Dbq Reconstruction Research Paper

1877 saw the end of Reconstruction in the USA with the situation of African-Americans looking to be more positive as they had just gained the right to vote in 1870 with the 15th amendment and gained equal protection under the law with the 14th but still suffered terrible amounts of discrimination in the North and the South. The ‘Black situation’ in 1900 was that the legal, social, economic and political status of blacks was inferior throughout the USA, especially in the South.

One way in which you could argue for the assertion is with white opposition, in particular the KKK. The main opposition by whites was through lynching as there was over 3,000 accounts of lynching taking place between 1880 and 1930 with the majority on sketchy, unproven and irrational evidence. The significance of lynching was that it demonstrated the inferiority of blacks, showing the lack of political power the blacks actually had. This can be accredited, amongst other forms of oppression, to the Klu Klux Klan.

The clan was significant in the lynching as a lot of its members, who were law enforcement officials, politicians etc. , and so there weren’t going to be any concrete changes (e. g. no changes in litigation). This impeded the civil rights movement but also it is argued by historians such as Adam Fairclough that it was the blacks who protested against lynching were ‘the starting point of the modern civil rights struggle – the beginning of the fightback against white supremacy’.

The key figures in this were: Ida B. Wells with the black women’s clubs and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This showed that the KKK was actually increasing the awareness of the plight of the blacks in some way. What the KKK did have a big influence on was that, due to the fear of speaking out and angering the KKK, the blacks were split on what to do, due to the fear. So it could be said that the KKK impeded possible change for the blacks through lynching and being oppressive.

A prime example of how the situation didn’t improve was that in the late nineteenth century, the situation was improving for blacks as they did gain increased some political power through the co-operation of The People’s Party (est. 1892) with the Republicans (the ‘Fusion’) with 1000 blacks being elected to office in North Carolina in 1894. However, due to white riots in Wilmington, all the blacks were expelled and disenfranchised with Republican president McKinley refusing to send help. A way in which the situation did improve was through World War One.

Although the majority of blacks were opposed to the ‘White Man’s War’, it did improve the black situation. One of the reasons was due to the amount of jobs available which caused the ‘Great Migration’ of blacks from the South to the North as they flocked to cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and the car-manufacturing centre of Detroit. Detroit saw a 300% population increase overall but a 2400% black population increase. Due to the war, many blacks were sent to Europe where they met the French who were less racist and the German propaganda who questioned whether America was truly democratic.

The 93rd Division’s 369th Infantry Regiment, the Harlem Hellfighters, became famous due to their combat ability and for its world-class band. Two of its soldiers were the first Americans to receive the French Croix De Guerre. Since there was this ‘Great Migration’, there was an increasing sense of unity in the black community. This can be shown in the Harlem Renaissance of 1919-1930 in which a number of key figures flourished such as the poet Langston Hughes, the jazz musicians like ‘Duke Ellington, and when Joe Louis (the brown bomber) defeated a white heavyweight boxer to become world champion in 1938.

This shows that the black consciousness increased dramatically and so the black situation did improve. One area that must be looked at to assess whether or not the situation improved is the role of prominent African-Americans and some groups. Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), called for AfricanAmericans to start their own country in Liberia to start afresh (the ‘Back to Africa’ movement). This didn’t help the promotion of black rights as Garvey didn’t work to achieve rights in the USA but rather in a different country.

Booker T. Washington was a leading role model at the turn of the century with his academic philosophy and his emphasis on industrial education which would create a building block for the black community in which they could secretly work for civil rights in order to avoid the overtly racist white population. Washington also founded Tuskagee which gave several generations of blacks increased economic opportunities through education and established the National Negro Business League in 1900.

However Washington did clash with ‘pro-protest blacks such as Ida B. Wells (as mentioned earlier) and W. E. B. Du Bois. Du Bois was one of the founders of the NAACP whose aims were to make blacks equal. The NAACP’s first successful litigation was with the Supreme Court outlawing the grandfather clause in 1915. Civil rights became a political issue as a result of the work of Trade Unions, the NAACP and the Great Depression. This shows that prominent African-Americans enhanced the positions of blacks in the American society.

The event which had the most profound effect in the latter stages of the half century was the Second World War which caused a number of things: the 1943 race riots; brought blacks into closer contact with whites; membership of the NAACP went from 50,000 to 450,000; more bargaining power for in demand black workers; increased activism (e. g. CORE); similarities between Hitler’s racism and Southern racism was identified and there was increased migration from Southern farms. All these factors can be seen to contribute to the advancement of black civil rights.

In conclusion, the difference from 1877 to 1945 was slight as there were still Jim Crow laws in the South with the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896 still resonating; there was still discrimination in the North. However there was a slow increase in economic opportunities, black activism and the Federal government were slightly more interested. The biggest increase can be seen with the black consciousness. These factors show that there has been improvement of black civil rights but not by much so there was still a lot to be done so there was an improvement but only slightly as discrimination was still ripe.