The Impact of Black Codes, Jim Crow, and Segregation on African Americans in the United States

Introduction

Among the most significant icons in the US history was the slavery incident that loomed before and to some extent after the civil war. Slavery had various social, economic cultural and political implications for both the African Americans and the Whites after the civil war and in as much as it was officially abolished by the Lincoln administration, the African Americans still suffered the same if not worse unjust treatment in the hands of the whites as before when the trade was legal.

This paper shall therefore set out to discuss slavery in American after the civil war. The social, political, economic, and cultural effect that this institute had on African Americans shall be discussed so as to further provide more understanding to this dark section in our country’s history.

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After the civil war, the united state government undertook a nearly impossible task in a bid to abolish slavery. To facilitate this, they incorporated various amendments into the constitution to further assist in accomplishing this objective. The first notion steered towards this directive was the thirteenth amendment which was enacted on December 18th 1865 under the proclamation of the then secretary of state.

It stated that, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction[1].” This amendment aimed at abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude of the Blacks. It was the first of the reconstruction acts enacted post the civil war.

However, little to no change was experienced by the Black Americans as they were still being treated as slaves. As such, this amendment was soon after improved by the 14th amendment which stated that, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws[2].” This amendment gave the African Americans citizenship and a right to own property but little constitution rights.

It was later abridged by the 15th amendment which stated that; “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.[3]” this amendment gave the African American males right to vote in the general elections during the reconstruction era post civil war.

Despite these changes, no visible change was experienced by the African Americans as compared to the time before the civil war when slavery was still a legal practice.

The political Impact of Black Codes, Jim Crow, and Segregation on African Americans in the United States

The term “reconstruction era” refers to the period between 1865 and 1877 after the great American civil war. It is the time in the US history whereby the governments of the various states put in motion efforts in a bid to solve the social, economic and political problems that came about due to the establishment of the 11 confederate states union that had disintegrated before or during the war.

This was a very important period in the history of the African Americans as it presented them with an opportunity to transit from bondage to freedmen all the while experiencing for the first time complete integration into the American society as citizens. Kennedo states that; “It was the period where blacks were first completely freed from slavery and tasted the fruits of citizenship for a while.

During Reconstruction, blacks were granted civil rights, the right to sue and sit on juries, the right to vote and hold office, the right to own property, and all of the other benefits that all other citizens in America had. There was even a black Governor of Louisiana[4].” The decision to abolish slavery after the wart was crucial to the US if it intended to maintain and rebuild the confederate union.

Most of the southern states did not agree with the idea of granting the African Americans freedom. As a result, the Black Codes were established in 1866 with a clear purpose of limiting the rights given to the freed African Americans.

Within these codes were strict regulations prohibiting “Negros” and freedmen from visiting the towns without permission from their masters, owning property within the city limits, preaching or holding meetings without permission from the mayor and sitting or contributing in meetings attended by white people[5].

This southern reaction is believed to have emanated from the emancipation proclamation passed in congress. These codes made the lives of the Blacks even harder than it was during slavery because they were now being targeted by the laws that had sworn to protect them.

The civil right bill did not suffice in protecting the African Americans from the racial injustices and inequalities. In a bid to justify these racial tendencies, governments in the US enacted the Jim Crow laws between 1876 and 1965. These were state and local laws in the US that supported racial segregation in public places such as public schools, transportation, restaurants and entertainment venues as well as restrooms for Whites and Blacks[6].

These laws by default resulted in inferior treatment of the Blacks in terms of accommodations, resource allocation, quality of products and services and even prices. Consequently the Black community in the States experienced a number of economic and social disadvantages due to the enactment of these laws in comparison to the Whites. Despite all these hardships, the African Americans still increased in numbers and managed to survive under these conditions.

To counter this, the segregation worsened to a point where the Blacks were not allowed in some premises owned by whites, localities (residential estates occupied by whites), or even churches. This means that the Blacks lived in different areas away from the White communities and had their own religious and economic systems different from that of the Whites.

