Slavery Following the Civil War Essay

Abstract

This detailed examination and discussion of literature considers slavery following the Civil War in the United States of America. The historic factors leading up to and including the Civil War are evaluated, with a focus on what caused slavery to be part of the United States, the role it played in everyday life, and the factors that lead to Abraham Lincoln to attempt to abolish slavery in 1861, resulting in the four year Civil War. The after effects of the Civil War will be examined, including how the freed slaves attempted to rebuild their lives, what factors were important to them as a people, what changed, and what remained the same. Finally, the attitudes towards African Americans from the end of the Civil War to the present day will be discussed, with the thesis that while slaves were freed in 1865, this freedom was in name only, and those slaves and their descendents have continued to suffer many of the chains of slavery for generations.

Table of Contents

This detailed examination and discussion of literature considers slavery following the Civil War in the United States of America. The historic factors leading up to and including the Civil War are evaluated, with a focus on what caused slavery to be part of the United States, the role it played in everyday life, and the factors that lead to Abraham Lincoln to attempt to abolish slavery in 1861, resulting in the four year Civil War. The after effects of the Civil War will be examined, including how the freed slaves attempted to rebuild their lives, what factors were important to them as a people, what changed, and what remained the same. Finally, the attitudes towards African Americans from the end of the Civil War to the present day will be discussed, with the thesis that while slaves were freed in 1865, this freedom was in name only, and those slaves and their descendents have continued to suffer many of the chains of slavery for generations.

There was no doubt that the blacks were distinct culturally from the whites in many ways, and there were two predominant schools of thought concerning how blacks and whites should interact with each other at public locations such as churches. One school of thought was to encourage integration, the mixing of the two cultures. This involved, in concept, blacks and whites attending the same churches, the same schools, and there being no racial distinction within these areas. The second opinion was of segregation and isolation. Segregation consisted of the two races attending the same areas, but within those places the whites sitting in one area and the blacks in another. Isolation by contrast involved distinct communities and locations for blacks and whites. For example, some black Christian’s tired of the segregation that was occurring within their church choose to leave and start a congregation entirely for blacks. Churches soon became a place of sanctuary and self reflection, as those that were exclusively for blacks became areas that they had sole control over. Within the church walls debates could rage at length about any number of topics, such as economics, social standing and politics, topics which expression their opinion of on the public stage would have been frowned upon or even dangerous.

In 1865 nationwide abolishment of slavery was determined as the result of a bloody Civil War that cost the lives of many young soldiers both from the Northern and the Southern states. The abolition of slavery and emancipation of the slaves should have meant great joy to the freed slaves and a significant change across the country. However, for many who worked in plantations little to no change was observed for many years and those who had been made free that sought or reveled in their freedom paid a heavy price for it. The period following the Reconstruction was dark and bleak for the blacks. The Reconstruction period had heighted the racial distinctions, and emotions and actions became based off race rather than off slavery. Democrats were furious at the black man being treated in the same manner as the white man and made many moves, especially in the South, to prevent this. Blacks were beaten, raped and abused throughout the country, while the law made little move to halt the trend. Courts would not stand up for the constitutional rights of a black man, and there was little effort made to persecute whites who had physically abused blacks. 31

From that point to the present day there a gradual trend away from racism. Attempts were made to integrate the races together such as through the introduction of mixed schooling, however progress was slow, and many attitudes remained unchanged. While as a nation America has strived to move beyond this history, evidence of it remains in pockets such as the tendency of races to stick together, make friendships within themselves rather than with those of other races or cultures, and in the segregation of housing areas. There is significant indications that many police members execute racial profiling, judging the manner that people will or have behaved as a consequence f their race. 31

The opinions that drive these behaviors are the same opinions that once drove slavery, and the treatment of the newly freed black men and women. Although the Civil War ended close to 150 years ago in many senses the descendents of those slaves as well as other racial minorities, still wear many of the badges of slavery. While slavery has not occurred since the Civil War in name, the arguments set forth in this essay consider that the freed slaves and their descendents have suffered a large amount of discrimination, mistreatment and anger that in many ways parallel that of slavery. 32

Introduction

Prior to the American Civil war, slavery was common within the Union; it was an institution and a way of life that had existed since the early European colonists. The use of slaves was especially prevalent in the Southern states, where they had a strong role in the plantation economy. Slavery was one of the driving forces for the American Civil War which ran from 1861to 1865, spearheaded by newly elected President Abraham Lincoln. The four year Civil War was a point of significant change for the United States, resulting in the abolishment of slavery from all of the States by the end of the Reconstruction period. Those who had been slaves prior to the Civil War were freed as a consequence of the outcome and given full control of their own lives. For many this was the first time they had ever had freedom, and most sought to find economic independence as well as the ability to determine their own working and living times.

