Civil Rights: African Americans


African Americans after Civil War: p1

Position of African Americans in 1865:

  • 1861-1865 Civil War between the North and South, Abolitionists fought to end slavery and in 1865 this was done with the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery within USA freeing 4 million AA slaves.
  • However still far from equal as they did not have the resources to work for themselves and still had major hostility from many whites.
  • Sharecropping was where landlords allowed former slaves to work their land, however slaves were cheated as landlordss controlled financial records enabling them to make sure sharecroppers never went out of debt so could never escape them
  • Peonage is 'Debt slavery' or 'Slavery by another name' when an AA was tied to working for a white employer until a debt for tools etc was paid off however this was sometimes invented. Continued to face discrimination and acts of violence, especially from southern whites.
  • In one case a white constable falsely accused a AA owed him money and had him sentenced to work for him for free, however the AA's labour was sold to another white employer as if slavery still existed.
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African Americans after Civil War: p2


President Lincoln assasinated in April 1865, Vice President Andrew Johnson took over who was unsympathetic to improve the AA's conditions. However Congress dominated by Republicans wanted to reform the South.
Southern States had passed very racist, Black Codes which restricted rights of freedmen and allowed attacks on them.
Congress led way for reforms, setting up:

  • Freedmen's Bureau, which promoted welfare and education.
  • 14th and 15th Amendment, which outlawed discrimination.
  • Civil Rights Act (1866) giving legal equality.
  • First Reconstruction Act (1867), which guaranteed the right to vote and created New Southern constitutions.

This period was known as 'Congressional Reconstruction' which had more radical changess than any other period before 1960s.

Federal Authority was used to enforce the new laws.

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African Americans after Civil War: p3

White Reaction and Discrimination:

White southerners were extremely hostile, some joining local groups such as the Klu Klux Klan, who terrorised AA's. Lynching and murder was common as a way of preventing them from exercising their rights.
In 1868 there was 2,000 deaths and injuries in Louisiana alone.
US govt. had to deploy troops to suppress disorder however these actions continued to carry on:

  • White violence beccame accepted part of Southern life.
  • No acceptance of AA's as equal citizens.
  • There was very little economic equality between whites & AA's
  • Violence employed to punish and stop inter race sexual contacts.
  • In theory civil rights established however in reality did not exist, so to be put into practice needed a strong military presence.

By 1870s (after Hayes-Tilden Comprise of 1877) AA's rights were being destroyed by intimidation and poor economic conditions, situation reverted to that of pre-Civil War where South regulated its own affairs.

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African Americans gaining Civil Rights

The Role of AA's in gaining Civil rights:

Some African Americans:

  • Fought against discrimination by challenging its legality.
  • stressed social and economic improvement above other goals such as gaining the vote.
  • Aimed for Intergration, while others aimed for segregation.
  • Adopted peaceful methods while others believed more in violence and direct action.
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AA Civil Rights Key Figures

Booker T. Washington: (1865-1915)

He was an American educator, author, and advisor to presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African-American community.

  • Famous for gaining both confidence of Whites as well as his authority among AA's. 
  • He stressed importance of African Americans relying on their own efforts to make progress such as to become educated and become prosperous.
  • He did not campaign openly against discrimination in the South, however recieved ssupport from wealthy businessmen and advissed presidents on radical issuess.
  • 1881, he founded Tuskegee Institiue to train teachers.
  • 1901, founded the National Business League to encourage African American economic enterprise


  • Failed to stop development of 'Jim Crow' Laws, by 1908 there was full Segregation.
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AA Civil Rights Key Figures

W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963):

He was a very intelligent man having been the first AA to recieve a Ph.D from Harvard and went on to teach economics and history and Atlanta University.

He had the view that an Africcan American elite ('talented tenth') would spearhead the movement for radical political change. He also cco-operated with white reformers in the National Association for Advancement of Coloured People a.k.a NAACP.

