To What Extent were the rights and interests of American Negroes safeguarded in the period 1865-1890?

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To What Extent were the rights and interests of American Negroes safeguarded in the period 1865-1890?

At the close of the war more attention was given to the reconstruction of Southern institutions than to the elevation of the ex-slave. While a handful of the Radical Republicans, such as Sumner and Stevens, were aware that slavery had not prepared the ex-slave for participation in a free competitive society, most liberals assumed that the termination of slavery meant the end of their problems. They believed that blacks could immediately enter into community life on an equal footing with other citizens, Any suggestion that the ex-slave needed help to get started drew considerable resentment and hostility from liberals and conservatives alike. With the abolition of the peculiar institution, the anti-slavery societies considered their work finished. Frederick Douglass, however, complained that the slaves were sent out into the world empty-handed.  In fact, both the war and emancipation had intensified racial hostility. The ex-slave had not yet been granted his civil rights. At the same time, he was no longer covered by property rights. Therefore he was even more vulnerable to physical intimidation than before.

After Lincoln's assassination, Andrew Johnson further accelerated he pace of reconciliation. Granting personal pardons by the thousands, he initiated a plan for restoration which was even more lenient. Southern states resumed home rule, and, in the

Federal election of 1866, they elected scores of Confederate officials to Congress. At the same time other Confederate officials were elected to other local posts throughout the South. One of the most urgent tasks taken up by these new home-rule governments was the determination and definition of the status of the ex-slave. State after state passed black codes which bore an amazing resemblance to those of slavery days. Blacks were not allowed to testify in court against whites. If they quit their jobs, they could be imprisoned for breach of contract. Anyone found without a job could be arrested and fined $50. Those who could not pay the fine were hired out to anyone in the community

Who would pay the fine. This created a new system of forced labor. At the same time, blacks could be fined for insulting gestures, breaking the curfew, and for possessing firearms. This created the kind of supervision of personal life which was similar to that of slavery. Although the Thirteenth Amendment had made slavery unconstitutional, the South was trying to recreate the peculiar institution in law while not admitting it in name.

Congress removed home rule from the Southern states and divided the area into five military districts. Even those Southerners who had already received federal pardons were now required to swear a stricter oath in order to regain their right to vote. State

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Conventions met to draft new constitutions. These conventions were dominated by a coalition of three groups: new black voters, whites who had come from the North either to make personal fortunes or to help educate the ex-slave, and Southern whites who

Had never supported the Confederacy. The oath of allegiance required a citizen to swear that he was now and always had been loyal to the Federal Government. This excluded all the Confederate officials. These new Southern reconstruction governments operated under the protection of the Army and with the encouragement of the Federal Government. They strove to reconstruct the South ...

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