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Post-Reconstruction The South – legal status Majority African Americans remained in the South Post-1890 southern state and local govt. controlled by white Democrats

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the south legal status
The South – legal status
  • Majority African Americans remained in the South
  • Post-1890 southern state and local govt. controlled by white Democrats
  • Disenfranchisement devices – poll taxes, literacy tests, white primary elections – removed southern blacks of their political rights

e.g. Louisiana 130,000 voters 1896, 5,000 1898

  • 1890-1910 segregation by law in almost all public facilities: system named Jim Crow
  • Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896) Supreme Court Case reasoned mandating separate facilities, as long as they were equal, did not violate the 14th Amendment
the south social status
The South – social status
  • In addition to legal restrictions, African Americans expected to conform to rigid code of racial etiquette
  • Blacks required to enter houses of whites and most public buildings by the side or rear door
  • Encounters with whites required specific greetings (‘Sir’, ‘Mister’, ‘Miz’)
  • Failure to conform to this system could result in lynching:
    • Between 1882 and 1930 at least 3295 blacks were lynched in the US
    • Murder or rape often cited as justification, but occurred for many other reasons: attempting to vote, talking back to white person, economic success
the south economic status
The South - economic status
  • 1st half century most blacks remained in the rural South as sharecroppers and farm laborers, some as renters or owners
  • Scarcely affected by industrialisation: most factory jobs reserved for poor whites
  • Constituted a class of oppressed and impoverish peasantry – denied upward mobility and full rights of citizenship
what caused these changes
What caused these changes?
  • Withdrawal Northern troops 1877
  • Decline of Populist Party (political alliance between poor white southerners and blacks)1896
  • Growth of racism in the North (conservative social Darwinism)
the north
The North
  • Retained civil rights, including right to vote and right to hold office
  • However, no adequate defence against extralegal discrimination denying equal access to jobs, housing, education, police protection and public amenities
black response
Black response


  • Opposition to black political rights massive and unyielding therefore…
  • Dominant ideology accommodationist, condoned social segregation, stressed economic self-help, deferred aspirations for full citizenship