The death of slavery in practice was not as immediate as it appears through examining the changes in law. The Reconstruction period which followed the Civil War showed clearly the reluctance of Democrats, particularly in the South, to accept blacks no longer being slaves and being given equal rights. This was enforced through state law where Democratic majority existed, or through secret societies such as the Ku Klux Clan in the states where the Republicans were prominent. For many freed slaves their manner of life did not change for many years. They were subjected to much of the same treatment and disrespect, particularly within the plantations. The abolishment of slavery resulted in the growth of racial resentments and of strong racism that has been widely prevalent in the history of the United States, even into the present day. While slavery may have been abolished with the Civil War, the descendents of those slaves have endured many of the same hallmarks through segregation, oppression and racism as they tried to build identities for themselves, tried to find and rebuild their family and survive economically. It is only in recent years that we are beginning to see true equality, but even so, the prejudices of the past, that trace back to slavery itself, still remain.

Background

To understand the importance of slavery within the history of the United States and its prevalence, it is important to understand the factors that lead to the development of slavery within the United States and its dismantling. Slavery was prevalent in Britain at the time that the first United States colonies were formed, and as a consequence it was introduced to the colonists as a natural way of life. Slaves were common as housekeepers, to look after infants and in manual labor. Many slaves were used on the plantations in the Southern states. This industry was extremely profitable, but required a large and steady source of labor that was readily available. By the time of the formation of the Constitution, there were substantial doubts about whether slavery was just and right, but it was considered too ingrained in the American culture to be dealt with and many were comfortable with the concept. It was not until 1861, and the election of Abraham Lincoln as President that a definitive move was made to change the status of slavery. Lincoln’s strong stance against slavery resulted in the defection of 11 Southern slave owning states from the Union to form their own coalition, known as the Confederation of the United States of America. This began a four year war that ran until 1865 between the Unionists and the Confederates, ending with the surrender of the Confederates and the outlawing of slavery.

The Development of the United States

The Constitution of the United States of America was developed by the founding fathers which establishments the manner in which the federal government interacts with the states and citizens, and establishes three branches of government: congress, legislature and the executive branch, led by the President. The Constitutions forms the basis for the laws and legislation passed in the country and clearly states the powers and limitations of the different parts of the government. It was and is the supreme document of law for the United States, and was adopted by all states within the Union in 1787. With the development of the Constitution and the formation of the governing body of the United States came the concept of the right to liberty. This concept was a large factor that distinguished the new country from that of their founders and came in part as a response to the days of being powerless under the King’s rule. The Constitution ensured that all within the Union had the right to freedom, that this was a right that could not be removed from people. Slavery was not directly addressed in the Constitution, although liberty for all citizens was promised as a basic right. It was only through the concept that slaves were property, as opposed to people, that slavery could be acceptable under the Constitution. However, there was no direct provision for any person to be considered property within the Constitution.

The founding fathers were aware of the contradiction between slavery and liberty and between distinguishing citizens as people, but slaves as property. Literature from the time and more recent examinations on the time period and writings from the time indicate that slavery was a fact that was largely ignored for the formation of the Constitution, as it was too complex a problem. While many of those involved in the creation of the Constitution did not agree with slavery, the benefits of having slaves, especially for the Southern regions and the plantations was too strong to ignore. As a consequence as little as possible was said within the Constitution concerning the presence or legality of slaves.

It is interesting to observe that within the initial draft of the Declaration of Independence, one of the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, proposed the inclusion of a passage which listed the injuries that King George had caused, one of which was the introduction of slavery. While the overall tone was accepted, any mention of slavery was removed. This action provides strong indication of the ideas of the founding fathers surrounding slavery, while it may have been considered wrong to some, it was an established institution, and changing it was not considered to be possible.

