and law enforcement and the segregation of housing, school and public facilities spread
After reconstruction, the Southern Black Americans had little help from either the federal
government or the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court did nothing stop the Jim Crow laws which
legalised segregation. They argued that the separate but equal facilities were not against the
fourteenth amendment.


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