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Article

Richard S. Newman, Paul Finkelman, and Carl E. Prince

[This entry contains three subentries dealing with abolitionism from the late seventeenth century through the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in1865. The first article discusses the definition of abolitionism as differentiated from antislavery activism and its forms including Garrisonian and non Garrisonian abolition The second article describes ...

Article

During the three decades that preceded the Civil War, abolitionism was a major factor in electoral politics. Most historians use the term abolitionism to refer to antislavery activism between the early 1830s, when William Lloyd Garrison began publishing The Liberator, and the American Civil War (1861–1865). The term also refers to the antislavery crusade that mobilized many African Americans and a small minority of whites, who saw their goal realized during the Civil War. Historians also commonly distinguish abolitionism, a morally grounded and uncompromising social reform movement, from political antislavery—represented, for example, by the Free Soil or Republican parties—which advocated more limited political solutions, such as keeping slavery out of the western territories of the United States, and was more amenable to compromise.

Abolitionists played a key role in setting the terms of the debate over slavery and in making it a compelling moral issue Yet abolitionists ...

Article

Nathan Zook

minister, civil rights leader, and member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, was born Avery Caesar Alexander in the town of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, to a family of sharecroppers. The names of his parents are not known. Seventeen years later, his family moved to New Orleans. Avery Alexander maintained an active life there and in Baton Rouge for the next seventy-two years.

Prior to his election to the Louisiana legislature, Alexander was employed as a longshoreman. At the same time, he pursued an education by taking night courses, receiving his high school diploma from Gilbert Academy in 1939. He became politically active by working as a labor union operative for a longshoreman's union, Local 1419. He also held the occupations of real estate broker and insurance agent.

Alexander received a degree in theology from Union Baptist Theological Seminary and became an ordained Baptist minister ...

Article

Brett Gadsden

teacher, civil rights activist, plaintiff in Belton v. Gebhart (1952), a companion case to Brown v. Board of Education (1954), was born in Hazelhurse, Georgia, the daughter of Glover and Ida Hall.

Around 1948, almost a decade after her husband Louis passed away, Ethel Belton moved with her seven children to Claymont, Delaware, a suburban community northwest of Wilmington, Delaware, to join her extended family. There she taught general education in a one-room school. Her daughter, Ethel Louise Belton was eleven years old at the time of the move and was later assigned to Howard High School the only free public school for blacks in the entire state at the time Located in Wilmington it was a fifty minute nine mile commute for Ethel Louise who had a congenital heart condition Although Claymont High School the school for white children in ...

Article

The Black Codes were instituted by Southern legislative bodies in 1865 and 1866 in response to the emancipation of the 4 million former slaves in the Southern states during and after the American Civil War (1861–1865). The Black Codes recognized the new status of African Americans as freedpeople and offered them some of the basic rights of citizenship. However, the codes also defined the freedpeople as legally subordinate to whites and attempted to manage their labor in a way that would cause minimal disruption to the labor system instituted under slavery.

Faced with a rapidly transformed political and economic structure in the postbellum South, Mississippi and South Carolina began passing laws in 1865 to limit the freedom of African Americans New vagrancy laws placed blacks in jeopardy of imprisonment or forced labor if they could not prove they were employed or self supporting Often the result was ...

Article

William C. Harris

a slave. The identity of his father is unknown, but he took the surname of the man who owned his mother before he was born. His childhood as a slave on a small plantation, first in Virginia, then briefly in Mississippi, and finally in Missouri did not significantly differ, as he later recalled, from that of the sons of whites. This relatively benign experience in slavery perhaps owed a great deal to the fact that he was the light-skinned favorite of a benevolent master and mistress. He shared a tutor with his master's son and thus obtained the education that prepared him for later success. During the Civil War, despite the benevolence of his owner, he fled to freedom in Kansas, but after slavery was abolished he returned to Missouri, where he reportedly established the first school in the state for blacks, at Hannibal.

After the war Bruce briefly attended ...

Article

Christine G. Brown

writer and editor, was born in 1890; his parents’ names and his birthplace are now unknown. Little is known of his early life and education. He married Thelma Johnson, with whom he had one daughter. Carter and his wife lived in New York City at the same address, 409 Edgecombe Avenue, from the 1940s until their deaths.