Slaves as Racially Inferior

Slavery can be considered from two different perspectives. Firstly, it can be considered from the perspective that the aim of slavery was the cheap or cost-free production of products such as tobacco, sugar, cotton and rice, particularly in the Southern states. The second perspective is that the primary purpose of slavery was the development of white supremacy, the concept the white colonists were more important and of greater worth than any other race. Strong indications suggest that race was not the original driver of slavery; instead slavery was the cause of racial distinction, with the concept of racial difference and inferiority came once the trend of slavery was already well established. While English servants had built rights from generations of servitude, Africans and those of African descent were far away from the majority of their culture, and it was relatively easy to ship more of these from their home shores. Isolated and in a foreign land, there was little that the Africans could do about their imprisonment or to prevent forced labor. They were severely outnumbered, and within a civilization that saw no problems in forcing them to labor, for long and intense days. The assumption of the inferiority of the blacks came from the oppression that they experienced, and the consideration by the colonists that because they allowed such a thing to occur, the blacks must be weak, have low intelligence and thus inferior. To the Europeans, it became a natural assumption that those with darker skin were inferior, an assumption that was often not questioned, but considered to be a natural law

Two prevailing views of slaves existed following the establishment of the Union. The first was that slaves were property and needed to be treated in this manner within the law and transactions. The second view was that slaves were humans, with the same emotions and affections that the whites had. These two views were contradictory in nature, and provide a strong example of the complexities associated with slave law and slave ownership. The concept of race in slavery was useful for the white men as a means of justifying slave ownership within under the Constitution, alleviating the disjunction between slavery and liberty. Because the black race was inferior, they could be owned in the way that one could own animals, therefore the concepts in the Constitution that applied to people did not apply to them, instead property laws were used. From the perspective of the slaves, the solution was simpler: abolish slavery.

A Move towards Change

Slavery was a large business within the States, particularly in the South, and were readily brought and sold. By 1860, more than $4 billion worth of slaves were under ownership within the South, and projections indicate that by 1890 this figure would have risen by another 50 percent. At this time, slave ownership was prevalent in the South, where slaves were used as labor on plantations. Blacks, whether slave or free, provided a much lower source of labor than hiring whites to do the same job. In the North, the labor market relied mostly on white labor. Production of crops that sold for high amounts of money from the plantations in the South, such as sugar, coffee, tobacco and cotton, was the key driver of the Southern economy and provided significant income. As this production was dependant on a ready supply of labor, the South strongly fought any concepts of the removal of slavery, as there was a lack of white labor in the South, and the free labor of the slaves was appealing. Under law prior to the Civil War, slaves were treated as property, giving slave owners substantial rights over any slaves whom they owned.

From the development of the constitution through to 1860, debate raged over the Constitutional basis of owning slaves. There were several cases where the abolishment of slavery was seriously considered, but it was considered to be a too risky endeavor, as it was likely to cause the rebellion of many of the Southern states, In terms of the Constitution, the Southern argument was that slaves were property, and as a consequence were not entitled to the rights that were afforded within the Constitution. Court decisions up to that point in time had treated slaves in the same manner that goods and merchandise was treated, and slaves were taxed in the manner of property. However, those from the North argued that there was no provision within the Constitution that slaves were property.

The American Civil War ran from 1861 to 1865 and came as a response to the election of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a Republican and rejected the concept of slavery, arguing that it was unconstitutional and should not be legal within the United States. There was fear that banning slavery would have a significant impact on the Southern states, resulting in higher labor costs and a strong threat to their way of life. This fear was realized and the 11 Southern slave states seceded from the Union. The fighting lasted four years, and one quarter of the soldiers who served in the war were killed, and although at the end this time the rebel states did surrender, the following years were no easier. The Reconstruction period that followed the Civil War was long and difficult for all those involved. The Civil War significantly changed the way that white and black Americans relate to one another, and outlawed slavery from the United States of America. The changes that followed were far from simple, and the ramifications of the decisions made at that time are still felt today.

