John Horneff 10/7/04

John Horneff 10/7/0411th GradeHR – 7
Document Based Question
Oftentimes people are filled with a false sense of security in their
government, however a government and its legislation are only as powerful
as its citizen’s will acknowledge. We see an example of this struggle
during the reconstruction era in regard to freed slaves. While they were
free in title many people sought to take as much of that freedom away as
they could. People such as the KKK, the confederate veterans, and even
Andrew Johnson tried to keep the blacks servant to whites. While it’s true
that the freedmen gained equality and freedom, the degrees of those
qualities were seriously hindered by the “subjugated, but unconverted
rebels” (Document B).

The 14th amendment granted citizenship to all Americans; also the 15th
amendment granted voting rights to all males (Document A). This was one
victory that the blacks gained after the Civil War. Another important
document which gave blacks increased rights was the Civil Rights Act of
1875. This gave all citizens equal protection under the law of public
amusements (Document C). While all of that was monumental for blacks, some
of those legislative pieces were all but ignored by the Southerners.

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Perhaps some of the most horrendous laws created in the south were the
Jim Crow laws. The Jim Crow laws legalized segregation in the South while
also putting limitations on the black population. These laws did not go
unnoticed in the North, but because of the politically correct President
little could be done to challenge those laws. President Johnson thought
that the most important part in reconstruction was not necessarily securing
black’s rights, but instead was allowing the south back into the Union with
as little confrontation as possible (Document B). Unfortunately, the
careless actions of a president and a strong unified south allowed the
prejudice against African Americans to continue despite the attempts of
congress to shut the Jim Crow laws down.

It is important to realize the reason for the South’s success in
separating Blacks from whites was because of their truly unified pattern of
thought. More then 85% of the South at that time saw blacks as inferior to
whites. The south was able to overwhelm blacks stating things like “Every
Southern State should swarm with White Leagues” (Document D). The true
feelings of the south were that the Northerners had no right to once again
impose their beliefs, political or moral, upon the very different South. In
fact the South despite being far outnumbered and out resourced showed that
they were willing to fight yet another Civil war for their beliefs: To let
northern radicals understand that military supervision of southern
elections and the civil-rights bill mean war” (Document D).

Reconstruction’s largest failure to preserve the black equality
probably came after the Union troops finally left the South in the late
1800’s. As soon as the Northern troops finally left the south we see one of
the most important Supreme Court rulings of all time. The case of Plessey
versus Ferguson dealt with the legality of segregation. In it we finally
came face to face in the south with the morality of segregation,
unfortunately the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was legal (Document
H). This ruling was based on a few things, but the most important being the
fact that as long as the separated races were given equal accommodations
that no form of discrimination was taking place. We know now that this
ruling was far from correct.

While the Southern freedmen were afforded many freedoms and equalities
which they had never before held, the resistance by the Southern whites
served to combat the new equalities. The path to freedom sometimes isn’t as
strait as we would like, in fact sometimes it can be as confusing and
dangerous as a minefield. As the political climate in the south changed the
Negro’s role changed with it, affording blacks unparallel freedoms and
dangers. The typical southern black realized that he was no longer living
in a Slave’s south, but instead a Freedmen’s minefield.


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