Reconstruction and the black experience

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Reconstruction and the black experience

  1. 1. Reconstruction and the black experience 1865-1877
  2. 2. Responding to freedom <ul><li>First reaction of newly-freed African Americans = get away from the plantation! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Think about Fountain Hughes…no need for a pass anymore </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Seek jobs, new way of life, families </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Families are rebuilt </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Freedmen’s bureau helps reunite families </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Slaves could now marry legally </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No more fear of being sold away from family </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Freedmen’s schools <ul><li>During Reconstruction, the freed people gave a high priority to the creation of schools, often with the assistance of the Freedmen's Bureau and northern missionary societies. </li></ul><ul><li>Between 1865 and 1870, the Freedmen’s Bureau spent $5 million just on education! </li></ul>This photograph of a newly established school was taken around 1870, showing both the barefoot students and the teacher. (Library of Congress)
  4. 4. <ul><li>More than 150,000 African American students attended 3000 schools by 1869 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Why was education so important to freed people? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Many white Southerners were against freemen’s schools </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Attacks on teachers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Burning schools </li></ul></ul>African Americans of all ages eagerly pursued the opportunity freedom provided to gain an education. This young woman in Mt. Meigs, Alabama, is helping her mother learn to read.
  5. 5. 40 acres and a mule <ul><li>Most freedmen wanted/expected land to help them become economically independent </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rumor spread that the government would give all ex-slaves forty acres and a mule to start their new lives </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Radical Republicans proposed taking away land from plantation owners and giving it to freed people, but the idea did not have enough support in Congress to pass </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Many felt that civil/voting rights were enough </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Land reform would be too harsh on Southerners </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Result: freed people turned to contracts or sharecropping to make a living </li></ul>
  6. 6. Contract system vs. sharecropping <ul><li>Pros </li></ul><ul><ul><li>African Americans could decide whom to work for </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Planters could not abuse them or split up families </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cons </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Like in slavery, workers could not leave the plantation without permission </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Planters often cheated workers out of wages and benefits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Laws punished workers for breaking contracts even if they did so for good reason! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pros </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Families without land now had a place to farm </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Landowners had a source of cheap labor </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cons </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Farmers wanted to grow food crops for their families but landowners wanted them to grow cash crops like cotton; surplus of cotton actually drove the price DOWN, resulting in poverty! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cycle of debt created by the system tied workers to the land (p. 527) </li></ul></ul>In the contract system , freed African Americans worked on the plantation in exchange for wages, shelter, and food In the sharecropping system, workers rented a plot of land in exchange for a share of the crop
  7. 7. Before the Civil War, about 135 slaves worked on the plantation, supervised by an overseer and a slave foreman. After the war, the former slaves who remained on the plantation signed labor contracts with owner David Barrow. Freedmen grew cotton for wage, but they disliked the new arrangement. In the late 1860s, Barrow subdivided his land into tenant farms of twenty-five to thirty acres, and freedmen moved their households from the old slave quarters to their own farms. By 1881, 161 tenants lived on the Barrow plantation, at least half of them children. One out of four families was named Barrow. The Barrow plantation, 1860-1881
  8. 8. Sharecropping gave African Americans more control over their labor than did labor contracts. But sharecropping also contributed to the south's dependence on one-crop agriculture and helped to perpetuate widespread rural poverty.
  9. 9. At plantation stores like this one, photographed in Mississippi in 1868, merchants recorded in their ledger books debts that few sharecroppers were able to repay.
  10. 10. African Americans and the politics of Reconstruction <ul><li>Of all the opportunities now open to African Americans during Reconstruction, the right to vote was seen as the most important! </li></ul><ul><li>During Reconstruction, more than 600 African Americans served in state legislature, and sixteen of the new U.S. congressmen/senators were African Americans as well </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Important names include Hiram Revels and Robert B. Elliot </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Which political party did they support? </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Reconstruction statistics: African American members of Congress
  12. 12. White resistance to black rights <ul><li>In addition to poverty, freedmen faced violent racism! </li></ul><ul><li>Many whites (especially in the South) opposed giving African Americans opportunities to rise in society </li></ul><ul><li>As a result, groups formed to intimidate African Americans to keep them from asserting their rights </li></ul>This 1866 cartoon opposed the Freedmen’s Bureau because it would “keep [African Americans] in idleness at the expense of the white man”….what sort of message was this cartoonist trying to send?
  13. 13. The KKK <ul><li>The Ku Klux Klan was a secret organization that aimed to remove Republicans from power and restore white control of the South through violence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lynching blacks for “crimes” committed against whites were a common tactic </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Targets of the KKK included prosperous African Americans and white Republicans </li></ul><ul><li>Klan victims had little protection! Military authorities hired by Johnson were against Reconstruction and simply ignored the violence </li></ul>In this picture, the artist has portrayed a group of bizarrely dressed Klansmen contemplating the murder of a white Republican. (Library of Congress)
  14. 14. <ul><li>The KKK terrorized African Americans to keep them from voting! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>These tactics helped Democrats increase their power </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The KKK was finally outlawed in 1871, but it was not the only group trying to keep African Americans powerless! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Alabama's White League, formed in 1874, strove to oust Republicans from office by intimidating black voters. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To political cartoonist Thomas Nast, such vigilante tactics suggested an alliance between the White League and the outlawed Ku Klux Klan. (Harper's Weekly, October 24, 1874) </li></ul></ul>

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