In 1896, the Supreme Court decided that the Louisiana law supporting racial segregation under the doctrine of separate but equal was constitutional. This ruling was brought about in the Plessy v. Ferguson case. According to the Jim Crow laws, transportation of the Blacks was also segregated and as such, they had their own railway cars different from the ones used by the whites.

However, several people in the Black community disagreed with the “act 111” which supported this segregation. In a bid to over turn it, they planned a way through which they would have a chance to air their petitions in the Supreme Court and consequently, have this act removed.

They used Plessy who was light skinned to buy a ticket for a white’s only train car. Plessy being a 1/8th black American citizen was arrested in 1892 for boarding a car designated for the whites. Under the Louisiana laws, he was considered as a black person and as such was arrested for civil disobedience.

The case managed to get to the Supreme Court and after the proceedings, Ferguson won the case. In 1879, Plessy pleaded guilty to the crime. This case sealed the foundation of the segregation laws and was used to further justify the segregation of color practiced thereafter[7]. In fact, it clarified the fact that segregation was legal as long as the facilities provided to both races were of the same quality.

The southern States however did not provide the Blacks with quality facilities or even equal resources. This case actually justified the separation of race and inequalities in the States up to 1954 when it was overturned by the ruling made by the Supreme Court as pertaining to the “Brown v. Board of Education” case.

In addition to this, the congress passed the freedman act post civil war in March 1865. This act was established in order to punish the confederates who refused to surrender 60 days after the civil war[8].

The act stipulated that the slaves of such people would be freed. The congress therefore established this bureau to help the refugees and slaves left destitute due to the civil war. The main aim of this bureau was to assist these people settle, acquire land and to protect them from their former masters during their transition to freedom.

Additionally, this bureau helped in developing schools, hospitals and other social amenities for the slaves and the citizens who had participated in the war but were displaced or otherwise left penniless by the whole ordeal. However, the Jim Crow laws to a large extent prohibited the effectiveness of this act through the limitations pertaining to land ownership and segregations.

The social Impact

Most laws that were enacted to advocate for racial equality post civil war had adverse negative effects on the social lives of the blacks in the United States after the civil war. They all seemed to fuel racism among the people. Collectively, these laws were designed to oppress the blacks and restrict their rights.

As such, there were wide spread inequalities based on color (race). Generally, there was no equality especially since the facilities offered to the whites were far more superior as compared to those afforded to the Blacks. Also the fact that the Blacks went to different schools, restaurants, restrooms and even used different transport systems clearly showed increased racism in the United States.

The second class status was also prevalent to the African Americans after the civil war. This was mainly brought about by the fact that the Whites believed that they were a more superior race than the Black Americans and even though they (blacks) were citizens and entitled to the same rights, they were lower than the whites in terms of intellect and social status.

As such, the Blacks could not work in certain positions reserved for the whites, they drunk from different water fountains, stayed in poor environments and houses as compared to the whites and also were not allowed to contribute in any discussions chaired by the white people.

In addition to this, some faction groups and organizations were formed in order to terrorize and oppress the Blacks. One such group was the Ku Klux Klan which was established in 1866 in Tennessee with a set goal to ensure that the Blacks who had won the right to vote in the 1867 elections did not exercise this right.

It was a violent and racist group composed of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASP) who envisioned on a white protestant south[9]. Their main intent was to spread fear among the blacks who lived in the south and they did this by raping, castrating murdering and burning of the churches and houses of the poor black people.

The members claimed to undo what the civil war and the voting commissions had done to the US. In 1915, the organization diverted its wrath to the immigrants and Catholic Church who they claimed were anti US activists by supporting the Blacks. The presence of such violent groups instilled fear into the African Americans to an Extent whereby they were afraid of walking the streets, going to church or even interacting with each other factors which greatly impaired their social lives.

