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Jefferson Davis stated in the pre-Civil

War years to a Northern audience, ?You say you are opposed to the

expansion of slavery… Is the slave to be benefited by it? Not at all.

It is not humanity that influences you in the position which you now occupy

before the country,? (Davis, The Irrepressible Conflict, 447). The

Northerners had not freed the slaves for moral issues; the white majority

did not have anything but its own economic prosperity on its mind. The

African Americans gained their emancipation and new rights through the

battling Northern and Southern factions of the United States, not because

a majority of the country felt that slavery possessed a ?moral urgency?.

As the years passed and the whites began to reconcile, their economic goals

rose to the forefront of their policy, while racism spread throughout the

country and deepened in the South. Even with all of the good intentions

and ideals expressed in the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, blacks watched

as their freedom disintegrated through the late 19th Century as a result

of the Supreme Court decisions that limited the implications of the new

amendments.

After the passage of these amendments,

two of the three branches of government disconnected themselves with the

issue of black civil rights. Following Grant?s unenthusiastic approach

to protecting blacks in the South, the executive branch gradually made

its position on the issue clear in 1876. (Zinn, 199) When Hayes beat

Tilden in the presidential election by promising to end the Reconstruction

in the South, it was evident that the White House would no longer support

any calls for the protection of blacks. The compromise of 1877 brought

Hayes to office, but ?doomed the black man to a second class citizenship

that was to be his lot for nearly a century afterward,? (Davis, 160). The

Radical Republican?s in Congress, who were responsible for freeing the

blacks, were also responsible for letting their voices become silenced.

This occurred as the other, more industrial, interests of the broad based

party dominated their platform; leaving the blacks to face the wrath of

the Southerners. A final blow to the hopes for national protection

of African American civil rights was dealt with The Force Bill of 1890.

In this bill, the Senate objected to the idea of Congress protecting African-

American voters in the South through federal supervision of state elections.

(McDuffie, 117) It was sign that Congress, and its northern constituents,

had finally lost interest in the cause. As the opportunity for economic

advancement increased after the Civil War, the North felt as though it

had done its part and both the President and Congress hastily turned their

backs on the new, colored American Citizens.

With the protection and support

of Northerners lost, the blacks in the South were held hostage by white

supremacists. Although the 13th Amendment stated that ?neither slavery

nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States,? a new

agricultural system, the crop lien, kept the blacks under the control of

their (former) ?masters?. With unfair trade practices and a limited

amount of capital being exchanged, the blacks in the South were not free

to do as they pleased; once again they were caught in a system that profited

the white Southerners. These whites also expressed their extreme

racist tendencies through the acts of violence by the Klu Klux Klan.

The Klan performed acts of extreme violence, targeting blacks and whites,

who were considered to be Republicans or sympathetic to the black cause.

Their success resulted in violence becoming a successful political tool

in the Southern arena. Although the official title was gone, the whites

had managed to reassert their status as ?masters? to the Southern Blacks

through scare tactics and ?economic policies?.

The Supreme Court between 1873

and 1898 expressed the weakness to resisting racism in all areas of the

nation through its successive decisions. The Court prompted discrimination

by implying that if blacks wanted legal protection, they would need to

seek it from their state, not national, government. This legislation

affected black citizen?s across the country, but was especially damning

to the Southern blacks. The amount of racism thriving in the Southern

states made any chances of the State support of Black rights virtually

nil. The Supreme Court supported the Southerners? push for black

social subordination, when in 1883 the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was nullified.

That decision limited the interpretation of the 14th Amendment, applying

its jurisdiction over state actions only. The Court again limited

the role of the 14th Amendment further with its decision on Plessy vs.

Ferguson (1896).

?The object of the amendment was

undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the

law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish

distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished form

political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory

to either.?

(Zinn, 200)

The ?separate but equal? doctrine

spread like wildfire across the South. When the Supreme Court reaffirmed

its decision in the Cummings vs. County Board of Education (1899), public

schools were officially allowed to segregate. The implications of the Plessy

vs. Ferguson and Cummings vs. County Board of Education were substantial.

The Southerners jumped at the opportunity to introduce ?Jim Crow? legislation.

Although some saw stupidity in the situation and mocked it, ?If there must

be Jim Crow cars on the railroads, there should be Jim Crow cars on the

street railways. Also on all passenger boats… If there are to be Jim

Crow cars, moreover, there should be Jim Crow waiting saloons at all stations,

and Jim Crow eating houses,? (Woodward, 67), the divided South soon became

a reality. The Supreme Court had permitted the legal route for subordination

of the Blacks to be opened; the new, now limited, amendments were no longer

roadblocks, and the Southerners swarmed to their state governments to disenfranchise

the Negroes and to ensure that a white, democratic control continued in

the South. (Woodward, 71)

Since the late 1860?s, Southern

states had attempted to remove the franchise from the black citizens.

Once more, they were aided in their goal with the Supreme Court rulings

that limited the implications of the 15th Amendment. The latest addition

to the Constitution stated that ?The right of citizens of the

United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by United States

or by any State on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.?

(Norton, A-14) The Supreme Court recognized a weakness in this statement

and knew that it lacked support from the Northern States (the majority

of whom did not ratify it). In 1870, in US vs. Reese, the Supreme

Court declared that the 15th Amendment merely listed certain grounds for

denying suffrage and did not guarantee the right to vote. While,

for the most part, blacks continued to vote in the North, blacks in the

South saw an immediate attack on their franchise. White Southerners

seized the opportunity and the infamous ?The Mississippi Plan? (1890) used

literacy and high taxes to deter the Negroes from the polls. In 1898, Louisiana

introduced ?grandfather clauses?, exempting ?sons and grandsons of those

eligible to vote before 1867, the year the Fifteenth Amendment had gone

into effect,? (Norton, 501). These measures, which were quickly adopted

by all Southern states except Tennessee, turned out to be extremely successful.

The white Southerners had effectively disenfranchised the African American

by the turn of the century.

With the Northern ?victory? in the

Civil War, African Americans were forever ?freed from the bonds of servitude?.

However, the freedom that they were released into closely resembled their

years of servitude, filled with degrading poverty and little chance for

advancement. Although the Radical Republicans had embarked on a costly

Reconstruction plan and set up legislation meant to protect black civil

rights, the blacks did not thrive. The Supreme Court successfully

chipped away at any progress made by the Republicans. Rulings made

in the later half of the 19th Century reduced the scope of the 13th, 14th

and 15th amendments, and lead to the further subordination of the Black

race by Southern State governments. Southern whites were allowed to set

up a system that kept blacks as prisoners without any say on their future.

The social practices, including segregation, curfews, violence and disfranchisement

that the Blacks suffered left them anything but free as the 20th Century

dawned. The amendments to the Constitution had been made, but the whites

did not take the time after 1866 to abolish the prejudice that came with

slavery, giving testimony to theory that the North engaged in the Civil

War for economic, not moral reasons. The application of racism

after the Civil War was just as rampant, but much more subtle than before

the Civil War, making it much more difficult to confront, and resulting

in a century of unequal education, inferior treatment and segregation.


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