Why did Black Americans fail to receive full freedom after the end of the Civil War in 1865?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although the Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery, the Fourteenth made Black Americans citizens and gave them equality before the law, and the Fifteenth insured their right to vote, the Reconstruction Congress took few steps to insure the protection of these rights. As a result, aside from physical freedom, most blacks were no better off than they had been in slavery. There was little economic opportunity, and most were forced to work as sharecroppers at wages closer to slavery than to freedom.

The defeated South was bitter and vindictive at the end of the war. Southern legislatures passed a series of laws, commonly known as "Jim Crow Laws" which severely limited the rights of Black Americans to vote, or receive equality. They were denied the right to vote by a number of creative measures such as poll taxes, disqualification for offences which were presumed common in Black culture, and a requirement that potential voters "understand" a portion of the state not federal constitution which the registrar would choose. They were forbidden the use of public facilities which were not specifically designated for "colored" use, and forbidden to sit on juries again through creative methods.

All of the above actions are clearly violative of the Constitutional Amendments set forth above. Rigid enforcement might have assured equality and true freedom for Black Americans. However, Congress took little action other than to create the Freedman's Bureau, which had little success. In the election of 1877, the Federal troops which were stationed in the South to protect Black Americans were withdrawn to assure the election of Rutherford B. Hayes to the presidency. At that point, Blacks were at the mercy of Southern legislators and members of the Ku Klux Klan, many of whom were community leaders. To add insult to injury, in 1896, the Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, declared separate facilities equal under the famous "separate but equal" doctrine in Plessy vs. Ferguson. It was not until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's that Blacks approached anything near full freedom.

jackboniver | Student

this was mainly due to the white americans still feeling superior to them. The south was not happy because of the Emancipation Proclamation because they felt that slavery was part of their life and by taking that away, it was taking away their lifestyle. Also, the south was used to having slavery around and so they thought that their economy would fail because their major export was cotton. Although not as prominent in the north, slavery still existed in the north. What mainly opened the eyes of the north was the speakers such as Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe with her novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin." These and other people and things started the change in America.

It was also due to literacy. Black americans were not given the right to vote because most of them could not read or write and so others did not want them to vote if they could not even read the ballot. Although these situations improved later on with help from things such as the Freedmans Bureau, it was still an important factor.