Did the rights of African Americans decline between 1865 and 1900?

Essay by Claire_n February 2004

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The rights of African Americans between 1865 and 1900 is a subject of great discussion. It is hard to tell whether the rights of this minority group actually declined, or whether it simply stayed the same. On paper these rights improved through ways such as the 13th , 14th and 15th amendment, as well as the Reconstruction Act of 1867-8, but in the actual quality and treatment of coloured people it seems to decline. Although in theory African Americans were equal to white Americans, both were citizens of America and could vote, under the democratic values segregation occurred, proving to African Americans that they still were not accepted as equal.

In 1865 it did seem to many African Americans that things were improving. The reconstruction of the south begins and the 13the amendment is passed, abolishing slavery. Still though they were seen both in the eyes of the law and that of white Americans to be second class citizens.

In 1868 the 14th amendment was passed making blacks citizens of the US, and in 1870 the 15th amendment was passed, stating that the franchise should not be denied on the basis on race and if any state did so they would lose representation in congress. Also organisations such as the Freedman Bureau gave help to the freed slaves, as far as work etc. So in theory things were improving for African Americans. But in 1890 things started to digress. Southern states disqualified black voters, and the supreme court showed its height of favouritism in the Plessy v. Ferguson case. This approved the Jim Crowe segregation laws, resulting in lynchings to blacks in the south, making many migrate north. This along with several other cases, for example the slaughterhouse case of 1873, where the supreme court ruled that segregation is...