What happened to African-Americans' civil rights during Wilson's presidency?
The decline in African-American rights that began with the ending of Reconstruction in 1877 continued during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Many of the injustices African-Americans had been facing continued, not just during Wilson’s presidency, but also throughout the Progressive Era. One group left behind by the Progressive Movement was African-Americans.
During Wilson’s presidency, the Jim Crow laws continued. African-Americans faced segregation in public accommodations. The segregation in schools, on railroad cars, and with restroom facilities and drinking fountains continued to exist. There was even segregation within the office buildings of the federal government during his presidency.
The voting rules that kept African-Americans from voting continued to be used. The use of literacy tests denied many African-Americans the opportunity to vote because they couldn’t read and write. Poll taxes kept many poor African-Americans from voting. Whites were exempt from these restrictions because the grandfather clauses allowed people to vote if their father or grandfather had voted before the Civil War. Most white fathers or grandfathers had voted before the Civil War, but that wasn’t the case for many African-American fathers or grandfathers.
The threats and intimidation of African-Americans continued to his presidency. African-Americans were terrorized and sometimes lynched, yet inaction was the normal policy regarding these events.
Throughout the Progressive Era, including during Wilson’s presidency, nothing was done about these abuses of African-American rights. The Progressive Movement clearly didn’t help African-Americans in ways that other groups were helped.
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