Race Relations and the Early Civil Rights Movement
Segregation in the South Following the reconstruction many southern states including Georgia practiced segregation. Segregation means that blacks and whites were not allowed to be together in public places. Whites liked segregation because it meant they did not have to associate with blacks. Also, because whites were in power they often enjoyed the best seats at facilities and African Americans had to endure the inferior ones.
Jim Crow Laws To ensure segregation many southern states passed the Jim Crow Laws. Jim Crow Laws required blacks and whites to remain separated. This included riding separately in different forms of transportation. (Buses, Trains, Etc) Also required blacks and whites to remain separated at dining facilities as well.
Plessy v. Ferguson The supreme court made the Jim Crow Laws constitutional in the famous case in 1896, known as Plessy v. Ferguson. In the state of Louisiana it was illegal for blacks to share the same railway car as whites. Homer Plessy, a man who was part African American broke this law by sitting in a “whites only” car and was arrested. The supreme court ruled against Plessy stating that segregation was constitutional as long as both facilities were equal.
Booker T. Washington Washington was a former slaves who pushed for blacks to learn a trade, like farming, teaching, or some other form of manual labor. Washington felt that as blacks proved themselves in the different trades, African Americans would begin to be treated as equal citizens. Washington was responsible for founding the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama on teaching different trades. Many felt he was the most famous African American during the time.
W.E.B. DuBois DuBois taught at Atlanta University and strongly disagreed with Washington’s ideas on how to attain equality with whites. DuBois believed African Americans should strive to be Intellectuals (well educated). With increasing education blacks could achieve positions of leadership and influence, which would allow African Americans to change their standing in society. Known as the father of social science. Wrote and studied about African Americans.
Controversy: Washington vs DuBois In 1895, Booker T. Washington gave a controversial speech in Atlanta to a mostly white audience. In his speech he supported segregation. This pleased the whites, because they enjoyed hearing a leader in the African American community saw segregation was ok.
Controversy: Washington vs DuBois Many blacks were upset with Washington and his support of segregation. W.E.B. DuBois was especially mad. DuBois felt the ideas and views of Washingtons speech were outrageous, and he labeled Washingtons speech the “Atlanta Compromise” because he believed Washington had sold out his own people to win favor with the whites.
Controversy: Washington vs DuBois In response to views like Washington’s, many African American intellectuals met on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in 1905. Led by DuBois. (They were not allowed hotel rooms on the American side) They discussed how they might help the black cause. Their discussions gave birth to the NAACP – (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)
John and Lugenia Burns (Hope) The Burns provided intellectual leadership and social activism in Atlanta’s African American Community. John Burns served as the first African American president at Morehouse College Lugenia Burns was a social activist and welfare worker. She organized the Atlanta Neighborhood Union in 1908. The Union provided a health clinic, clubs for boys and girls, and vocational classes for children. Lugenia also fought to improve schools, streets, and sanitary facilities. Also, fought against discrimination policies in the YMCA.
Disfranchisement Even though African American’s right to vote was protected by the 15th Amendment, many southern states found ways to keep blacks “disfranchised” “Disfranchised” – means unable to vote. States came up with disfranchisement laws such as: Grandfather Clause – Must be a veteran of the Confederate Army, or a descendent of a veteran in order to vote. Must pay a poll tax and pass a literacy test – at the time many African Americans were poor and illiterate.
Racial Violence When the disfranchisement laws failed to keep African Americans from exercising their right to vote, many southern states would turn to racial violence to deter African Americans from voting. Groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) would use violence, intimidation, and lynchings to keep blacks from exercising their 15th Amendment rights. The period from 1890 – 1930 was the bloodiest period of racial violence in Georgia’s history.