What was the situation confronting African-Americans in the 1890s?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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While it is always difficult to generalize about the experiences of millions of people, it is safe to say that in the South, at least, where the majority of African-Americans lived in the late nineteenth century, that the social and political position of blacks declined. After a brief glimmer of hope during Reconstruction, white southerners imposed Jim Crow laws beginning in the 1870s. These laws became even more stringent as many states adopted "one-drop" laws that identified a person as black if they had even one black ancestor. Segregation laws were given constutitional standing by the Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Most African-Americans in the South were tenant farmers or sharecroppers, both of which offered little hope for economic improvement. The late nineteenth century also saw a number of so-called "race riots" and hundreds of lynchings, both of which were connected to attempts to maintain white hegemony over African-Americans. Political rights were curtailed through the use of violence and intimidation as well as poll taxes and other legal means. On the other hand, the late nineteenth century commenced what has become known as the "Great Migration" as African-Americans moved from the South to the North and West. In these places, they faced de facto and occasionally de jure segregation, but they received more economic and educational opportunities.  


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