Slavery immediately following the Civil War

The years following the Civil War were not easy for anyone that was involved. The freed slaves, often referred to as freedmen and freedwomen, were limited in possessions, and their families had often been split as a consequence of the generations of slavery. Many had been born into slavery and had no concept of what freedom would entail. Both the freed slaves and slave owners from the South faced significant changes to their lives which required extensive rebuilding. While they were free, racial tensions remained high, with many regarding the blacks as inferior, and they were often in danger of physical or sexual abuse as a consequence of their race. The Republicans who had desired the change were staunch in the desire to prevent any reversion to the previous ways and to ensure the equity of rights between the blacks and the whites. While there was little to no regression towards slavery, equity was not easily obtained, and conditions did not change for many ex-slaves for a substantial period of time.

Rebuilding their Lives

One of the major successes of the Civil War was providing emancipation to four million slaves. Most of those newly freed had no belongings, and many had no family from which to find support. They had left the security and comfort of their previous lives to brave the unknown with little to no resources and a single burning desire, to live their freedom. For them, the time was terrifying, many had no idea where to go or what they were going to do. While support was provided for them, the transition was difficult, and the attitude of many whites did nothing to assist. The Civil War left physical and mental scars which took a long time to heal. Physically, evidence from the fighting was everywhere, many men were dead as a result of the battles, and buildings were destroyed. In the Northern states, there was prosperity and growth as a consequence of industrialization from the war. The South had fared much worse, with fields, bridges and roads destroyed, as well as widespread destruction within the cities. The devastation was a strong indication of the high human cost of the war, but the costs were not yet over. Many ex-slaves moved to the cities in search of economic sustainability and safety. While slavery was now illegal racism was still rampant, and the military presence in cities offered greater safety and stability for the once slaves than working in plantations.

Many slave owners were devastated by the outcome, having expected to win the war and for slavery to continue as it had in the past. The 11 Southern states that had rebelled against the Union had suffered large economic costs from the war, and they had little resources from which to rebuild. Furthermore, many Southerners had relied on slavery for their plantations and their houses, and the changes that must now occur were dramatic. The economy of the South relied on two factors, on land and on labor. While land was still widely available following the Civil War, there were deep concerns that the now freemen would not return to work on the farms as employees. The high proportion of black labor in the South meant that recruiting white employees to perform the same function would be difficult and they would have to be lured from the Northern states. However, even within a year of freedom being established, freed slaves were working on the plantations.

Differing Expectations

For many who hired ex-slaves the expectation was that they would behave and work in a similar manner to when they were slaves with the difference that a small amount of pay was required. It was soon evident that the ex-slaves had a very different opinion about how hard they should work, their duties and their pay than their employers had. For the ex-slaves most considered it important that the work they now were involved in was not the same as that which they had undertaken as slaves. While the type of work did not differ in many cases, especially for black women, they demanded their own sense of fairness, not accepting the same treatment that they had to when they were slaves. Not only this, but under the law employers were required to treat their ex-slave employees in the same manner that any other employee. Black men and women working on the fields of plantations were also aspiring for better lives, refusing to take abuse in the manner that they once had, and dreaming of economic independence, which was now a much greater possibility.

For blacks who were now free, there was a strong desire for the ability to control their own work time. For many this was an important aspect of freedom, and there were many instances of black men and women refusing to work or faking illness to assert their freedom.

The Reconstruction

Beginning immediately after the war and continuing until 1877 was the period of Reconstruction. The Southern states had surrendered and desired to rejoin the union. The restoration of these states into the Union meant political, social and economic progress had to be made in order to allow the two portions of the country, which still maintained different points of view to be reintegrated.

One factor which made the Reconstruction period complex was questions concerning the legality of the Southern secession from the Union. The two camps different in view on this point, with those from the South believing that they had every legal right to secede from the Union, while those in the North believed that the secession was illegal. For the two groups to reintegrate, it was essential that both sides compromised. For the South this involved accepting the views of the North in regards to slavery, a response that did not come easily to them, while those from the North had to accept the secession of the Southern states from the Union. For both sides the time was difficult, and a substantial amount of transition was required.