  • NAACP was founded in 1909 by Du Bois and Oswald Villard (white civil rights activist).
  • Led marches and campaigns for equal civil and political rights.
    • Secured supreme court verdict in 'Moore vs Dempsey' case which gave federal courts power to intervene if AA defendants are poorly convicted.
    • Organised National protest campaign againssst the film 'Birth of a Nation' which glorified racism and the KKK's 1st successful litigation.
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AA Civil Rights Key Figures

Marcus Garvey (1887-1940):

Marcus Garvey believed that blacks should be proud and advocated self help. He saw a seperate AA community, aware of its African roots.He also accepted the need for economic enterprise and improvement backed by greater education. His Universal ***** Improvement Association was the 1st large civil rights organisation in US and had 4 million members by 1920.

  • Appealed to young urban working class AAs who thought intergration with Whites would never work, his ideas encouraged AA's to believe in themselves.
  • Seen as natural successor to BTW after his death.
  • Unpopular with black trade unions and NAACP and he lacked political strategy and business skills.
  • Arrested in 1925 for mail fraud and deported to Jamaica in 1929.
  • Too concerned with showing off uniforms and fancy ventures like Black Eagle star steamship line which failed because of financial difficulties.
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AA Civil Rights Key Figures

Philip Randolph (1890-1979):

Randolph followed Du Bois' ideas and took ideas of economic development and rallied black labour to the cause of Civil rights. 

Believed in mass non-violent protest and influenced by disobedience campaigns in India by Gandhi.

Pressured the Govt. to end discrimination in war production industries in 1941 by threatening a mass march, this was the first time an AA leader managed to influence policy substantially.

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AA Civil Rights Key Figures

Martin Luther King Jr (1929-1968)

He believed in integration and equality with whites as well as full equal rights not only by law by by de facto. King took tactics of marches and mass protests begun by Du Bois and Randolph as well as the leadership qualities of Garvey, He used tactics of non-violence within his protests and marches as well as boycotting. King also used publicity and media effectively such as the Bull Connor incident in Birmingham, Alabama.
King's leadership key momemts:

  • Forming the infuential Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957.
  • March in Birmingham, Alabama where he was arrested, as well as his 'I have a dream speech' in 1963 took place in Washington (28th Aug) where 1/4 million people came.
  • Civil rights act of 1964 which ended legal segregation (although segregation not ended defacto)
  • Voting Act of 1965 gained political equality, and the March on Washington in the same year.
  • March from Selma to Montgomery (1965)
  • However the poverty gap between whites & blacks widened in 1960s shown in failed attempt to sort out poverty in Chicago.
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AA Civil Rights Key Figures

Malcom X (1925-1965):

M X was of the separatist tradition and thought AA's should be proud of culture, also pro black supremecy. He rejected christianity and chose Islam, he worked with the Nation of Islam to promote A heritage and was a powerful and influential leader. He preached Islam andd seperation however Elijah Muhammed did not allow for them to get involved with politics (NOI).

Having been able to attract those that MLK could not (Poor) made him the most charasmatic black supremesist ever. However only able to get involved with politics after NOI.

Black Panthers:
The BP movement developed from X, Newton and Seal founded BPP in 1966 for self defence with radical social programme, calling for armed resistancce to authority and white hostility.

X softened his approach in later years especially after visiting Afric and Middle East on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

He was assassinated in Manhattan on 21st Feb 1965.

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AA Civil Rights Key Figures

Stokey Carmichael (1941-1998):

He aimed for a rise in violence to bring power to blacks according to black power slogan. While attending Howard University, he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was jailed for his work with Freedom Riders. He moved away from MLK Jr’s nonviolence approach to self-defense. He supported Black Panthers until they worked with Whites, and from 1969 focused of Africa.
He got 20,000 AAs to regisster to vote and had successful early campaigns, however SNCC split over expulsion of whites in 1966 and the FBI disgraced him so he returned to Africa.

Jesse Jackson (1941-present):

He wanted to relieve poverty for AAs using 'ranbow coalition' and tried to gain support from Black power and intergration. He created Operation Breadbasket (OB) which boycott white businesses who didnt employ AA's.

OB and Push gave 1000 AA's jobs and was 2nd in the race for Vice presidency, however had no legal achievementss and didnt gain as much support as MLK.

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Fed. Government: Presidents

The federal government has three elements to it, the president, Congress and the Supreme Court.
Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) - He succeeded Lincoln after he was assassinated in 1865, who was from the south, pro-slavery, however supported Union during Civil war. He was very much opposed to AAs Civil rights. Although the Civil rights Act of April 1866 and the 14th Ammendment (all those born in USA to be full citizens) in July 1868 were passed under his ruling.

Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) - Used federal troops authority to support Reconstruction, however needed to retain ssupport from southern senators therefore allowed discrimination in the South, he did however pass the 15th Amendment (rights of citizens not denied on account of race) in Feb 1870 and the Civil rights Act (All citizens entitled to full and equal enjoyment of facilities) in March 1975.

Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) - Although he appeared to lose election to his Democratic rival Tilden, however 4 states claimedd their elections unfair so investigation took place by Congresss and reached the Compromise of 1877. Hayess president in return remove Fed. troopss from Southern States. Accepted in March 1877 which most historians see as the end of Reconstruction as Fed. troops were only protection for AAs in the south.

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Fed. Government: Presidents

Roosevelt (1933-1945) - Didnt pass any specific civil rights act but some of his reforms passed on the New deal in 1930s helped African Americans who were hit badly by the Great Depression.

  • These inc. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Federal Emergency Relief Admin. (FERA) and the PWA. Segregation still present in work camps and many reforms excluded Key areas of AA employment such as Agriculture.
  • When War broke out, US armed forces still segregated but Roosevelt did end discrimination in War industries.

Truman (1945-1953- 

  • In 1948 Truman issued an executive order against Segregation in armed forces.
  • Appointed committee on civil rights.
  • Urged Congresss to pass Civil Rights legaslation however as with Roosevelt, no comprehensive measures were passed.
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Fed. Government: Presidents

Eisenhower (1953-1961) -

  • Created the civil rights act which reaffirmed AAs right to vote.
  • He also sent in troops to enforce a Supreme Court ruling on desegregating schools in the Little rock incident in 1957.
    • When Arkansas authorities tried to prevent desegregation of Little Rock High School.

J.F.K (1961-1963) - 

  • Spoke out against the 'harmful, wasteful and wrongful results of racial discrimination'.
  • Prepared a general Civil Rights bill in 1963 however prevented from passing due to Southern White opposition and also his assassination on the 22nd of November 1963.
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Fed. Government: Presidents

Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969)
It was left to Johnson to pass the most significant Civil Rights Acts since 1860's:

  • 24th Ammendment in 1964.
  • The Civil Rights Act, 1964 and 1965.
  • Voting Act of 1965.

Restrictions on voting rights for AAs no longer permitted and discrimination in public accommodations and employment was made illegal.

  • Southern States had been preventing AAs from registering and voting since 1870s, so massively increased their political rights. 
  • The law forbidden discrimination in public accommodations and demanded equality in all use of public facilities which massively affected everyday life.

Johnson also appointed the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thursgood Marshall, a knighted campaigner for Civil Rights.

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Fed. Government: Presidents

Nixon (1969-1974) -  

He extended 'affirmative action' to promote wider equality. All employers with federal contracts required to draft policies showing actively promoting employment of AAs.

Along with the Equal Opportunity Act of 1972, (which by 1974  had helped reduce the amount of Blacks in poverty from 87% to 30%.), extending equal employment legislation to all federal, local and state govts., showed desire by govt. to go beyond ensuring equal political rights to promote greater prosperity and stability by making working practices more equal.

However, although Johnson had secured greater political equality in 1960s, subsequent presidents found it harder to address the remaining social and economic inequalities.

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Congress took leading role in the progressing civil rights during the Reconstruction Era. However from 1876 there was little action taken because of the power of the Southern Democrats, who given back control of Southern racial policy.
1877, Democrats allowed disputed votes to go to Republican Hayes if Fed. troops left South.

Congress began Reconstruction and also brought it to an end, Southern Members of Congress acting as a barrier to reforms in civil rights until 1960s.

The wave of sympathy after J.F.K's assassination led to more support for his ideals, Johnson did persuade Congress to pass key civil rights legislation.

The authority of Congress was behind the changes in 1960s whereas previous key changes came from executive orders, such as the desegregation of the armed forces by Truman in 1948.

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Supreme Court

Supreme Court:

In the 1890s the Supreme court played a major role in supporting racial discrimination and segregation, such as the Plessy vs Ferguson case in 1896.
After this point the Supreme court became prime factor in progressing civil rights.

