African American Civil Rights 1865-1992


The position of African Americans after the Civil

The position of African Americans in 1865- Emancipation Proclamation (1863) ended slavery in Union controlled areas, the 13th amendment wrote emancipation into the constitution (1865) and turned 4 million slaves into freedmen.

Reconstruction- Congress led many reforms including the Freedman's Bureau, the 14th and 15th amendments, the Civil Rights act (1866) and the first Reconstruction Act (1867) giving the right to vote and created new southern constitutions. Federal authority were used to enforce new laws.

White Reaction and Discrimination- the KKK, lynching, murdering, white violence became acceptable in the south, equal citizenship was not accepted, violence was used to stop relationships between whites and blacks. Civil Rights were established in theory and the application of these rights depended on military presence and the willingness of the federal authorities to enforce these laws.

Hayes-Tilden Compromise- allowed Reconstructuion to end in the South.

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The role of African Americans in gaining Civil Rig

Booker T. Washington- gained the confidence of white Americans, emphasised that black Americans needed to rely on their own efforts to make progress, he did not openly campaign about discrimination but advised presidents on racial issues, founded the Tuskegee Institute (to train teachers) and also founded the National Business League.

W.E.B Du Bois-'talented tenth' , cooperated with white reformers in the NAACP and led marches and campaigns for equlity.

Marcus Garvey- a seperate African American community, Pan African movement. Universal ***** Association was the first large civil rights organisation.

Phillip Randolph-influenced by non-violent movements and pressured the governments to end discrimination in war factories by threatening a mass march and successfully influenced policy.

Martin Luther King- cooperated with white liberals, nonviolent approach, SCLC, 'I have a dream', march on Washington, Birmingham (arrest) and Selma to Montgomery. Assassinated April 1968.

Malcolm X and the Black Panthers- Nation of Islam. Assassinated in 1965.

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The role of federal government


Johnson, Grant and Wilson- Johnson opposed greater African American Civil Rights, Grant used federal troops to support Reconstruction and Wilson did very little for Civil Rights.

Roosevelt- New Deal, the Civillian Conservation Corps, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and the Publics Works Administration. All helped those African Americans affected by the Great Depression but by proxy.

Truman- executive order to end segregation in the armed forces. No comprehensive measures passed.

Eisenhower, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson- Eisenhower Civil Rights Acts, Little Rock. Kennedy prepared a general civil rights bill which was not passed. Lyndon Johnson 24th amendment, the civil rights act.

Nixon- 'affirmative action'

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Congress and the Supreme Court

Congress- leading part in Reconstruction. From 1876 very little action was taken due to the power of the Southern Democrats and led to the eventual end of Reconstruction.

The Supreme Court- major role in promoting discrimination and segregation. 1944 the court was moving against segregation- Brown v. Board of Education, supported busing.

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The role of state governments

The US federal system and states' rights- the south passed Black Coddes in order to control the freedmen

The Southern states and Reconstruction- new constitutional assemblies drawing up constitutions... Civil Rights were achieved in the south due to an outnumbering in representatives and Union armed forces.

Reaction after 1877 and the Jim Crow Laws- JIm Crow Laws- seperate hospitals, prisons, schools..., codes of behaviour and regulations.

Issues over integration- Little Rock (Faubus), James Meredith and Alabama- supportive of segregation, Wallace 'segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever'

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The role of pro-civil rights groups

Non-violent groups aiming at integration- NAACP(National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People), CORE(Congress of Racial Equality), SCLC(Southern Christian Leadership Conference), SNCC(Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).

Radical and separatist groups- United ***** Improvement Organisation, Nation of Islam and the Black Power movment.

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The role of anti-civil rights groups

The KKK- established in 1867, intimidation, lynching, physical attacks, attacked those who supported, disintegrated in the 1870s, reborn in 1915.

Lynching- 2,700 between 1865 and 1917. E.G. Emmett Till

White Citizens' Councils- protest against school desegregation and encouraged intimidation of African Americans trying to vote...

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The civil rights movement to 1992

The high point of 1964-65

Limitations to progress 1965-92- 63% of African Americans graduated High School compared to 77% of white Americans, 11% of African Americans graduated college compared to 22% of white Americans, unemployment among African Americans remained high, the gap in family income increased in the 1980s, the average hourly rate remained lower for African Americans and African American poverty increased since the 1950s.

Continuing Initiatives for greater equality- Affirmative Action-Equal Oppurtunity Act 1972, Busing, Progress by 1992 Civil Rights legislation renewed and strengthened (1982), the Rodney King affair.

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Gilded Age 1875-1895

Lack of Progress in Civil Rights-  growth of segregated transport, plessy v. Ferguson raises questions about the 14th amendment, segregated districts, exclusion by registration,taxes and complicated tests created to prevent Black Votes, George White leaves congress, harsh punishments and lynchings for small crimes, false arrests and imprisonment.

Gains in progress for Civil Rights- literacy rates for African Americans from 5% to 50%, a rise in African American leadership and ownership of churches and businesses and by 1900 47,000 African Americans were professionals including doctors, lawyers, teachers and artists.

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New Deal

Gains- Robert Weaver became Special Adviser which led to grants to build schools, hospitals and homes for African Americans, African Americans benefited from poor relief and job creation projects, employment training was provided , Farm Security Administrators gave help to those hit hard by the great depression, Roosevelt spoke out against white violence. Change in atmosphere rather than a dramatic change in civil rights legislation.

Limitations- poor sharecroppers could not pay rent and were evicted, suffered from unemployment, improving working conditions often excluded areas of high african american employment, NRA attempts at improvements were evaded by the south, Wagner act encouraged unionised labour which worked against african americans, Social Security Act did not apply to areas with high African American employment, segregation remained prevalent, CCC oppurtunities differed based on race, Roosevelt did not increase voting rights.

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Malcolm X and Black Power

The differences from the civil rights movment-  no unified aims, no white cooperation, little base in the South, did ot focus on nonviolence,viewed African American civil rights in a wider context. 

Gains- there was a great interest in the wider context, courses were run about it, 'black is beautiful',great publicity for social grievances and inequalities, local level communities to support African American rights.

Limitations- divisions increased, association of civil rights with such movments discouraged extensions of such rights, Martin Luther King was critical of the movement, police repression used against leaders.

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