What happened to the freed slaves was one of the crucial issues that the Reconstruction period addressed. Those from the North who considered slavery to be inhumane and barbaric desired to see the Southern slave owners punished for their actions, and the freed slaves given full rights and treated as equal to the white man. However, throughout the Union it was clear that equality would be a difficult concept and a long process, as the whites’ maintained superiority over the blacks within their own thoughts and it was thus reflected in their actions.

The idea behind reconstruction developed by Abraham Lincoln was the addition of a thirteenth amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery and the establishment of governments within each state which would be recognized by the president. This plan was never able to be carried out in full because of the assassination of Lincoln in April of 1965. Under the Reconstruction plan developed by Andrew Johnson the Southern states were allowed to rejoin the Union once they had repaid war debts, ratified to the new Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery, removed all slavery from their state and disavowed their original views of secession.

The Fight for Rights

The Reconstruction period was difficult for all those involved and there was significant opposition to it. Many Democrats, particularly in the Southern states fought for white supremacy to once again point of view, while the Republics fought for equal rights for all races. The years which followed the Civil War in America are often considered to be heavy in racial repression and poverty, especially in the South where slavery was prevalent before the war. The attitudes that drove slavery were still prevalent in much of the population and this drove the mistreatment, prejudice and violence that occurred frequently against the blacks. While blacks were free from slavery through the law, they were still subjected to many of the same restrictions that they had as slaves.

One immediate restriction that the freed slaves faced was in terms of work. While the concept of emancipation was that the blacks would be free to choose their own employment, with it being envisioned that in the South many would go on to form their own farms, this was far from the truth. Small farms were unprofitable, and for freed slaves from plantations, the most economically viable option for them was to remain working for their previous master. The roles that were available to the African Americans newly freed from slavery were limited even for those who were skilled. In the cities, for the most part black men filled unskilled roles such as on the railroads shoveling snow of the track, distributing ballast and coupling and uncoupling stationary railway cars. Whatever industry they were hired in they generally filled the lowest paid jobs, although on rare occasions a black man might be hired for a skilled role. Black women were excluded from many of the jobs that white woman occupied and were generally hired in either domestic labor or similar work in hostels. For black women living within households there was the constant risk of sexual abuse, with sexual assaults being common. This fact was ignored by most white men, with the acts generally being ignored, despite that fact that large numbers of black men, often falsely, were accused and punished for the rape of white women.

While the law required ex-slaves to be treated as other employees in terms of rights, not everyone agreed with this. Strong opposition to the Reconstruction and to the rights of the blacks was prevalent in the South, and conflict over the Reconstruction laws by Congress centered here between 1870 and 1877. There were two methods through which dissidents in the South sought to reestablish white supremacy. The first was through the law itself, in states where democrats had a strong majority, they were able to exert control over the state government and laws, and thus take some control in a legal manner. North Carolina and Tennessee were two states in which this occurred in.

The second form of control occurred where Democrats did not have a clear majority, and as a consequence had to bring to life their desires in an illegal manner. As the law prohibited the employers from seeking retribution from an employee who talked back or disagreed with them, vigilantes arose which terrorized black workers. A particularly strong force was the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a white supremacist group that was responsible for beating ex-slaves who disagreed with their employers, often with objects such as straps. The KKK played a significant role in the lives of ex-slaves following the Civil War. The extremist group perceived black men and women as being inferior, with beatings and sexual abuse of blacks being a common hallmark of the group.. The KKK was not the only secret society that was prevalent during the time; another was the Knights of the White Camelia which operated in a similar manner. Part of the method of action for these secret societies was to harass and intimate Republicans in order to prevent them from going to the polls, as a consequence returning the majority of the power to the Democrats

The Plantations

The area that used slaves to the greatest extent prior to the war was the plantations in the Southern states. The majority of the work in producing profitable crops involved high amounts of labor and it being readily available. The consequence of this was that when slavery was abolished in 1865 the impact was significant for owners of these plantations who were forced to deal with the loss of some of their workers, and having to pay for those who remained. As examined above, many of the newly freed men and women were not happy with working under the same conditions that they had as slaves, and sought to negotiate better positions for themselves.

