The Southern Negro never had it easy in early American life. From being sold into slavery to becoming a persecuted freeman for the sole reason of skin color, they have endured countless trials and tribulations. Many well-intentioned but unsuccessful acts of sympathy occurred on the black man’s behalf, Reconstruction being one of them.
Granted, in legal perspective, citizenship and with it its rights and privileges were addressed in regards to American Negroes on a whole; what with Articles Thirteen through Fifteen of the Constitution altogether abolishing involuntary servitude (slavery), giving “…persons born or naturalized in the United States…” citizenship, as well as keeping said citizens free from deprivation of their rights. However, simple words written on paper could not protect the Southern Negro from their hostile white-American neighbors. No law could ever, nor will ever, be able to fully eradicate such deep-seeded racism as found in the south, and therefore such amendments were virtually useless.
Inhibiting the Southern Negro from enjoying his newfound status as citizen were extremely racist groups. Most notoriously known of these white supremacists were the Ku Klux Klan, a group formed in Tennessee, 1866, for the purposeful intent of hindering black suffrage and “…sought to…keep the freedmen in subjection.” (440) Klansmen, as members were so-called, alongside members of other terrorist groups like the White League, Rifle Clubs, Red Shirts, and many more congregated white supremacists, all wanted to keep the Southern Negro down. (443) Their fight was what they called the “Lost Cause”, as seen in Document J, Thomas Nast’s illustration of “This is a White Man’s Government”, engraved upon the Confederate’s knife he holds high. Also seen there is a paradigm of what is white supremacy: white men literally keeping a black man down, single foot of each placed upon him in classic victor’s pose, ballot box just out of reach and a USA flag rumpled right next to him. The intimidating message was made incredibly obvious by graphic images such as that, as well as acts of terror, and therefore white supremacists were successful in hindering the Southern Negro’s gains made from Reconstruction.
So, by force of combined efforts, these white supremacist groups effectively kept the black man of the south from rising in status. As depicted in Document B, a mutual agreement in that such black people should be kept under thumb was held, as shows through the assumed handshake between the Klansman and a member of the White League, equally armed with a knife. Huddled between them is a cowering mass that is a small black family, complete with what we are to perhaps suppose their dead child. That, along with the hanged Negro swaying in the background opposite the burning ruins of what once was a school, only further demonstrates their will to subjugate the Southern Negro via not only violent acts, but also by depriving him of a chance to better his standings by means of a proper education.
But, it was not only citizens who displayed overt acts of racism; the government itself participated. It was known that “…some legislatures merely revised large sections of the slave codes by substituting the word freedmen for slaves.” These Black Codes, as they were called, restricted them to a schedule, to “…live in housing provided by a landowner, and give up hope of entering many desirable occupations.” (429) Their service to the Negro was essentially only lip-deep, if not a demand of servitude of them once again.
Not only did Reconstruction fail to bring the Southern Negro up to equal status as their fellow white citizens, but it also failed to successfully maintain an integration of the races. Document G, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, had all intentions of this integration, specifically that “…all persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the…privileges of public conveyances on land or water…or other places of public amusement…” As expected, it was overridden by the insurmountable racism of the South, and because it “…contained no effective provisions for enforcement”, it ultimately was struck down by Congress. (443)
Also, in tune with these temporarily granted rights, was what is now known as the Grandfather Clause in Louisiana. Because of this, the South, as well as “…nine states outside the South…” were restricted in voting. The Southern Negro, of Louisiana especially, were denied of suffrage because of this clause. Indirectly, there were targeted by details that stated:
((( GASP SHANE CAN YOU JUSTIFY THIS NEXT PARA. SO THAT ITS LIKE IN THE MIDDLE KAYTHANKS )))
“No male person who was on January 1, 1867, or at any date prior…entitled to vote…and no son or grandson of any such person not less that twenty-one years of age…shall be denied the right to register and vote in this State…”
The Grandfather Clause effectively prohibited the Southern Negro of one of the major gains made by Reconstruction; since he was not allowed to vote before that particularly stated date, he was denied the right to vote afterwards.
This failure of integration far surpassed simple separation, escalating into legalized segregation, drawing the Negroes further away from his dreams of an equal citizenship. Jim Crowe Laws legalized the segregation, creating “…separate but equal basis, as upheld in the famous case of Plessy v. Ferguson…” (551) However separated, black and white races were not equal. Although as stated in Document F, the “…object of the Fourteenth Amendment was…to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law…”, it fell short of executing its intended purpose. Education and other public facilities meant for black people were either mediocre at best, or altogether nonexistent. The entire point of one of the major acts in Reconstruction was entirely missed, and the Southern Negro was once again failed.