The rise of such factions brought about various human injustices like lynching of the Blacks, brutalities some leading to death and various forms of intimidation. In particular, lynching involved mob justice where one person would be beaten to a pulp by a crowd of people as a form of punishment. These acts of lawlessness were further fueled by the fact that even the law enforcement agencies were not fond of the Black communities.

Many cases were reported where crosses were burnt in the Black communities by members of the KKK as an intimidation technique used to scare the Blacks from voting or interacting with the whites. In addition to this, the whites used signs and symbols to separate the places that these races were allowed to visit.

Consequently, this led to regional segregation whereby markets and entertainment venues as well as residential areas for the blacks were isolated far from those of the whites. In some states, the use of signs was supported by the laws to further dictate and enforce the segregation laws.

The economic Impact

After the civil war, most of the blacks demanded for repatriations for the slavery. However these pleas fell into deaf ears and as such, poverty loomed among the Black community. This situation was worsened by the establishment of the Black code laws which prohibited the Blacks from property ownership including land and housing[10].

In addition to this, Blacks under these laws were not allowed to work in certain positions and were left with very few options such as working in the white farms and other odd jobs which attracted very low salaries and wages. On the same note, their businesses could not thrive due to the fact that the whites could not buy from the blacks or even supply them with the products to sell. All these factors led to an increase in poverty amongst the Black community.

Since the Blacks could not own land, they had no choice but to rent out pieces of land from the whites a fact that led to the rise of sharecropping. This system seemed to thrive since most white farmers had large chunks of land and little money to pay laborers especially after the war.

Consequently, they struck a bargain with the black laborers entailing that they attend to the land for a small fee, shelter and basic provisions a factor that seemed to cater for the immediate needs of both races under the prevailing circumstances.

To further ensure that the Blacks were occupied at all times, the governments and local states put in place vagrancy laws. These were among the black code laws and dictated that all unemployed or wandering Blacks be arrested.

These laws were specifically designed to arrest the Blacks since the penalty fees were too high and most of them could not foot the bill. As a result, they could be sent to county labor or be hired as workers for private people. As such, the laws ensured that there was enough labor to go around for the white farmers.

The cultural Impact of Black Codes, Jim Crow, and Segregation on African Americans in the United States

As mentioned earlier, these laws seemed to advocate for racism and segregation against the blacks. As a result, they affected the cultural bearing of the African Americans in all aspects. For example, the racism and segregation led to the establishment of “black churches”.

Since the Blacks were not allowed to attend white churches, they had to establish their own religious foundations. These protestant churches focused on developing hope for the blacks who experienced hardships and oppression for the whites[11]. Eventually, as the churches grew larger, they offered education to their members in a bid to improve their status and chances of bettering their lives.

The music developed by the Blacks during this era was mainly of blues and jazz nature. These were somber songs sang to provide hope to the Blacks through the hardships that they faced. In addition to this, the rhythms were thought to have originated from the African continent and were perfected in the states. The Blacks were known to sing as they worked in the fields. These songs were later modified and improved over the years to form the now known Blues and jazz.

As per the sports, the African Americans were still segregated and discriminated upon. However, there were some exceptions such as Moses Fleetwood who was known as the first Black player to play the baseball major leagues with the whites despite his race, or other athletes who showed exceptional talent in the sporting arenas.

In addition to this, the Blacks also developed their own Negro league which they used to facilitate communication and interactions amongst themselves since visiting each other was risky under the vagrancy laws.

The food common to the African Americans was called soul food. The term originated from the fact that the term “soul” referred to the Black culture for example soul music or soul train. The origin of the food traces its roots back to the African continent and was introduced to America through the transatlantic slave trade in the late 1870s. The cuisine included meals made of sorghum, rice, cassavas and turnips. As such, these meals became the dietary staples common to the enslaved Africans.

During the Jim Crow era, education to the African Americans was viewed as a source of inspiration to fight for change against the oppression that prevailed for a very long time.

