The Birth of Segregation: Reconstruction Cut Short

Jim Crow, a name that was meant as an insult to black people or as a caricature of black people.
Black men voting.

The end of the Civil War in 1865 brought freedom to all slaves. As a consequence, former slaves were now granted citizenship, and black men were given the right to vote. Black women, as well as white women, though, would have to wait another fifty years for their chance to cast a ballot.

African American men advancing

Despite women’s voting disadvantage, African American emancipation in the 1860s started a process of trying to build a unified society in the former slave states in the southern United States. Previously disenfranchised black men could now, and were now, elected to various political offices, and they also started to make their own money. The federal government had the former slaves’ backs, and to make sure that black empowerment could take place without major disruptions, Washington stationed vigilant army units throughout the south.

Nevertheless, whites with a focus on pulling back the troops and restoring racial hierarchies still held the absolute majority of the local political power south of the Mason-Dixon line. Because of this, in 1876, these policy makers were able to find a bargaining opportunity were they entered into tough negotiations with their political opponents in the north. From the negotiations then came an agreement to allow a northerner to become president in exchange for the president withdrawing the federal troops from the southern states. Thereafter, as the agreement was upheld, the soldiers’ departure from the former slave states marked the end of optimistic black advancement in the south, a decade-long period in history known as the Reconstruction Era.

Resistance to black influence

In the late 1870s, when the soldiers had been pulled back, a process started in the American south where a large part of the white community tried to erode African American influence in society. To this end, black people were held back both educationally and socially, and they were kept from voting at political elections through implementation of such measures as poll taxes and literacy tests. As a natural response, the black community, unwilling to be mistreated again, clung to their newly-won political rights and elbowed their way forward as much as they could. However, with inferior resources at their disposal, they would often be forced to see their rights being trampled upon and economic opportunities not coming close to those of white people.