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In What Ways Did The Position Of African Americans Improve In The Period 1870 1919?

2078 words - 8 pages

In order to answer the above question it is a good idea to look at the situation facing the blacks before 1870. On New Year's Day 1863 the President Abraham Lincoln forced through the 13th Amendment that was a law basically making slavery illegal. At the time this faced a mix reaction as the southern and northern states had different views on slavery. In basic terms the north was more favourable towards the slaves and following their victory in the civil war they could create anti-slavery laws. The southern states, which include Texas and Mississippi, were on the whole pro-slavery. Of course there were many exceptions to the rule in both north and south. The major problem facing the blacks after the Emancipation was the lack of infrastructure allowing them to improve their own lives. Some help was provided by the government but on the whole not enough. There was very little education and many of the slaves had never read a book or written a sentence. Competing against white men for jobs was always going to be a difficult task and few did it successfully. During the Blacks' time as slaves they had always been provided with enough food and shelter to live by their masters, in the period immediately following Emancipation the blacks basically did not know how to fend for themselves! In many cases Black people were freed, had what WEB Dubois described as their "brief moment in the sun," and then returned to a form of slavery in order to feed themselves.These problems were magnified in the south for two major reasons, the first being the anti black feeling that was widespread throughout. The south had had anti-slavery laws thrust upon them and it is fair to say that the 13th Amendment would not have been passed had the Confederate states won the civil war. The second reason for the blacks' plight in the south was the sheer destruction that had been caused by the conflict. The white ruling classes that had administered the south had lost power and the north was dictating to the states. This absence of self-rule left the south in a state of disrepair and disarray. There was a general atmosphere of lawlessness that was confirmed by the carpetbaggers and scallywags that were common in the aftermath of the war. An ironic thing about the problems in the south was that the anti-slavery laws were in fact crippling the major industries that should have provided stability to the southern economy. Many tobacco and cotton plantations had previously used slaves to work, without slaves the costs of production were much higher and this caused a reduction in output and therefore a reduction in incomes. The period of Reconstruction that was begun by President Johnson did little to aid blacks in the south. The Republicans demanded more and this was reflected by the 14th and 15th Amendments.The 14th and 15th Amendments are incredibly important in determining how the lives of blacks improved. They were an attempt by the government to level the playing field within...

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