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For many African Americans living in the South, the promise and hope brought about by the Emancipation Proclamation (1864) and the victory of the U.S. federal government in the Civil War were cruelly short-lived. Indeed, many freedpeople found themselves living as subsistence farmers in a sharecropping system that—coupled with the passage of so-called Jim Crow laws, restrictive covenants designed to sharply curtail the rights and freedoms of recently-freed slaves—in effect returned them to states of virtual servitude. With the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the ascendancy of the racist and Southern collaborator Andrew Johnson to the presidency, and the death knell of federal Reconstruction efforts in the South, African Americans began to abandon the region, where more than 90 percent of all African Americans in the United States made their homes.

The westward territories seemed a likely place to begin new lives and it was to the west and specifically Kansas ...

Article

James Sellman

The Democratic Party, formed in the late 1820s, is the world's oldest existing political party. Together with the Republican Party, which appeared during the 1850s, it makes up the American two-party system. In many respects, the two parties have reversed nineteenth-century positions, and African Americans, who strongly identified as Republicans through the 1920s, have become equally firm since the 1940s in their commitment to the Democrats.

During the nineteenth century virtually no African Americans supported the Democratic Party The Democrats were opposed to a strong central government to reform measures and to blacks During the antebellum era the party drew much of its strength from white Southerners who staunchly defended the institution of slavery and feared that free blacks would incite slave rebellions In any case no slaves and few free blacks had the right to vote The main sources of Democratic strength in the North were Midwesterners born ...

Article

Terry D. Goddard

The designation “Jim Crow laws” refers to legislation in effect in a majority of American states in the nineteenth century intended to enforce segregation in places of business and public transportation. The name of these laws is derived from a minstrel song called “Jim Crow,” which was written by a struggling actor named Thomas Dartmouth Rice in 1838. Rice, a white man who wore blackface makeup, played Jim Crow on the New York stage as a stereotypical African American—a poorly educated and somewhat silly singer and dancer. Jim Crow laws were applied not only to schools, theaters, restaurants, hospitals, and public rest rooms but also to railroad cars and bus terminals. They were enforced in such northern states as Delaware and North Dakota as well as in the South after the Civil War.

As this brief description of these laws indicates, Frederick Douglass s escape from slavery in ...

Article

Thomas J. Davis

Jim Crow’s scandalous history as a term of opprobrium signifying black/white racial segregation started, then, years before the United States abolished slavery in 1865. The phrase settled as a castelike social description marking African Americans as simultaneously accommodated yet ostracized. Jim Crow cropped up in Louisville, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and New York City in the 1830s as the name of a song and dance, “Jump Jim Crow.” The term quickly became more than a minstrel show title. It appeared in Massachusetts in 1841 to describe railroad cars set apart for blacks, but the name became attached to more than the seating arrangements on railroad cars, as Sarah Roberts’s case showed in 1848 When the City of Boston s school board barred five year old Sarah from attending her neighborhood public primary school and instead assigned her to one of two schools appropriate to colored children her father the ...

Article

Samuel Brenner

Between the late nineteenth century and the beginning of the twenty first century African Americans interacted with judges and the judiciary on two major levels first as objects of legal decisionmaking whether as lawyers parties or uninvolved citizens notably in cases involving civil rights and second as members of the judiciary making those decisions The later history of the first level is ironic while the federal courts led the way in the mid twentieth century in dismantling the system of Jim Crow legalized segregation the only reason it was the judiciary rather than the federal legislature that needed to do so was that in the late nineteenth century the U S Supreme Court had acted specifically to thwart Congress s probable attempt to accomplish the same goal decades earlier On the second level while at the beginning of the twenty first century the total number of African American judges remained ...

Article

The original Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was organized in Pulaski, Tennessee, during the winter of 1865–1866, by six former Confederate Army officers. The group's founders gave the group a name adapted from the Greek word kuklos, meaning “circle.” Although the Ku Klux Klan began as a fraternal organization, its activities soon were directed against the Republican Reconstruction governments and their leaders, both black and white, who came to power in the Southern states after the Civil War.

Article

Charles Orson Cook

Little Rock is strategically located near the geographic center of Arkansas, where it serves as the political and commercial capital of the state. The city is also on a geographic dividing line between the agricultural regions of the east and south and the hills and mountains of the west and north. In antebellum Arkansas, Little Rock was the home of a significant population of slaves, many of whom were skilled workers, and after the Civil War, the city continued to attract African American residents as the center of Reconstruction government. The total population of the city increased from barely three thousand in 1860 to near twelve thousand by 1870, and by 1880 there were approximately twenty-five thousand total residents. Railroad expansion in the late nineteenth century and federal government spending during World War I continued to encourage urban and industrial development there.

Article

William C. Hine

Alonzo Jacob Ransier was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to free parents. Contemporary accounts described his education as “limited.” In the 1850s he secured a position as a shipping clerk with a prominent commercial firm in Charleston. In 1856 he married Louisa Ann Carroll, and they were the parents of eleven children. Carroll died in 1875, and he married Mary Louisa McKinlay in 1876.

Ransier was a leading figure in Reconstruction and Republican politics in South Carolina. He participated in the 1865 Colored Peoples' Convention in Charleston that urged the state's white leaders to enfranchise black men and abolish the black code, a series of measures designed to limit the rights of black people and to confine them to menial and agricultural labor. In 1867 Congress passed a series of Reconstruction laws that provided for the reorganization of the Southern states the enfranchisement of black ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

James Thomas Rapier was born of free parents in Florence, Alabama, the son of John H. Rapier, a barber, and Susan (maiden name unknown). As a youngster, he was sent to live with his father's mother, Sally Thomas, and his father's half-brother, James Thomas, after whom Rapier was named, and to attend school in Nashville, Tennessee. Sally and James Thomas, although legally slaves, hired their own time and lived autonomous lives. Young Rapier thrived under their care and learned to read and write.

At the age of nineteen Rapier was sent by his father to Buxton, Canada West, an all-black settlement, to continue his education. At a school founded by the Presbyterian minister William King he studied Latin Greek mathematics and the Bible He also underwent a religious conversion and later taught school in the settlement My coming to Canada is worth all the world to ...

Article

Robert Fay

After the American Civil War ended in 1865, the United States struggled to define the role that blacks would play in society, especially in the South. During the later stages of Reconstruction, Northern Republicans in the Congress of the United States sought to secure the citizenship rights for newly emancipated blacks by passing the Fourteenth Amendment and the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 and 1868, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875. These measures threatened the nature of Southern society, and some whites in the region undertook a campaign to preserve their way of life. This campaign became known as Redemption. Southern whites, led by those in the planter class, attempted to “redeem” the South by depriving blacks of their political and economic rights through violence, intimidation, and discriminatory laws.

By 1877 many people in the nation believed that ...

Article

Douglas Henry Daniels

Black urbanites have played a vital role in the nation's cities since colonial times. As runaway slaves fled the South, they sought refuge in northern as well as southern cities, taking advantage of the anonymity that typified urban settings. After Emancipation in 1865, and increasingly after Reconstruction, this trend continued. The first mass migration of blacks to northern and midwestern cities—New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Saint Louis, and Chicago—took place during World War I. With World War II, thousands of black migrants moved to Pacific Slope cities—Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle—as well as to the older urban areas of the North and the Midwest.

In the second half of the twentieth century black southerners and also some northern urbanites occupied the mushrooming cities of the South Houston Dallas Memphis Atlanta and Richmond Unlike their northern counterparts black urbanites in the South moved into what was largely new construction In ...