How did African Americans face discrimination in the mid 1800s?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

African Americans faced discrimination in the mid-1800s in several ways. One example is that African Americans who were used as slaves in the South had no freedoms. They weren’t considered to be citizens, which prevented them from voting, running for office, or suing in court. They weren’t allowed to leave the plantation without a pass, and they could be harshly and unfairly punished for their actions. African Americans who were free in the South also were treated very poorly. They were often charged for minor offenses and given very harsh punishments.

In the North, African Americans had to fear for their safety. With the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, African Americans who escaped from the South and now lived in the North could be recaptured and sent back to the South. Segregation was very common in the North. African Americans were excluded from some public places, such as schools and public transportation, and they were prevented from working in some professions. African Americans were also losing the right to vote in some northern states. Two such states were New Jersey and Connecticut. African Americans constantly faced harassment and threats of attack.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the 1800s, the pressure by the whites to establish racial supremacy led to a variety of discrimination against African Americans. African Americans lost their rights to citizenship, they were barred from voting, barred from working in skilled jobs, and their participation in juries was revoked. These forms of discrimination occurred predominantly in the South. This situation forced the African Americans to migrate to the North, where although slavery was not popular, they were still not free men. In the North the African Americans were subjected to segregation, they were not allowed in public transportation, churches, schools and even entertainment halls. African Americans were not allowed to vie for elective posts and while in some states their rights to vote were completely revoked, in others, the situation was made difficult for them to exercise their basic rights. The Black society lived under constant threat of violence, throughout the period.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all, we should remember that for most of the "mid-1800s" (however one defines this) African Americans in the South were mostly enslaved rather than simply suffering discrimination.  However, even those African Americans who were not enslaved were discriminated against.

There are many examples of this discrimination.  Free blacks in almost every state (even in the North) could not vote.  In much of the South, it was illegal to educate any African American, even ones who were free.  Many states had laws that allowed African Americans to be enslaved as punishment for crimes.  This was not something that could be done to whites.

In these and other ways, blacks were discriminated against even if they were free.