A devoted New Yorker, Carter was a prolific writer and speaker for civil rights, especially concerning jobs, housing, and public office. A committed member of the National Urban League, on 23 July 1928 he delivered a speech on employment and fair housing issues during Negro Week on the Common. In September of that year he took over the editorship of Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life, the Urban League's in-house magazine, when Charles Spurgeon Johnson stepped down as editor With more than 10 000 subscribers when Carter took over the ...

Article

Shirley J. Yee

educator, journalist, editor, and lawyer, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of Abraham Doras Shadd and Harriet Parnell. Although she was the eldest of thirteen children, Mary Ann Shadd grew up in comfortable economic circumstances. Little is known about her mother except that she was born in North Carolina in 1806 and was of mixed black and white heritage; whether she was born free or a slave is unknown. Shadd's father was also of mixed-race heritage. His paternal grandfather, Jeremiah Schad, was a German soldier who had fought in the American Revolution and later married Elizabeth Jackson a free black woman from Pennsylvania Abraham Shadd had amassed his wealth as a shoemaker and his property by the 1830s was valued at five thousand dollars He was a respected member of the free black community in Wilmington and in West Chester Pennsylvania where the family had moved ...

Article

Sean Patrick Adams

Salmon Portland Chase was born in New Hampshire. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1826 and eventually set up a successful law practice in Cincinnati, Ohio. After defending the freedom of several escaped slaves in Ohio, Chase became more involved in the growing antislavery movement of the 1830s and 1840s. He first affiliated himself with the Liberty Party and attempted to shape it into more than a single-issue antislavery organization. Throughout his political career, Chase was able to hold a curious balance between political idealism and aggressive self-promotion. His performance in the 1848 convention that resulted in the formation of the Free Soil Party was a case in point Chase gained national prominence in his role as chair of the convention and proved to be an effective coalition builder Although he was not satisfied with the narrow goals of the Free Soil movement he was willing to ...

Article

Paul Finkelman and Sam Hitchmough

[This entry contains three subentries dealing with civil rights from 1619 to 1895 The first article provides a discussion of the topic during the colonial period through the American Revolution the second article discusses the topic up to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 and the third ...

Article

Michal Belknap

Civil rights is not a term precisely defined even by lawyers A legal dictionary equates civil rights with personal natural rights protected by the U S Constitution but the leading casebook in the field insists that civil rights include statutory as well as constitutional guarantees Nor is it clear to whose rights the term refers One Civil Rights Reader discusses the poor people with disabilities and categories of gender and sexuality as well as race In U S history however the term most often refers to the legal rights of racial minorities especially African Americans Those rights deteriorated markedly during the last years of the nineteenth century improved somewhat during the Progressive Era and the interwar period and were transformed by a Civil Rights Revolution triggered by World War II A period of accelerating progress climaxed with Supreme Court decisions and landmark federal legislation in the 1960s Since the ...

Article

Donna M. DeBlasio

Few events in American history are more significant than the Civil War. The four years of conflict from 1861 to 1865 changed the nation more profoundly than any other single event. The bloody war finally laid to rest the contentious issue of slavery, ending half the nation's horrendous reliance on the buying and selling of human flesh. The Union's industrial power, which the war only provided a glimpse of, grew and strengthened throughout the rest of the nineteenth century. The way Americans saw themselves also changed. The war brought a new sense of nationalism, especially to the Union; Americans began to refer to “The United States” as opposed to “These United States Americans also started to view the federal government and the presidency differently Instead of being some entity in far off Washington D C during and after the war the federal government came into much closer ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

psychologist, was born in the Panama Canal Zone, the son of the Jamaican immigrants Miriam Hanson Clark and Arthur Bancroft Clark. In 1919, Miriam left her husband and brought Kenneth and his sister Beulah to New York City. He attended public schools in Harlem, which were fully integrated when he entered the first grade, but were almost wholly black by the time he finished sixth grade. Kenneth's mother, an active follower of Marcus Garvey, encouraged her son's interest in black history and his academic leanings, and confronted his guidance teacher for recommending that Kenneth attend a vocational high school. A determined woman, active in the garment workers’ union, Miriam Clark persuaded the authorities to send Kenneth to George Washington High, a school with a reputation for academic excellence. In 1931 he won a scholarship to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Clark attended Howard at time of ...

Article

William H. Brown and Graham Russell Hodges

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with law as specifically applied to African Americans from the seventeenth century through the nineteenth century The first article discusses the development of crimes and punishments related to slavery through 1830 while the second article discusses law and legal penalties as applied to ...