Many freedmen did not choose to leave the former masters, instead remaining with them as employees. The requirements of the plantations did not change with the freeing of slaves, they still required a high amount of readily available labor, and the work remained labor intensive. It was difficult for the freed slaves to begin small scale farming of their own, as these made next to no profit as a consequence of competition within the market. For those that remained working in the plantations they had guaranteed food, lodging and care. While for some freedom to move and to make their own choices was more important, for others security was more important and thus they stayed.

However, while the law supported the black workers demanding their rights, in practice this was often ignored. It was not uncommon for planters to treat any black women who worked for them as objects of sexual pleasure, to be used at whim regardless of the woman’s opinion on the matter

Emancipation did not change much for a significant period of time for ex-slaves on the plantations. If they left their work then they left a reliable source of income and security in a time and place where there wasn’t much else available. As a consequence, within the decade immediately following emancipation, only freewoman and their children stopped working for the plantations, the men continued to provide labor for some time afterwards.

Development of an Identity

Once slaves, the black men and women were now free, a situation that many of them were unfamiliar with. Throughout their time as slaves they had meant little to anyone but themselves, and had for the most part, not had the chance to be anything other than their master’s slave. Now, with emancipation making them free men and women they were free to establish themselves individually and collectively. Individual development was varied, often involving the establishment of a name and finding economic sustainability. As a collective, blacks began to establish themselves as distinct from whites. Some longed to integrate with the whites, believing that the two cultures should not be distinct from one another, while others wanted nothing to do with the whites who had abused them for so long, or were tired of the distain that they suffered from the whites, and desired isolation.

An Identity as a Race

The identity of freed men and women was not simple, either for themselves or for those surrounding them. What their color meant was a constantly contested signal, varying amongst individuals, institutions and throughout the nation in general. Even the terms used to describe their race varied considerably with terms such as Negro, black, people of color, African, African-American, Children of Africa, as well as many others. Such a wide variety of terms did little to help ease the confusions in regards to their identity.

There was no doubt that the blacks were distinct culturally from the whites in many ways, and there were two predominant schools of thought concerning how blacks and whites should interact with each other at public locations such as churches. One school of thought was to encourage integration, the mixing of the two cultures. This involved, in concept, blacks and whites attending the same churches, the same schools, and there being no racial distinction within these areas. The second opinion was of segregation and isolation. Segregation consisted of the two races attending the same areas, but within those places the whites sitting in one area and the blacks in another. Isolation by contrast involved distinct communities and locations for blacks and whites. For example, some black Christian’s tired of the segregation that was occurring within their church choose to leave and start a congregation entirely for blacks. Churches soon became a place of sanctuary and self reflection, as those that were exclusively for blacks became areas that they had sole control over. Within the church walls debates could rage at length about any number of topics, such as economics, social standing and politics, topics which expression their opinion of on the public stage would have been frowned upon or even dangerous.

Identity as an Individual

One major part of establishing the freedom for the once slaves was the creation of a surname. The implications of such a task were tremendous; a surname can be passed down from one generation to the next and carries with it the creation of an individual identity. In some cases freed slaves chose to take the surname from their father or in other cases took that of their master. Generally if the freeman took their old masters surname then it was a strong indication of sympathetic feelings towards their old master

Importance of Family

The loss of family during slavery was extensive, many times husband and wife had been separated for significant periods of time, in some cases the bond between them remained strong when they reunited after the war, other times husband and wife did not seek to be reunited, or sought to dissolve their marriage shortly after reuniting. Children were another important issue of the time, as they had often been separated from one or both parents. Determining parentage was not always a simple task, yet government agencies and freemen worked together to ensure that whenever possible the right decisions were made. For the newly free slaves, the family served as a crucial point of familiarity and gave them a substantial sense of freedom. Within their families they were able to teach and relearn their culture and their customs, as well as be honest about how they felt about the changes that were taking place. Memories of slavery and the abuse that had been received were passed on through the family, so that the lessons of the past might not be forgotten, and that the future generations might be aware of their history.

There was much work by government agencies to help ensure that families were reunited during the period immediately following the Civil War, indicating that the government retained significant interest in ensuring the rights of its newly freed citizens. Black men and women participated in wedding ceremonies in churches or in civil ceremonies which provided important symbolism of the status of blacks, giving a sense of dignity and identity to black couples, in addition the use of such ceremonies reaffirmed the concept that families could no longer be separated by the whims of the whites.

