?Everyone knows about president Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation. How the north won the civil war and slavery was abolished. It is a nice thought. But it was not that easy. After the civil war slaves across the United States were granted their freedom. Being granted freedom and being free were two different things, many slaves would learn this the hard way. Freedmen and women were now on their own and had to face many obstacles. The biggest being racism. This battle for equality would last from the moment of freedom to our present day, and will sadly continue for future generations.
I would like to discuss the methods that the overwhelmingly white southerner power structure used after the Civil War to make the exercise of freedom challenging for former slaves. The actions that freed people took in order to challenge the efforts of certain white southerners to keep them in a slave status following the end of the Civil War. Some aspects of the post-Reconstruction political and social climate, that left former slaves and other groups vulnerable to discrimination and second class citizenship. And the effects of racial tension from the nineteenth century, that have spilled over into American society today.
After the civil war approximately 4 million slaves were finally granted the freedom they so desperately wanted. Newly freed slaves now had bigger challenges to face. Most had no family, no home, could not read or write, no monetary means, and limited skills. One quality that they maintained was hope and persistence. Freedmen face many obstacles trying to obtain equal standing among whites. The powerhouse of southern white supremacy proved to make this difficult for newly freed slaves. Freedmen now faced even more challenges such as Black Codes, Share cropping, and the KKK.
Black codes were designed to drive the ex-slaves back to plantations. In the years of 1865 and 1866 state legislatures in the south indorsed a sequence of laws. The laws were implicated to define the “rights” of newly freed slaves. These disingenuous Black Codes “showed the combined influence of the old laws for free Negroes, the vagrancy laws of the North and South for whites, the customs of slavery times, the British West Indies legislation for ex-slaves, and the regulations of the U. S. War and Treasury Departments and of the Freedmen’s Bureau.
” These new laws did recognize the rights for blacks to hold property, have legal marriages, to be sued and sue others, bare witness in cases where both parties are black. But these laws also stripped freedmen of constitutional rights, such as the right to own weapons. These laws also varied from state to state. Some states newly freed men had curfews, and had to be off the streets by a certain time. Others employed laws that freedmen weren’t permitted in city limits with out special authorization. States like Mississippi prevented the purchase of land by ex slaves except in certain towns.
Other states limited the laws of trade, and legalized whipping to correct workers. The Black codes were just a legitimate way for ex slave owners and racist southerners to still hold power and limit the black population. These proved to do more harm to the evolution of blacks in America then it did to help them. Sharecropping was just another way to oppress freed slaves. It was a cruel way to keep black dependent on whites. With sharecropping blacks were allowed to “rent” land for farming from mostly ex-slave owners. This although a nice gesture, limited the amount of growth potential for a freedman.
They were charged high rent rates and made little to no profits. If they could sell what they farmed on their own they faced getting swindled and having to sell for very low prices. This was tough because most ex-slaves have no experience with math, trade, or anything associated with buying and selling. The horror with sharecropping is it was basically a legal form of slavery. Many newly freed slaves once freed had nothing but the clothes on their backs. Many returned to their former owners for sharecropping. Just to still live in deplorable conditions, work fields under supervision, and be treated just as they once were.
With these deals it employed a “master” and “servant” relationship, and in most states (due to the black codes) “masters” could physically discipline their “servants”. With the combination of black codes and sharecropping it equaled to a legal way to enslave people. Another challenge faced by freedmen was society once free. Ex-slaves were not accepted in the south after the civil war. Things like segregation, race riots, hate crimes, and the KKK would remain for many decades. Whites fought hard to separate class levels between whites and blacks. Blacks faced segregation nearly everywhere they went.
Often times having to utilize different facilities than whites. The KKK established them selves around 1865. They consisted of mainly former confederate members, and expanded to many southern states. The goals of the KKK originally a source of amusement at first then implored into something far more sinister. The radical racial group not only lead riots, but would hunt and hang innocent freedmen simply because they were black. They would also inhibit blacks from things like voting, lobbying, or even going to schools. Although facing many challenges after being freed, ex-slaves did everything in their power to overcome them.
One thing that helped aid this recovery was the U. S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. This Bureau is more commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau it was created in by Congress in 1865. The Bureau helped provide food, education, legal assistance, housing, and medical aid. It also struggled to settle ex-slaves on Confederate lands sequestered or discarded during the war. Freedmen also started to assume political roles. Sixteen black men served in the Senate and the House of Representatives between 1868 and 1876, and numerous others took on roles in state and local government.
Having representatives in office for their cause was a tremendous gain for former slaves. It gave them a voice, an advocate. I believe it also gave many hope for a better future of acceptance. In 1875 the Civil Rights act was developed. It provided protection of Americans and their right, despite race. I was implemented with the intention of delivering “the equality of all men before the law,” and acknowledged the obligation of government to “mete out equal and exact justice to all, of whatever nativity, race, color, or persuasion, religious or political.
” It then declared that all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States “shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land and water, theaters, and other places of public amusement; subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous condition of servitude. “