After emancipation, how did ex-slaves exercise their new freedoms, and how did white southerners attempt to limit them?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After the slaves were freed, they did many things with the new freedom they had received. Unfortunately, white southerners tried to limit these freedoms.

Once the slaves were freed after the Civil War ended, they pursued a variety of activities. Some former slaves returned to their birthplace, while others went to look for family members from whom they were separated. A number of freed slaves traveled, while others formally married. Finally, some former slaves were involved in building their own churches and schools. Some also became involved in politics and ran for political office.

White southerners weren’t pleased with these changes. After the Civil War ended, southern states passed the black codes. One example of a black code was that former slaves needed to prove they were employed. After Reconstruction ended, white southerners began to regain control of the state and the local governments. They passed laws that separated the races. Blacks and whites weren’t allowed to sit in the same train cars. They had separate bathrooms and separate drinking fountains. White southerners tried to prevent African-Americans from voting. Laws were passed requiring people to pass literacy tests and pay poll taxes in order to vote. People were exempt from these restrictions if their father or grandfather had voted before 1867. These grandfather clauses allowed whites to vote while denying the vote to many African-Americans because their fathers or grandfathers weren’t allowed to vote before 1867. Finally, hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan formed. They threatened, intimidated, harassed, and killed African-Americans.

While African-Americans gained some freedoms after the Civil War ended, white southerners worked hard to restrict those freedoms.