Black Suffrage

As a consequence of four years of fighting followed by much policy and politics, slavery within the United States of American had been outlawed and those who had been slaves were free. The freedom of slaves meant that they were considered under the constitution as people rather than as property and had rights afforded to them as a consequence. The right of black men to vote soon became a contentious issue, as they desired equal rights to the white men. The strong desire of blacks to become involved in politics and voting caused significant anxiety and concern for the whites, with many people attempting to frighten them away from voting once they had been given the right. The effects of the attempted coercion were varied, in some areas many blacks turned out to vote, while in others only a few voted. By 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution had been ratified by all states. This amendment forbade any state to deny an individual the right to vote on the basis of their color, their race, or if they had been a slave.

Laws

Prior to the Civil war, the legal system had been a method of controlling crime and providing punishment was exclusively for whites, with black criminals being punished in accordance with slave codes, often by their owners. These codes were no longer of use following the Civil war, and as a consequence, new methods of justice for black criminals had to be devised . There was an introduction of new laws which set forth the minimum wage for different types of work. This prevented the new system from being taken advantage of by employers who paid their workers very low amounts of money.

Was Emancipation Successful?

The freeing of slaves and abolishment of slavery in 1865 indicated the end of a way of life that had been present since before the Americas were colonized and the beginning of a new era. Part of the focus of freeing slaves was to remove the evil that it represented from within society. However, it is clear that many of those who advocated the abolishment of slavery did not have a clear concept of what it would mean for society. In many cases it was assumed that the freedmen and freedwomen would continue to perform the same roles as they did before, but be paid a wage, which would increase their productivity. This would result in benefits for them as well as the employers, as the cost of paying wages would be offset by the increased productivity of the workers. As can be seen by the examination of the history during and following the civil war above, this was not the case. The freed blacks relished their freedom, many leaving farms and plantations and heading to cities because of the increased security and economic advantages. While many did stay with their former masters, the relationship was significantly changed, and the once slaves were unwilling to be treated in the same manner as before, often negotiating for better working conditions or better pay and refusing to accept the heavy working schedules that was common throughout their time as slaves.

The period of Reconstruction that followed the Civil War did little to ease the racial stresses that were prevalent. Many Democrats in the South openly rebelled against the Reconstruction process. In states where they had a clear majority the Democrats worked to create laws which gave legal power to whites over blacks. In the states where Republicans were the dominant political force secret societies such as the KKK terrorized the blacks often physically beating them, as well as limiting the Republican turn out to the polls, thus shifting the representation within the state towards Democratic. The conflict and debate during the time of Reconstruction served to heighten the racial issue far above the role it originally played, and as a consequence race became much of a stronger issue than slavery.

In the strict sense of the word emancipation was successful. Slavery was abolished and a new era was born in the United States where slavery was no longer an accepted institution. Indeed, as the literature examined so far in this discussion has shown there was regression towards slavery, even in the heart of the Democratic South. However, while black men and women were not slaves in the legal sense, as a race they remained enslaved. Racial tensions were heighted as the country left the Civil War behind and sought to rebuild the Union, and these racial issues have continued to play a significant role in society within the United States today. To understand slavery after the civil war it is important to understand the changing attitudes towards the African-American race from the time of the Civil War through to today.

Black Oppression

The effects of slavery did not truly end with the Civil War and abolishment of slavery as an institution, nor even fully in the years that followed. While tolerance of the races towards one another increased, it did so slowly and the history of America is filled with many examples of interracial violence and prejudice. Much of this stems from the attitudes that drove the prevalence and acceptance of slavery leading up to the Civil War. Many of these attitudes remain even once slavery was abolished, as is discussed in some length in the previous section.

