African Americans lived differently than white men did during the turn of the century. They faced many problems within the society. Some of the issues they faced were out of their hands. Although things were not the greatest all the time, there were supporters and organizations that they could turn to. Along with these organizations they had leaders that tried to help the race. Many African Americans became successful in the late 1920’s, and still to this day there are many African Americans that are successful. During the time period around the late 1870’s through the 1920’s many African Americans did not have good jobs.
The majority of African Americans lived in the southern states. Many were sharecroppers who worked the land and gave the land owners part of the profit from the crops. African Americans were cheated out of money through this process most of the time. The African Americans did receive the right to vote before white women. African Americans faced many issues throughout these years. A series of laws were passed in the South to keep the African Americans at the lowest point possible in society. These laws were known as the Jim Crow Laws.
Shortly after these laws were established segregation became legalized, and black codes that were abolished during the Reconstruction resurfaced and were supported in Plessy vs. Ferguson. This lead to African Americans being looked down on and equality far from reach. African Americans were not allowed to go to the same schools or drink out of the same water fountains as whites; they were even told where they could and could not live. This put a strain on the race and the way they had to live. Many African Americans were also stripped of their voting rights. In 1890 a poll tax was enforced.
This meant that poor people, of both races, were not able to vote simply because they could not afford to. They also instituted a literacy test where you had to show that you were able to read and write. Many times African American college graduates failed the test, yet illiterate whites were some how able to pass. The responses to these issues were not good. They did not understand why they should be treated any differently from the whites. This led to riots and outburst throughout the country. After this, African Americans became the center of violent and cruel attacks.
Lynchings were on an all time high in the late 1800s with more than a hundred African Americans being lynched per year. Law enforcement usually did nothing to stop these terrible acts and sometimes even participated. African Americans fled to the North during this time in search of better jobs and home lives for their families. Many organizations were formed during this time in hopes of ceasing the violence and bringing America to equality. Two of the largest influences were Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois. Both of these men had separate approaches with the end result being the same.
Washington thought that equality would be achieved, but it would be a very slow and ongoing process. He wanted to concentrate on getting African Americans better paying jobs and a greater education. Du Bois believed that you should demand equality and stop at nothing to get it. He wanted better education, equal rights, and suffrage. Another well known advocate for African Americans was Ida B. Wells. She founded the anti-lynching movement that came into existence in the 1880s. This group set out to stop the violent acts aimed at African Americans.
Wells’ goal was to make lynching a federal crime and keep the local law agencies from allowing and participating in hate crimes. White women from the North and some others supported this movement, but it wasn’t until the 1930’s that lynching became a federal crime. For a time, Wells published a newspaper, Free Speech. An angry mob of people burned down her office in Memphis, Tennessee and forced her to leave town. In 1891, Wells supported the strike of black cotton pickers. She was dismayed when fifteen of the cotton pickers were lynched.
The whites sent a strong message that they were not going to conform to her desires and accept the equality of the African Americans for some time. With the end of the Civil War, the African Americans received freedom from slavery and gains some rights but lost many of those same rights a mere twenty years later . They had sacrificed much and did not give them up easily. Even though they were often defeated in court and often threatened with violence, a visionary group of leaders laid the foundation for the future successes of the civil rights movement.
They founded important educational institutions and organizations to fight for civil rights and cultivated both a new generation of leaders and a growing number of writers, artists, and professionals who embodied Du Bois’s idea of a ‘talented tenth’ and who became increasingly active and effective in the 1920s. Almost a century later, African Americans are better accepted in society than ever before. There is less of a double standard and more equality thanks to the brave men and women who came before and strove to encourage, nurture, and raise their children to grow up in a more civil environment.
Courtney from Study Moose
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