Article

Thaddeus Russell

congressman, was born in Albany, Georgia, the son of Levi Dawson, a barber, and Rebecca Kendrick. Dawson received his early education in Albany, then attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and received a bachelor's degree in 1909.

In 1912 Dawson joined thousands of other African Americans migrating to Chicago. Hoping to become one of the few black professionals in the city, he enrolled at the Kent School of Law. In 1917 he interrupted his law studies to volunteer for military service in World War I. He served as a first lieutenant with the 365th Infantry in France, where he was wounded in the shoulder and gassed during the Meuse-Argonne campaign.

After the war Dawson resumed his legal studies at Northwestern Law School and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1920. Two years later he married Nellie Brown with whom he had two children He ...

Article

The Thirteenth Amendment is best understood against the background of the American Civil War (1861–1865). President Abraham Lincoln had adamantly opposed slavery throughout his political career, although he was a proponent of the controversial colonization movement, which encouraged the emigration of free African Americans to West Africa. In addition, his Republican Party had been formed in 1854 to oppose the expansion of slavery. However, ending slavery was not one of the Lincoln administration's initial war aims. Instead he sought to “save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery.” As president, Lincoln had sworn to uphold the Constitution, and the Supreme Court had affirmed the constitutionality of slavery in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857).

This balancing act grew trickier as Southern states began to secede from the Union in the spring of 1861 Lincoln had serious concerns about keeping the four border states ...

Article

Gloria Grant Roberson

With the support of the Harvard-affiliated educator George Herbert Palmer, Greener participated in a program to expose an African American to a Harvard education. Although poor grades resulted in his repeating his first year, Greener went on to win the Boylston Prize for Oratory in his sophomore year and the inaugural Bowdoin Prize for Research and Writing for his senior dissertation on Irish culture. Greener apparently recognized the advantages of repeating his first year at Harvard, because later, as a professor of mental and moral philosophy at the University of South Carolina, he was instrumental in adding a “subfreshman” class to the curriculum for scholarship students struggling with Latin and Greek.

The only child of Richard Wesley Greener, a seafaring man with an adventurous spirit, and Mary Ann Le Brune, Greener was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania His mother was thrust into single parenthood when her husband failed to ...

Article

Peter Wallenstein

civil rights attorney, law school professor, and federal judge, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Roberta Childs, a teacher, and William Henry Hastie, a clerk in the U.S. Pension Office (now the Veterans Administration). He was a superb student and athlete. His father's transfer to Washington, D.C., in 1916 permitted Hastie to attend the nation's best black secondary school, the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, from which he graduated as valedictorian in 1921. He attended Amherst College, where he majored in mathematics and graduated in 1925, valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa, and magna cum laude. After teaching for two years in Bordentown, New Jersey, he studied law at Harvard University, where one instructor adopted the custom of saying after asking a question of the class, “Mr. Hastie, give them the answer” (Ware, 30). He worked on the Law Review and earned an ...

Article

Jeff Bloodworth

congressman, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of Nyanza Hawkins, a pharmacist who moved his family to Los Angeles in 1918 when Hawkins was eleven years old, and Hattie Freeman. Thereafter Los Angeles remained Augustus Hawkins's home. He graduated from Jefferson High School and from the University of Southern California with a degree in Economics in 1931. Only five feet four inches tall and so light-skinned that he was often mistaken for white, Hawkins entered electoral politics at an early age.In 1935, after leaving a job selling real estate, Hawkins was elected to the California State Assembly. Running as a Democrat and a proponent of Upton Sinclair's End Poverty in California (EPIC) program, he defeated a longtime incumbent. Once in office Hawkins became a committed New Deal liberal, supporting Franklin Roosevelt and eschewing socialism and other radical prescriptions to end the Great ...

Article

Jennifer Fleischner

slave, dressmaker, abolitionist, and White House memoirist, was born Elizabeth Hobbs in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, the daughter of Armistead Burwell, a white slaveholder, and his slave Agnes Hobbs. Agnes was the family nurse and seamstress. Her husband, George Pleasant Hobbs, the slave of another man, treated “Lizzy” as his own daughter, and it was not until some years later, after George had been forced to move west with his master, that Agnes told Lizzy the identity of her biological father. While her mother taught her sewing, the skill that would make her name and fortune, it was George Hobbs who first instilled in Lizzy a profound respect for learning. Ironically, it was Armistead Burwell, who repeatedly told Lizzy she would never be “worth her salt,” who probably sparked her ambition to succeed and prove him wrong.

As a young girl Hobbs lived in ...