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African-American Civil Rights Movement (1865–95)

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African-American Civil Rights Movement (1865–95)

The African-American Civil Rights Movement (1865–1895) refers to the post-Civil War reform movements in the United States aimed at eliminating racial discrimination against African Americans, improving educational and employment opportunities, and establishing electoral power. This period between 1865 and 1895 saw tremendous change in the fortunes of the black community following the elimination of slavery in the South.

The year 1865 held two important events in the history of African Americans: the Thirteenth Amendment, which eliminated slavery, was ratified; and Union troops arrived in June in Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, giving birth to the modern Juneteenth celebrations. Freedmen looked to start new lives as the country recovered from the devastation of the Civil War.

Immediately following the Civil War, the federal government began a program known as Reconstruction aimed at rebuilding the states of the former Confederacy. The federal programs also provided aid to the former slaves and attempted to integrate them into society. During and after this period, blacks made substantial gains in their political power and many were able to move from poverty into the middle class. At the same time resentment by many whites toward these gains led to unprecedented violence and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

The year 1896 held the landmark Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), which upheld "separate but equal" racial segregation, which proved a major setback to civil rights efforts. Throughout the post-war period anti-progressives waged efforts to curtail these efforts. This case and other events in the 1890s marked a turning point beyond which the civil rights progress in the 19th century was dramatically reversed.

Much of the early reform movement during this era was spearheaded by the Radical Republicans, a splinter group of the Republican Party which rejoined the mainstream party after Reconstruction. But, by the end of the 20th century, the so-called Lily-White Movement had managed to substantially weaken the power of blacks in the party. The most important civil rights leaders of this period were Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington.


Kansas Exodus

Following the end of Reconstruction, many blacks feared the Ku Klux Klan, the White League and the Jim Crow laws which continued to make them second-class citizens,.[1] Motivated by important figures such as Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, as many as forty thousand Exodusters left the South to settle in Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado.[2] [3] This was the first general migration of blacks following the Civil War.[4] In the 1880s, blacks bought more than 20,000 acres (81 km2) of land in Kansas, and several of the settlements made during this time (e.g. Nicodemus, Kansas, which was founded in 1877) still exist today.[3] This sudden wave of migration came as a great surprise to many white Americans, who did not realize that black southerners were free in name only.[5] Many blacks left the South with the belief that they were receiving free passage to Kansas, only to be stranded in St. Louis, Missouri. Black churches in St. Louis, together with Eastern philanthropists, formed the Colored Relief Board and the Kansas Freedmen's Aid Society to help those stranded in St. Louis to reach Kansas.[1]

One particular group was the Kansas Fever Exodus which consisted of six thousand blacks who moved from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas to Kansas.[6] Many in Louisiana were inspired to leave the state when the 1879 Louisiana Constitutional Convention decided that voting rights were a matter for the state, not federal, government, thereby clearing the way for the disenfranchisement of Louisiana's black population.[1]

The exodus was not universally praised by African Americans; indeed, [8]

Political growth

Radical Republicans

Economic growth


Counter movements

Jim Crow laws

Militant resistance

Lily-White Movement



Most historians state that the upper class among the black population was largely mulatto.[9] Apart from sympathetic, liberal whites, these wealthier, mixed-race blacks represented the majority of the leaders in the civil rights movement of the 19th century.


Key figures

See also


  1. ^ a b c  
  2. ^ Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, retrieved 2007-10-19 
  3. ^ a b Slavery in America Encyclopedia, retrieved 2007-10-19 
  4. ^  
  5. ^  
  6. ^  
  7. ^  
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Walters (1999), pg. 13

Further reading

  • Foner, Eric (1988). Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution. Harper and Row (New York). 
  • Gatewood, Willard B. (2000). Aristocrats of color: the Black elite, 1880-1920. University of Arkansas Press. 
  • Hales, Douglas (2003). A southern family in white & Black: the Cuneys of Texas. Texas A&M University Press. 
  • Hare, Maud Cuney (1913). Norris Wright Cuney: a tribune of the black people. Crisis Publishing Company. 
  • Jenkins, Jeffrey; Weaver, Vesla; Peck, Justin (2009). "Between Reconstructions: Congressional Action on Civil Rights, 1891-1940". Midwest Political Science Association 67th Annual National Conference. 
  • Logan, Rayford (1997). The Betrayal of the Negro from Rutherford B. Hayes to Woodrow Wilson. Da Capo Press (New York). .
  • Obadele-Starks, Ernest (2001). Black Unionism in the Industrial South. Texas A&M University Press. p. 40. 
  • Walters, Ronald W.; Smith, Robert Charles (1999). African American leadership. SUNY Press. 

External links

  • Civil Rights Resource Guide, from the Library of Congress
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