  • Protest movement, modeled on pre-Civil War abolitionism, rejected accommodationism and called for end of enforced segregation, disenfranchisement, all publicly sanctioned discrimination
  • 1909 creation of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
the great war wwi
The Great War (WWI)
  • Combination economic boom and restriction European immigration provided new employment opportunities for blacks in the North
  • The ‘Great Migration’ – massive shift black popl. from South to North, from country to city
  • 500,000 moved North between 1915 and 1920, 1 million in following decade
  • Established new institutions such as storefront churches
  • Centres of African American culture: black newspapers, jazz and blues night clubs, literary salons
effects of the great migration
Effects of the Great Migration
  • Profound effect race relations: discrimination housing market and preference to live in ethnic neighborhoods produced urban ghettos
  • North not the promised land: find and keep decent jobs, violence in struggle for living space, racial discrimination + social and cultural adjustment from country to city
  • According to Alain Locke = creation of “a New Negro”
  • Harlem Renaissance – literary and artistic movement development cultural identity
  • Black artists and writers openly embraced their folk culture and African past – raised political consciousness and increased black cultural pride: “In the very process of being transplanted, the Negro is being transformed.”
garvey movement
Garvey movement
  • Marcus Garvey, a black Jamaican, brought his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) to Harlem 1916 = largest African American secular organisation at that time
  • Claimed more than 1,000,000 members, mostly in black communities of urban North
  • Garvey a black nationalist – sought to raise political consciousness, race pride, economic power: pan-African philosophy
  • In 1922, after failure of one UNIA business, the Black Star Line, Garvey convicted of mail fraud, imprisoned, deported = movement declined
  • Garvey’s ideas later influence Nation of Islam and Black Power Movement 1960s
positive changes
Positive changes
  • Despite racial inequalities, economic and educational opportunities were normally greater
  • Less repressive environment gave blacks political space to air grievances and mount protest movements
  • Regained right to vote in the North = politicians began to appeal to black interests
  • NAACP functioning as legislative lobby, blacks in 1930s able to block confirmation of racist judge to Supreme Court, came close to getting federal antilynching law through Congress
positive changes12
Positive changes
  • Developed first significant ties to organised labour: joined nondiscriminatory unions in auto manufacturing, steel
  • WWII labour shortages, pressures from black organisations and movements, and federal policy encouraging nondiscriminatory hiring brought substantial increase in proportion of blacks in steady, relatively skilled jobs
  • Gap between incomes of whites and black began to close
race relations
Race relations
  • Increased membership in 1920s, 30s, including significant white membership
  • Many white Americans felt tension between subordination of the Negro and Jeffersonian ideal
  • American blacks affected by both these strands: lighter skinned blacks looked down on those darker than themselves, but also knew were being treated unjustly
the great depression
The Great Depression
  • Slowed migration to cities
  • Blacks remained at bottom of economic ladder during 1920s, hit hard by the depression
  • In cities black unemployment reached over 50%, more than twice national average
  • Cotton prices dropped, forcing thousands sharecroppers off land and into greater poverty
  • 1929-32 depression worsened: Herbert Hoover responded slowly, employing a ‘trickle-down’ approach that benefited few working class Americans
increasing politicisation
Increasing politicisation
  • In face of unrelieved suffering, blacks explored new political solutions
  • Some became Communists or Socialists, some embraced fledgling Congress of Industrial Organizations (newly open to African Americans)
  • In 25 cities organised “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaigns to force more equitable hiring practices
  • But, election Franklin Delano Roosevelt meant many looked to government for support
the new deal
The New Deal
  • Collection of federal programmes (e.g. Social Security) created by FDR to bring relief, recovery, and reform to the economy and the nation
  • Majority blacks moved allegiance from Republican to Democrat
  • Mixed record of New Deal on race
  • Federal restrooms, cafeterias, and secretarial pools were desegregated, increased number African Americans in second-level positions on Capitol Hill (Black Cabinet)
  • FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt invited prominent blacks to the White House
  • Black writers participated in New Deal writing projects: documentation slavery through interviews
  • Critics looked at failure to address Jim Crow (fear of alienating white voters)
  • Declined supporting legislation to make lynching a federal crime, although denounced in speeches
  • Declined advocate banning poll tax and ‘grandfather clause’
  • Did not use relief agencies to challenge local patterns discrimination
  • Nonetheless, 1930s brought new relationship between African Americans and the federal government
music and sport
Music and sport
  • Billie Holiday (jazz singer)
  • Duke Ellington (jazz and blues singer)
  • Paul Leroy Robeson (played for NFL, acted in films and onstage: outspoken criticism racism and blacklisted 1940s-50s, supported by NAACP)
  • Jesse Owens (Olympic Games gold medalist)
  • While these talents appreciated, outspoken criticism not. These people ‘in-between’ white and black community, and if they became political it could mean the end of their career
  • New Deal stemmed damage of depression, WWII ended it
  • Presented opportunities and new strategies for attacking racial injustice
  • Federal govt. needed social harmony in face of international conflict = govt. more willing to acquiesce to black demands for change
  • March-On Washington Movement 1941 demonstrated effectiveness of new tactic: nonviolent direct action – opened jobs in defense industries for the first time
  • Joining the war, most black agreed with “Double V” campaign = fighting fascism abroad, while continuing to struggle against Jim Crow at home
internal unrest
Internal Unrest
  • New opportunities to work in defense industries meant migration to port and industrial cities
  • Southern whites also moved to these cites, bringing racial attitudes with them
  • Frequent job disturbances over jobs and housing in urban centres during the war
  • 1943 these tensions erupted in full-scale riot in Detroit, while smaller riots occurred in other cities
  • Black soldiers discriminated against
  • Segregation of armed forces
  • Most blacks trained at camps in rural south, increasing likelihood racial tension
  • Many joined the NAACP
effects on race relations
Effects on race relations
  • War spawned optimism and rising militancy among blacks
  • In addition to success of MOWM, NAACP continued to challenge the colour line, winning a judicial victory in 1944 against white primary elections
  • Membership of NAACP increased from 50,000 in 1940 to 450,000 in 1946
  • New civil rights organisation, Congress of Rcail Equality (CORE) created in 1942: pioneered sit-ins, picketing, other innovative tactics. Successfully desegregated restaurants, movie theatres etc. in northern cities
  • At end of the war, African Americans ready for full-scale assault on Jim Crow