Not Slavery, but Oppression and Servitude

The years which followed the Reconstruction were bleak and painful for black people. While whites legally bound to treat freed slaves in the same manner as any other person, this did not occur. As discussed earlier, violence and force began to be used against blacks, not just in the South but also in many places in the Northern states, although the prevalence was lower. Although law makers and enforcers from the North appeared to be concerned about this initially, there was little action made, and soon even within the legal system judges would rarely exert energy in defending or helping a black individual to obtain their constitutional rights. For blacks within the period following the Reconstruction it was difficult to obtain any recognition of their rights, much less to get anyone to accept or act on these rights. Violence towards blacks was strong and riots were common, yet despite this the courts and legal authorities made little attempt even to condemn the acts of the whites, much less to persecute them for them.

Segregation

In the period following Reconstruction, there was a tendency towards segregation of the races. One of the areas where this occurred strongly was within schools, with whites and blacks initially being unable to go to the same school, and later, amid great protest, attending the same school, but forced to be completely separated from the whites the entire time. This lasted for a substantial period of time, well into the sixties. Segregation resulted from the same inclinations that were present during the era of slavery and immediately following the Civil War. Blacks were considered to be inferior to the whites and not someone to associate with.

Present Day

In the present day the racial issue has grown beyond that just of slavery. While racism remains present against African Americans, it is also present against other cultural groups such as Latinos. There is a greater knowledge and rejection of racism in the law than there has ever been before, and while acts of racist violence are dealt with in courts, the attitudes remain. An example of this is segregation of housing areas along racial lines. There is no legislation or ruling that drives this to occur, it is an effect of human intolerance and ties towards their own race. In racially mixed schools currently there exists some measure of segregation as a consequence of students making friends preferentially within their own race, as a consequence excluding those of separate races. Both of these examples illustrate strongly that the attitudes that drove slavery and racial oppression are still present in our society today despite widespread efforts to remove these.

Another area where the attitude is evident is in attitudes by police officers and prison rates. It is often considered that the police are more likely to detain people of certain ethnic groups than others, suggesting that they profile individuals assuming that they behave in a certain manner based on race. An example of suspected racial profiling is from 2009, where a South Asian man accused the NYPD of targeting him in random checks of baggage for commuters. The searches were a response to fears of terrorism within New York, but the man found that he had been stopped a total of 21 times for apparently random checks, while his white friends were never stopped. The NYPD officer interviewed made an interesting observation, that no information was stored on the races of those who were stopped and as a consequence, officers were free to practice racial profile without the department’s knowledge. This response implies a level of complacency within the department, indicating it did not concern them whether individual officers were involved in racial profiling, suggesting that they did not consider it to be a significant issue.

Conclusion

In 1865 nationwide abolishment of slavery was determined as the result of a bloody Civil War that cost the lives of many young soldiers both from the Northern and the Southern states. The abolition of slavery and emancipation of the slaves should have meant great joy to the freed slaves and a significant change across the country. However, for many who worked in plantations little to no change was observed for many years and those who had been made free that sought or reveled in their freedom paid a heavy price for it. The period following the Reconstruction was dark and bleak for the blacks. The Reconstruction period had heighted the racial distinctions, and emotions and actions became based off race rather than off slavery. Democrats were furious at the black man being treated in the same manner as the white man and made many moves, especially in the South, to prevent this. Blacks were beaten, raped and abused throughout the country, while the law made little move to halt the trend. Courts would not stand up for the constitutional rights of a black man, and there was little effort made to persecute whites who had physically abused blacks.

From that point to the present day there a gradual trend away from racism. Attempts were made to integrate the races together such as through the introduction of mixed schooling, however progress was slow, and many attitudes remained unchanged. While as a nation America has strived to move beyond this history, evidence of it remains in pockets such as the tendency of races to stick together, make friendships within themselves rather than with those of other races or cultures, and in the segregation of housing areas. There is significant indications that many police members execute racial profiling, judging the manner that people will or have behaved as a consequence f their race.

The opinions that drive these behaviors are the same opinions that once drove slavery, and the treatment of the newly freed black men and women. Although the Civil War ended close to 150 years ago in many senses the descendents of those slaves as well as other racial minorities, still wear many of the badges of slavery. While slavery has not occurred since the Civil War in name, the arguments set forth in this essay consider that the freed slaves and their descendents have suffered a large amount of discrimination, mistreatment and anger that in many ways parallel that of slavery.

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Slavery Following the Civil War. (January 18, 2021).
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