By 1944 the Court was moving against segregation, such as the Brown vs Board of Education in 1954, which declared segregated education illegal and 'seperate by equal' was inherently unequal.

Series of other decisions in 1960s/70s ruled against segregation:

  • Interstate bus travel in 1960.
  • Supporting the busing of AA children into white schools.
  • Opposing employment discrimination.
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Legal opinion began to change, it began to challenge discrimination, seen in Little Rock in 1957. It provoked a return to the implementation of reform by the federal armed forces that Grant had promoted but not carried out since 1870s.

Kennedy and Johnson, in terms of stated commitment to change and proposed and actual legislation, took civil rights legislation further than predecessors since Grant.

in the 1950s the key change of the Supreme Court from an enemy to an ally of desegregation, pushed presidents into action and gave a legal basis for increased demands for civil and political equality.

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The Role of State Govt.

The US Federal system and States' rights:

The US Fed. Govt. devolves a lot of power to individual states. In 1865 the fed. govt. had defeated the rebellion by the south and needed to get the Confederate states back into the Union.

The south as a result passed the Black Codes to control and intimidate the newly freed African Americans.

The Southern States and Reconstruction:

Reconstruction saw AA's in the new Constitutional assemblies and then in the 1st legislation of the former Confed. states.

In South Carolina, the Heart of movement for southern states rights before the civil war, AA representatives outnumbered Whites.

Thus civil rights were achieved in the South, but only because of the presence of Union armed forces.

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The Role of State Govt.

Reaction after 1877 and the Jim Crow Laws:

When the North Compromised with the South so they could return to regulation own racial affairs in 1877, terror towards AA's forced them out of political life. 

All white legislatures and govt. passed the Jim Crow Laws:

  • Seperate hospitals, prisons, public and private schools, churches etc.
  • Codes of behaviour regulating social and sexual relations between members of different races.
  • Complex regulations to qualify AA's for voting which ensured they were excluded.

Southern states did little to control violence against AAs or to stop lynching. Throughout the South, the state authorities became deterrmined to oppose AA civil rights. 

Opposition of key white governors to attempt to instititue change became notorious thoughout USA and work, which really strengthened the cause as othe countries could see the injustice present.

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The Role of State Govt.

Little Rock:
State Govts resisted the 1954 ruling of Brown vs Board of Education. In Texas, local police prevented it. In 1957 in Arkansas Governor Faubus prevented 9 black children from entering Little Rock high school using local National Guard. Eisenhower put national guard under fed control andd imposed integeration by use of Fed Armed forces.

James Meredith:
1962 saw another clash, between State govt. of Mississippi and Fed govt. under JFK, when Fed laws enforced the AA student James Meredith's entry into a forcibly desegregated Mississippi University.

A's state govt. supportive of segregation, Governor Wallace's inaugural speech in 1963 stated  'Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever'. Also examples of heavy-handed state authority such as Bull Connor who used fire hoses and attack dogs in Birmingham against civil rights protestors in 1963. The effect of this prompted:

  • Increased media coverage which turned people against segregation and Fed. intervention.
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The Role of Pro-Civil Rights groups

Non-violent groups aiming at intergration:

There was limited support for civil rights until the National Association for Advancement of coloured people (NAACP) in 1909. Developed from organisation formed by white liberal activists. Lead by W.E.B  Du Bois, set up 50 local branches.

In 1917 it prevented the enforced segregation of AA's into separate residential districts and publically opposed lynching. Its major success was the Brown vs Board of Education, 1954.

Local activists influential in ssupporting a boycott against segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, gained publicity for NAACP.

Congress of racial equality (CORE) founded in 1942, in 1947 they introduced Freedom rides where activists challenged segregation on interstate buses. Provoked violence in 1961 and led to JFK allowing desegregation of interstate transport.

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The Role of Pro-Civil Rights groups

Non-violent groups aiming at intergration:

The youth branch of NAACP founded in 1958, which organised sit-ins in ssegregated lunch counters. Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) emerged from local groups boycotting busess of Montgomery, with a strong leader in MLK and clear political and wider aims.

Organised and non-violent direct action wass a powerful tool, shown by MLK's SCLC leading mass demonstration, culminating in the March on Washington in 1963.

