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Post Civil War Racism
The conclusion of the Civil War in favor of the north was supposed to mean an end to slavery and equal rights for the former slaves. Although laws and amendments were passed to uphold this assumption, the United States Government fell short. The thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments were proposed and passed within five years of the Civil Warís conclusion. These amendments were to create equality throughout the United States, especially in the south where slavery had been most abundant. Making equality a realization would not be an easy task. This is because many problems were not perceived before and during the war. The reunification of the country would prove to be harder than expected, and entry into a new lifestyle would be difficult for both the freedmen and their former oppressors.
The thirteenth amendment clearly prohibits slavery in the United States. All slaves were to be freed immediately when this amendment was declared ratified in December of 1865, but what were they to do? Generations of African-Americans had been enslaved in America, and those who had lived their whole lives in slavery had little knowledge of the outside world. This lack of knowledge would not be helpful in trying to find work once they were released. Plantation owners with a lack of workforce were eager to offer extremely low pay to their former slaves. In addition, the work force of the plantation would often live in the same quarters they did while enslaved. These living conditions showed little change from the living conditions African-Americans had faced while enslaved.
While the former slaves lived on the ideal that they were now free, the fifteenth amendment was under heavy fire. Those who felt threatened by the massive amount of African-Americans who would now be participating in the government criticized this Amendment, which allowed all male citizens the right to vote regardless of race. Ex-Confederates, many of which were not allowed to vote after bitterly losing to the north, argued that African-Americans were not ready to vote because they were ignorant to the political system of the U.S. The political power of the south would be in the hands of the formerly oppressed, as opposed to their oppressors, who would be practically powerless. The debate on this topic would cause more tension in southern society, which was already undergoing a difficult period of adaptation.
Another problem which arose in the south were laws which would further the oppression of the African-American population. Commonly called Black Codes, these laws also punished white persons who supported emancipation during the Civil War. These Black Codes were often unreasonable or unneeded to keep order within society. They were simply created as bitter retaliation by the ex-Confederates who were not pleased by the integration, which had just taken place. Black Codes were created and enforced on a State level which became superior to the Fourteenth Amendment. The laws would be psychologically damaging to the African-American population, who would be forced to feel inferior. Unfortunately, the white population would do more than hurt the freedmen psychologically.
Around the same time Black Codes were created, racist groups such as the Klu Klux Klan were to emerge in the south. These groups would take their anger out on those who were different than them, mostly focusing on the African-Americans. Violence was inflicted on their victims, who were usually randomly selected by the group based only on their race. Government officials were unhelpful to the Klanís victims, and corruption spread through the police force as officers joined the group and granted access to prisons where black prisoners would be selected and used as punching bags.
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Reconstruction Era, Slavery, White supremacy in the United States, Economic history of the United States, Cherokee Nation, Freedman, Black Codes, Slavery in the United States, Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Reconstruction Amendments, Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
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