In as much as the Blacks faced various challenges in accessing educational facilities, the church played a pivotal role in providing access to such amenities. The Blacks were realized to be high academic achievers due to their motivation and persistence in a bid to get a better life and to fight for a better future for the generations to come.

Due to the oppressive state that the blacks were experiencing in the states, most of them opted to find ways to migrate back to their mother land. The whites on the other hand oppressed and harassed the Black folks with an aim of pushing them back to Africa. As such, the Blacks believed that the whites were superior to them and figured that there would be more chances and opportunities for them back in Africa.

Consequently, this led to an increase in migration of the Blacks to other countries such as Liberia where they felt less intimidated by the whites and at the same time got a feeling of belonging after the hard and struggle full life[12].

On the same note, most of these African Americans migrated from the south to escape the heightened discrimination and danger that prevailed in those areas. They moved to the north hoping to get better lives especially due to the fact that industrialization in the north was on the emerging stages and required lots of laborers.

Conclusion

Slavery and segregation tormented the lives of the African Americans at the wake of the 19th century. Soon after the end of the civil war, slavery was abolished by law but was still practiced by most whites and felt by the black community who instead of enjoying their hard earned freedom lived in fear and anxiety all the while facing racism, social discrimination, injustices and violent crimes which were directed to them by the same people who had sworn through the constitution to protect them and value their lives and humanity as equals.

However, the African Americans surprised the whole world by persisting through it all until such a time that they would realize true freedom and equality among the various races.

Bibliography

Lomotey, K. Encyclopedia of African American Education. SAGE, 2009

Mink, G and O’Connor, A. Poverty in the United States: an encyclopedia of history, politics, and policy, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO, 2004

Pinn, A, B. African American Religious Cultures. ABC-CLIO, 2009

Shulman, S. The impact of immigration on African Americans. Transaction Publishers, 2004

Appiah, K, A and Gates, H, L. Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience 5-Volume Set. Oxford University Press, 2005

United States senate. Thirteenth Amendment-Slavery and Involuntary Servitude. http://www.gpoaccess.gov/constitution/html/amdt13.html (accessed April 02 2010)

The charters of freedom. AMENDMENT XIV.
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html (accessed April 02 2010)

U.S. Constitution Online. Amendment 15 – Race No Bar to Vote.
http://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_Am15.html (accessed April 02 2010)

Kennedo, D. Reconstruction and its Effects on African Americans.
http://www.york.cuny.edu/yorkscholar/v4/kennedo1.html (accessed April 02 2010)

Page Smith. Trial by fire: a people’s history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Penguin Books, 1990

United States senate. Thirteenth Amendment–Slavery and Involuntary Servitude. http://www.gpoaccess.gov/constitution/html/amdt13.html
The charters of freedom. AMENDMENT XIV. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html
U.S. Constitution Online. Amendment 15 – Race No Bar to Vote. http://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_Am15.html
Kennedo, D. Reconstruction and its Effects on African Americans. http://www.york.cuny.edu/yorkscholar/v4/kennedo1.html
Page Smith. Trial by fire: a people’s history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. (Penguin Books, 1990), 49.
Kofi Lomotey. Encyclopedia of African American Education. (SAGE, 2009), 27.
Kofi Lomotey. Encyclopedia of African American Education. (SAGE, 2009), 89.
Gwendolyn Mink and Alice O’Connor. Poverty in the United States: an encyclopedia of history, politics, and policy, Volume 1. (ABC-CLIO, 2004). 42
History learning. The KKK and racial problems. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/kkk_and_racial_problems.htm
Gwendolyn Mink and Alice O’Connor. Poverty in the United States: an encyclopedia of history, politics, and policy, Volume 1. (ABC-CLIO, 2004). 70
Anthony B. Pinn. African American Religious Cultures. (ABC-CLIO, 2009). 45
Steven Shulman. The impact of immigration on African Americans. (Transaction Publishers, 2004), 127

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