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Article

Omar H. Ali

In the decades following Reconstruction, African Americans continued to push for an expansion of their democratic rights, despite facing increasing political marginalization and economic hardship. Growing debt, low commodity prices, and low wages kept most African Americans dependent upon large landowners. By the late 1870s most former slaves had become sharecroppers, indebted to local landlords and merchants on whom they relied for supplies, credit, and land on which to farm. Even though many black men and women had secured land after Emancipation, this usually consisted of small plots—making it difficult for them to compete with cash crops in a global marketplace. Brazil, Egypt, and India for instance, had become major cotton-producing nations, pulling down prices and requiring farmers in the Cotton Belt to grow ever larger harvests in order to make a profit.

The collapse of Reconstruction in the late 1870s came with the reassertion of the Democratic Party in ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Although residential segregation is often considered one of the more harmful effects of racism in the United States, some African Americans in the nineteenth century chose to form their own racially separate communities. Unlike the ghettos and rural enclaves where many blacks were forced to live at the time, black towns were established to promote economic independence, self-government, and social equality for African Americans. More than eighty such towns were settled in the fifty years following the Civil War.

A few, such as New Philadelphia, Illinois, were formed even before the Civil War, but it was not until after Emancipation in the United States that the population of free blacks was large enough to supply settlers for the new towns. The first great wave of black migration began as Reconstruction ended in 1877 When federal troops withdrew from the South many blacks feared that the civil and political ...

Article

Barbara C. Behan

For three centuries, Americans of African descent have at times sought to establish communities where they could live in partial or complete isolation from the dominant culture. Settlements of formerly enslaved African Americans existed on the East Coast after the Revolutionary War. All-black settlements also developed among the Seminole Nation in Florida as early as the eighteenth century. As the nation industrialized, segregated company towns also were built in various locations.

The phrase “all-black towns” usually refers to the period of self-segregation and town-building that began after Reconstruction and continued into the early twentieth century. Historians estimate that at least seventy-five to one hundred all-black towns were founded during this time, mainly in the South and the West.

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

sociologist, was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in what was then the British West Indies. His father, William Raphael Cox, was the captain and customs officer of a revenue schooner, a position that secured a modicum of social and financial security for his wife, Virginia Blake, and their five children. William Cox had five additional children with Oliver's stepmother, Louisa. Oliver's uncle, Reginald W. Vidale, the headmaster of St. Thomas Boys’ School in Port of Spain who later became a councilman and alderman, took primary charge of Oliver's early education and rearing.

He was a bright student, but he did not win one of St. Thomas's coveted scholarships to study in England. Because his father would only finance the education of his eldest son, Cox briefly attended a local agricultural college before securing a position as a clerk in a department store. In 1919 to ...

Article

Caroline DeVoe

businessman, landowner, farmer, and lynching victim, was born into slavery in Abbeville, South Carolina, the youngest son of Thomas and Louisa, slaves on the plantation of Ben Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina. After Emancipation and Ben Crawford's death, his widow Rebecca may have bequeathed land to her former slave, Thomas, Anthony's father. Thomas continued to acquire land, and in 1873 he purchased 181 acres of fertile land from Samuel McGowan, a former Confederate general and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice. Thomas Crawford's “homeplace” was located in an alluvial valley, approximately seven miles west of the town of Abbeville. The rich land was flanked on the east by Little River and on the west by Penny Creek.

While Crawford's brothers worked the family farm Anthony was sent to school walking seven miles to and from school each day Seventeen year old Anthony was ...

Article

Michael J. Ristich

physician, editor, abolitionist, activist, and Reconstruction politician, was a native of Virginia who migrated to New Orleans, determined to fight the disenfranchisement of blacks. Nothing is known of Cromwell's upbringing and childhood except that he was born free. Educated in Wisconsin, Cromwell also spent time in the West Indies before settling in New Orleans in 1864. Cromwell was an outspoken proponent of black rights, known for employing controversial rhetoric, and was not averse to the idea of a race war between blacks and whites during Reconstruction.

In 1863, the militant Cromwell wrote to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, seeking to raise black troops in the North. Cromwell moved to New Orleans in January of 1864 and quickly entered the political circles of Louisiana participating in a number of pivotal events that helped shape the politics and civil rights of Reconstruction Louisiana Although never serving in ...

Article

Melvin L. Butler

gospel singer, composer, and pastor, was born Andrae Edward Crouch in Los Angeles, California. As a child, his musical talents were cultivated under the church ministry of his parents, Benjamin and Catherine Crouch. He also benefited from attending Pentecostal services at the Emmanuel Church of God in Christ, where his great-uncle, Bishop Samuel M. Crouch, was the pastor. Crouch's upbringing was enhanced not only by his experiences singing and playing in church but also through his exposure to an array of musical styles such as jazz, blues, rock and roll, and European classical music. At the age of fourteen, he drew from these multiple influences to pen his first composition, “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power,” which would become a classic gospel piece (Darden, 276–278).

During his teenage years he formed vocal ensembles with several of his siblings most notably his twin sister Sandra He labeled one ...

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

Robert Fay

Freedmen's Hospital was founded in 1862 to serve former slaves and Union soldiers in the Civil War (1861–1865). At that time—and, indeed, until the Civil Rights Movement—many hospitals and medical colleges were segregated, leaving black patients with few health care options and aspiring black physicians and nurses with limited choice about where to study and practice medicine. The Freedmen's Hospital, however, not only provided service to poor whites and blacks in Washington, D.C., but through its close association with Howard University's Medical College (the two joined in 1868 to form a teaching hospital), it came to offer medical training to African Americans.

