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To what extent did black Civil Rights improve in the years between 1863-1877?

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Introduction

To what extent did black Civil Rights improve in the years between 1863-1877? Having endured the brutality of slavery and the uncertainty of war, America's blacks enjoyed a period of relative respite during the years 1863-1877. With slavery abolished, the South underwent reconstruction within every component of its unsteady structure. However, one must measure the success of this reconstruction with the criteria of political, social and economic changes in mind. The amendments of the 1860s gave blacks greater political freedom, but were only upheld by the military force of the Northern army; blacks developed their first education and religious institutions, but only within a segregated framework; and economically, the black population worked long, hard hours- though in better conditions than slavery. Despite the progressions, the promise of Reconstruction and the 13th-15th amendments was far from fulfilled. It remained a tough life for the ex-slaves. The political influence of blacks was significantly enhanced by the revolutionary amendments passed in the 1860s. The thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments expanded black rights to an unprecedented extent, affording them rights equal to those of an average white man. ...read more.

Middle

This obedience was asserted via several vagrancy laws, which meant that any black found without a white man to vouch for his employment would be prosecuted. As a consequence, blacks were restricted to 'black' areas unless unaccompanied by their white employers. Codes dictated their hours of labour, duties, and the behaviour assigned to them as agricultural workers. Black Codes left African Americans with little freedom. Even the freedom to chose a type of work was often regulated, as many white southerners believed blacks were predestined to work as agricultural labourers. In addition, the advantage of regulating occupations provided them with labourers. In South Carolina, for example, a special license and certificate from a local judge attesting to a freedman's skill had to be obtained in order to pursue work in any occupation other than in agriculture or domestic work. However, having been forced to withdraw into their own sectors, the blacks began to build their own societies. The 'ghettoes' were far from their contemporary state; hierarchical and thriving with the business, the ghettoes were replicas of white communities. This meant that, for the first time, blacks were able to create and control their own institutions. ...read more.

Conclusion

This resulted in their becoming more and more isolated from conventional society. However, an African American economy was also developed from within the segregated framework; small business sprung up, enabling blacks to make money independent of whites for the first time. Thus, one can see that Reconstruction enabled blacks to move towards economic independence in both towns and countryside. However, in both cases the development came at the expense of segregation, and the deskilling of previously well-taught slaves. Even with this taken into account, though, black Civil Rights were extended most profoundly in the area of economics; for the first time, black money was untainted by white supremacy. Despite the expansion of black Civil Rights during the period 1863-77, the benefits were limited by Southern white supremacy, and 'white trash' intolerance. Ultimately, Reconstruction failed because planters' land was not redistributed, thus ensuring that blacks remained dependent on their previous owners. By 1877, the blacks still had very little. However, a small black economy, and several institutions, had been developed independent of the whites', thus enhancing blacks' standing in society. Nonetheless, the slaves who dreamt of a post-War 'promised land' were severely and tragically let down. 9/4/2005 Luke Bullen FHH 1 ...read more.

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