Protecting Civil Rights of African Americans

Protecting Civil Rights of African Americans

  • Submitted By: helyna4f
  • Date Submitted: 03/19/2011 2:15 PM
  • Category: English
  • Words: 375
  • Page: 2
  • Views: 587

It would be mistaken, however, to think that these federal efforts effectively protected the civil rights of African Americans. Waves of violence and vigilante terrorism swept over the South in the 1860s and 1870s (the Ku Klux Klan and Knights of the White Camellia), as organized bands of white vigilantes terrorized black voters who supported Republican candidates as well as many African Americans who defied (consciously or unconsciously) the "color line" inherited from the slave era. Such actions often accomplished in reality what could not be done in law. Depending upon the state (and the region within states--such as the gerrymandered Second Congressional District in North Carolina where blacks continued to hold power until after 1900), blacks found themselves exercising limited suffrage in the 1870s, principally because their votes were manipulated by white landlords and merchant suppliers, eliminated by vigilantism, stolen by fraud at the ballot boxes, and compromised at every turn.

When the Compromise of 1877 allowed the Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes to assume the presidency of the nation after the disputed election of 1876, political power was essentially returned to southern, white Democrats in nearly every state of the former Confederacy. From that point on, the federal government essentially abandoned the attempt to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments in the South--although the potential for doing so was always uppermost in the minds of southern whites. Numerous southern blacks nevertheless voted in the 1870s and 1880s, but most black office holders held power at lower levels (usually in criminal enforcement) in towns and counties, and often did so in cooperation with white Democrats (especially in Mississippi and South Carolina) who supported elected positions for acceptable black candidates.

In this "fusion" arrangement of the two political parties, white leaders of the Democratic Party in the state would agree with black...

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