Part of the hospital's mission was to provide medical care to the indigent despite inadequate federal funding—the hospital was prohibited from admitting paying patients until 1912 During its history administrators worked amid a deteriorating physical plant and outdated equipment and the hospital ...

Article

Eric Gardner

activist and educator, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Nothing is known of his parentage or youth. He was probably the James Gilliard listed in the 1860 Federal Census of Stockton, California; if this is the case, he was a barber, his wife was named Charlotte (c. 1835– ?), and had a step-daughter, Mary E. Jones (c. 1848– ?). In the late 1860s Gilliard worked as a teacher and sometime-minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and spent time in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. He wrote several short pieces for the San Francisco Elevator—sometimes under his full name and sometimes using simply “J. E. M.”—and was noted by the editor Philip Bell as one of the weekly's best contributors (along with Thomas Detter and Jennie Carter). Gilliard was even occasionally noted as the paper's “associate editor.”

Gilliard lectured throughout California in 1870 ...

Article

Eric Bennett

The gospel-quartet style developed during Reconstruction when the musical traditions of jubilee singing, shape-note singing, and blackface Minstrelsy conflated. Late-nineteenth-century gospel quartets were primarily a casual, amateur phenomenon, frequently characterized by family groups performing at special events such as picnics, celebrations, and church services. Though repertoires often centered on Spirituals and hymns, secular selections were not uncommon. Early quartets usually performed a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment) and often created original approaches to harmony and counterpoint.

By the turn of the century the form was popular and well established. Soon, hubs of expertise began to develop in the South, particularly around Norfolk, Virginia, and Birmingham, Alabama The best groups gained regional renown and in the 1920s and 1930s quartet singing assumed a commercial side when groups such as the Famous Blue Jay Singers and the Golden Gate Quartet went professional The former sang in the animated style of Pentecostal congregations ...

Article

Peggy J. Hardman

field adviser, district adviser, and camp director of Girl Scouts, USA, and social worker, was born in Cowpens, South Carolina, the seventh child of ten born to John Wesley Groves, a Methodist minister, and Emma Mae Gray.

The Groves family relocated to Greenwood, South Carolina, to provide better educational opportunities for their children. Holloway attended the Brewer Normal School in nearby Beaufort. Encouraged by one of her teachers, she enrolled in Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1919. Declaring a major in sociology, Holloway doggedly pursued her college education. She wound the campus clocks and worked in the dining hall to augment her meager funds, and overcame a bout of influenza as she strove to complete her degree. In June 1923 she earned her degree in Sociology.

Following her graduation from Fisk, Holloway returned to South Carolina to find work. In 1923 ...

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

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was the free-born son of a wealthy white planter, William Pinchback, and his longtime mistress, an emancipated slave named Eliza Steward. William Pinchback's family successfully challenged his will after his death in 1848, leaving Eliza and their five children destitute. Fearing that Pinchback's relatives would attempt to enslave them, Eliza moved the family to Cincinnati, where Pinchback attended Gilmore's High School.

In 1862, after working as a steward on a Mississippi riverboat, Pinchback joined the Union Army in New Orleans He recruited and commanded a company of the Corps d Afrique a Louisiana cavalry unit Initially all of the Corps d Afrique s officers were black The black officers learned however that their commissions were subject to qualification examinations All of the black officers except Pinchback were replaced by white officers When authorities repeatedly ignored Pinchback s demands for equal treatment ...

Article

Eric Bennett

The historian Roy Lubove describes early industrial Pittsburgh as “the ‘Smokey City,’ America's classic coketown … frequently compared to hell … an economic rather than civic entity.” Indeed, by the turn of the twentieth century, belching smokestacks and polluted waterways encroached on Pittsburgh's river-valley beauty. African Americans, however, had little hand in the desecration. From Pittsburgh's settlement, around 1760, until World War II blacks found few opportunities in the town's industries.

Despite the poverty that plagued African Americans in Pittsburgh until the American Civil War, their numbers grew from 1,000 to 20,000 during Reconstruction Flocks of migrants arrived from Virginia to work in Pittsburgh s factories but few newcomers found well paying jobs White employers excluded blacks from Pittsburgh s thriving iron and glass industries and most of the blacks settled for unskilled domestic work Even when World War I occasioned a large demand for industrial labor ...

Article

H. Viscount "Berky" Nelson

Next to slavery, sharecropping may be considered the most insidious, nefarious institution devised in the United States of America. The practice of forcing blacks to remain on white-owned farms by malicious landlords evolved out of the Reconstructed South and continued unabated until World War II. This demeaning southern policy instituted by callous white southerners crushed hopes for emancipated slaves and their progeny through several generations and restricted scores of African Americans to a life of continuous penury.

To some extent sharecropping appeared more heartless than slavery Slave owners maintained a vested interest in the economic value of their human property Since slaves were treated as chattel and represented a capital investment owners invariably maintained a profound interest in the health and welfare of a bondservant After Emancipation however the devastated embittered former slave holding class became indifferent to the well being of an independent black laborer Since ambitious blacks sought ...

Article

The African American intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois once wrote that “[t]he slave went free; stood for a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.” Indeed, in the century between emancipation and such Civil Rights Movement victories as the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act of 1965, several factors conspired to keep former slaves in an inferior position in American society. Disfranchisement, discriminatory Jim Crow laws, segregated schools, and Lynching reinforced the political, legal, educational, and social inequality that African Americans faced. But the picture of racial injustice would not be complete without including economic factors—ranging from official and unofficial job discrimination to exclusion from white Labor Unions—that kept African Americans separate and unequal.

Chief among these unequal financial arrangements for rural Southern blacks was sharecropping Although the details varied throughout time and place sharecropping was and is in the ...