The African-American Odyssey Essay
The emancipation of the African slave who was now disconnected from their traditions and way of life after nearly 300 years, is seemingly a great gush from the dam to the ebbs and flows of the struggle. The end of slavery as we know it, presented a ball of mixed emotions among the nation; North and SOUTH. Some slaves were grossly ecstatic to be free. For example, when a slave girl named Caddy, from Goodman, Mississippi found she was free, went to her mistress, flipped up her dress and told her “Kiss my ass!
” On the contrary, some slaves were apprehensive of being free. For example, one elderly slave woman reportedly said, “I ain’ no free nigger! I is got a marster and mistiss! Dee right dar in de great house. Ef you don’ believe me, you go dar an’ see. ” Though most slaves were detached from their families, many managed to regroup and find their love ones after their emancipation and constructed close knit families. Land was an viable means of survival in the minds of newly freedmen and the government was eager to deem lands to the ex-slaves .
On January 16, 1865, General William T. Sherman told the freedmen that they will receive the land they were in search of. They were granted the head of each family would receive “possessory title” to forty acres of land. Sherman also gave the use of Army mules, thus giving rise to the slogan, “Forty acres and a mule. ” Similarly in 1862 the Union military set aside land in Port Royal, South Carolina, which became known as the Port Royal experiment. The freedmen bureau was created to aid newly freed slaves in the transition from bondage to freedom in 1865.
After Lincoln’s assassination the succession of his Vice president, Andrew Johnson, to the presidency meant that the white owners of the lands, that were given to the freedmen, would be returned. Sharecropping became a sort of ebb in the river of the African-American progression as far as freedom was concerned. Presented as labor contracts by white land owners, the institution of slavery was extended under a cloud of debt. In which, the black family, oft times became debtors due to the lack of honesty on the account of their white lender. Aside from family, among African-Americans, the “black church” became the most important institution.
“Not only did it fill deep spiritual and inspirational needs, it offered enriching music, provided charity and compassion to those in need, developed community and political leaders, and was free of white supervision. ” With the end of slavery, blacks who then had to attend services with white parishioners who treated them as second class Christians, could now organize and attend their own churches. The advent of the black church definitely brought about a flow in the river of struggle for African-Americans. Education was another “flow” in the river of struggle and a critical means of survival amongst people of color.
It coincided alongside freedom. All who were versed in education of all sorts were summoned to teach the freedmen and their children. Teachers from all walks showed. Classes were held in churches, old slave markets, stables, taverns, homes, and former slave cabins. Funding came from various religious and political organizations and the Freedmen’s Bureau. Although white teachers helped a bit, black teachers were praised throughout the negro community because, as Rev. Richard H. Cain said “, We must take into our own hands the education of our race…
Honest, dignified whites may teach ever so well, but it has not the effect to exalt the black man’s opinion of his own race, because they have always been in the habit of seeing white men in honored positions, and respected. ” Most colleges and universities for blacks taught elementary and secondary level curriculum. The introduction of the historically black colleges and universities was formed from the idea of a higher education for people of color. In the midst of the newfound freedom, religious organization, and education of Negroes which was an obvious “flow”, a reoccurring “ebb” presented itself in the form of violence.
Justice for the black man was never considered in those times. Thousands of innocent African-Americans were heinously murdered without a single conviction of a white perpetrator whom committed the acts. Atop the murders, black towns, businesses, churches, and schools were destroyed at the hands of the angry white southerners. The Failure of Reconstruction For the first time ever in history, a group of black men had concurrently became politicians. They were joined by the carpetbaggers of the north and the scalawags of the south in the Republican constituency.
“Of the 1,000 men elected as delegates to the ten state conventions, 265 were black. ” Collectively, they drafted new, striking constitutions that, unlike the previous constitutions, allowed all men to vote; even the ex-Confederates. Although, the Republicans displayed compassion upon their dealings with their opponents, the unruly Southern ego rose once more against the ratification of the new constitutions. In due course, the majority did manage to ratify and in each state, black men were elected to offices. As time progressed, nearly 1,500 black men were in office around the throughout the south.