They were important in gaining attention of national and international media and showing the solidarity of AA and white reformers.

Over reaction by local authorities such as Police chief Connor who used excessive force in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, only served to strengthen the impact of organised protest.

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The Role of Pro-Civil Rights groups

Radical and separatist groups:

These groups instead of focusing on integration turned to separatism and solidarity, Marcus garvey's United ***** Improvement Organisation acheived a large membership however partly due to his inspiration.

The Nation of Islam organisation derived from 1930s and developed in the 1950s by Elijah Muhammad and Malcom X

This then led to the Black Power Movement, used by Stokely Carmichael to urge AAs to organise, to recognise their heritage anddto negotiate from a position of strength.

High point for these groups was acheiving the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1965, however there were divisions over how far to take further progress and how to maintain links with liberal white America. This meant organised civil rights movements declined during the latter part of the period.

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The Role of anti-civil rights groups

Klu Klus Klan:

The most famous anti-civil rights group established in a meeting in Nashville in 1867, with Nathan Forest becoming the first leader. They used intimidation and lynchings of AAs as well as attacks on former slaves the KKK attacked workers of Freedmen's Bureau.

By 1871 the Klan had a membership of 40,000 in Tennessee alone and 1/2 million in the South. After mid 1870s Southern states were allowed to make discrimination legal so there was less need for KKK causing its decline.

Reborn in 1915 by W.J Simmons, encouraged by the film 'The birth of a Nation'. The revived Klan extended its hostility to Jews, Catholics and foreigners. Membership peaked at 6 million in 1924. However soon declined, partly due to a sexual scandal involving the Grand Wizard D.C. Stephenson in Indiana.

In 1961 some members attacked the Freedom Riders with approval of Southern Police authorities. There was some revival in the 1970s but the execution of a Klan member in 1981 for a lynching 16 years earlier made it clear this behaviour now not acceptable.

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The Role of anti-civil rights groups


More dangerous than formal organistion was the ability of white Americans to organise and publicise lynchings. 2,700 between 1885 and 1917.

Most notorious was the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955 and the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1962. An all white jury acquitted the murderers of the 14 year old Emmett and local authorities seemed to do little to find the murderers of Ever.

White Citizens' Council:

Formed after the Brown vs Board of Education in 1954 in order to protest about school desegregation.

Encouraging intimidation of AAs trying to register to vote and hostile actions against Civil Rights initiatives. However these councils declined in the 1960s.

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Movement to 1992

The high point of 1964-65:

Johnson era was a high point for the movement, right to vote in 1965 as well as discrimination ended in public accommodations and employment by law in 1964 due to the Civil Rights Act.

Limitations to progress 1965-1992:

  • By end of 1980s, 63% of AAs graduated from high school compared to 77% of whites.
  • Only 11% of AAs graduated college compared to 22% of whites.
  • Unemployment remained higher for AAs
  • Income gap between whitess and AAs increased in 1980s.
  • Av. hourly wage lower for AAs.
  • AA poverty increased since 1950s. 1/3 lived below poverty line with 1/3 in low skilled jobs.

Race relations remained tense in many inner-city areas. With high unemployment, poverty, poor housing and schooling, and unfair treatment by policce led to the race riots in summer of 1965.

The attitude of police and law enforcement towards AAs remained a major concern.

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Movement to 1992

Continuing initiatives for greater equality:

Affirmative Action:
The idea was to compensate AAs for lack of opportunities and discrimination in the past and to ensure racial harmony, one example of this is Nixon's Philadelphia Plan of 1967 which was to set quotas for workers. Congress also passed the Equal Opportunity Act of 1972.

Forcing intergration in schools by busing AA children into white areas, it worked although the policy declined in 1970s through lack of local support.

Progress by 1992:
Civil Rights laws didn't end in 1965, it was renewed and strengthened in 1982, by 1992, 36 AAs in Congress although Civil Rights movement declined in 1970s

Rodney King Affair:
Assult of
AA Rodney King by white police in LA in 1991, all white jury acquitted officers in 1992, highlighting remaining issues of inequality and unequal treatment of AAs by authorities.

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This will be very helpful for my revision as I forget specifcs like years and names quite often. Thank you for putting it online

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