The end of the civil war with the surrender of the Confederate forces in 1965 brought an end to the institution of slavery. However the white majority of the South was unwilling to grant African-Americans the full rights of citizenship. Many African-Americans decided to move from the rural areas of the South, to the urban areas, especially those of the North, where they expected to find a more egalitarian social order. However a sudden increase in the African American population of cities exacerbated racial tensions. Riots, lynching and racist legislation by local and state governments became commonplace. From the 1890’s to the 1920’s, the United States underwent a dark period of racist violence and hatred in what has been termed the “nadir of race relations in America”.
Disenfranchisement of Blacks
Many of the influential whites of the South believed that denying all political power from African-Americans was crucial in order to maintain their economic superiority. Southern states and local governments continually aimed to undermine federal laws that guaranteed voting rights to African-Americans. A Mississippian writing to the Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper said:
“It is a question of political economy which the people of the North can not realize nor understand and which they have no right to discuss as they have no power to determine. If the Negro is permitted to engage in politics his usefulness as a laborer is at an end. He can no longer be controlled or utilized. The South has to deal with him as an industrial and economic factor and is forced to assert its control over him in sheer self-defense.” (Love, 2009)
African-Americans were in the majority in the Southern states of Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina, in several other states they formed a sizeable minority. The dominant white minority in those states fought the hardest to deny African-Americans their right to vote under one pretext or another. The mechanisms for denying African-Americans their voting rights were many, some were legal and others extra-legal. Legal artifices for denying African-Americans the vote included the levying of taxes and the requirements of passing certain tests (Klarman, 2004).
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