Among those were the likes of Blanche K. Bruce, Hiram R. Revels, Joseph Rainey, Jonathan J. Wright, Francis L. Cardozo, Robert Smalls, and Ferdinand Havis. This was a “flow” that led to inevitable “ebb” in the river of fight for African-Americans. That ebb presented itself in the form of the gradual failure of reconstruction. Issues such as education, social welfare, civil rights, land, and businesses plagued the Republican frame of thought daily. The black leaders’ efforts to facilitate education throughout the black and poor white communities failed overall.
Lack of funds is the greatest blame for the inconsistency. At the time, there were no segregation laws, but whites refused to let their children go to school with blacks. Though a valid effort amongst African-Americans was given toward civil rights, they did not receive the respect that every other law abiding citizen received. For example, they were not accommodated at hotels and on public transportation, nor were they served as paying customers at various businesses. The blacks who worked for the white landowners were being cheated daily as if they were still in captivity.
White employers would either fire the worker before the harvest or make up outlandish fees and debts. Some just didn’t pay at all! Black leaders grew tired of the robbery and made laws to eliminate such happenings. The distribution of land amongst landless, yeomen, farmers didn’t happen in any other state but South Carolina. Over fourteen thousand black families and a few white families, received land. Black businesses, unfortunately, did not and could not flourish due to the lack of funds during the expanding of the railroad. Other businesses made handsome amounts of profit but the African-American business owners could not cash in.
Black politicians laid the foundation for public assistance, education, criminal justice reform but, could not do anything that directly dealt with “their people. ” Reason being, was that they were the minority in the Republican party and in fact, were not allowed to ratify their own agenda. Besides, they couldn’t agree on most things because they came from different walks of life. Bickering throughout the Republican party sparked a “high turnover in political leadership and the loss of that very economic security? This made for inexperienced leadership and added to Republican woes.
” Opposition came to the party in various ways; Such as, the conservative Democrats who continued to heckle blacks who in any way participated in the political process and the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan, was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1866, by ex-confederate soldiers who were “hell-bent” on eradicating and/ or terrorizing anyone who didn’t submit to “southern culture. ” They used any means necessary to remove blacks from politics. The Enforcement Act of 1870 was passed to prohibit Klansmen from wearing their regalia in public and protected the civil rights of black citizens.
The following year the Ku Klux Klan Act was passed and it made the interference of a persons’ right to vote, hold office, jury duty and equal protection a federal offense. The fifteenth amendment was passed in 1869, and later ratified in 1870. It clearly expressed “the right to vote” to all citizens but failed to address the literacy tests, property possession rule, or the poll tax that continued to plague voters. Radical Republicans and northern whites alike grew exhausted with the dependency of blacks, (as they saw it) and looked upon them as unfit to be involved in the political system.
They thought that reconstruction had been a mistake. The Freedmen’s Bank was founded in 1865 and done well until the white board of directors foolishly invested in Washington, D. C. real estate. The Panic of 1873 brought about a significant loss in unsecured railroad loans. As a result, the bank closed in 1874. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was an act of good intentions, yet it was ruled unconstitutional by U. S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bradley who, “wrote that the Fourteenth Amendment protected black people from discrimination by states but not by private businesses.
” The end of Reconstruction was as brutal and contentious as the beginning. Blacks refused to vote in response to the terrorism inflicted upon them by the southern Democrats. The withdrawal of the federal troops that were to protect the rights of colored people left the black citizens with no means of defense and they therefore had to bow down to the numerous massacres that were to occur. The compromise of 1877, in which, Samuel J. Tilden and Rutherford B. Haynes, ran for the presidency, brought about more violence towards blacks and grew worse as time passed.
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