The Civil War was a time of great change for many people, especially people who had been slaves before the war. They were finally free and required the help of the American government to adjust and get started in their new lives as free men and women. Although they received their freedom, they did not receive enough help from the American government in the aftermath of the Civil War for it to be as revolutionary as it could have been In fact, they received almost no help from the United States government.
To support that argument, this paper will be presenting various points on how the former slaves were not given all the support that they could have been given. It will explain the circumstances behind each point and touch on why former slaves considered each thing to be unfair. There are many examples of way the government could have helped former slaves, but did not. Three main or key examples of this is that they were not given pension, laws set to help them were undermined, and they were denied many rights. To begin, the government denied many former slaves pension.
During the war, the American government promised former slaves 40 acres and a mule. Coastal areas and space on the Sea Islands were set aside for black settlement. This gave the former slaves hope and fulfillment, they anticipated that they would be fairly paid for the injustices done against them. Many took up residence in these areas, but then the previous owners began to returned. President Andrew Johnson was lenient, and refused to confiscate land from any previous owners that had abandoned their land, and in return had no land to be given to the former slave population.
As a result, the former slaves ended up landless and did not hold the land they were given long enough to make enough to start a life of their own. Without any money, the former slaves often went back to the only thing they knew how to do, farming. Systems such as sharecropping and tenant farming emerged as one of the main job options for former slaves. Sharecropping was the practice where a worker or tenant would use a portion of the landowners land and grow crops, in return, they would pay the landowner rent or a portion of their crops, hence the term sharecropping.
This process allowed the former slaves more freedom than slavery because they chose their own crops, the hours they worked, and who worked in the field. That freedom was undermined though by the fact that many people in this business fell so far into debt that it was an endless cycle and they were unable to change work or move. It was like this in various jobs former slaves worked in, they were low paying and the former slaves would usually end up with harder jobs because not many employees would hire them to work other than domestic and unwanted jobs.
With no other way to get started and no pensions, they had no other prospects. Some freedmen, or former slaves, even started groups, petitions and movement to achieve the pensions they believed they rightfully deserved. Most of the work they did was ignored and sometimes even actively worked against because the government did not want to spare the money, land, or goods it would take to pay such pensions. Furthermore, laws set to help and push the former slave population forward and upward in society were often undermined.
When the Freedmen’s Bureau was created, it had a few specific purposes and things to help out former slaves. Many times though, powers granted to the Freedmen’s Bureau were overridden by President Andrew Johnson. For instance, the Freedmen’s Bureau was given authority to settle former slaves onto abandoned and seized land, but after settling almost 10,000 African American families, whites started coming to reclaim the land, and President Andrew Johnson allowed them to, supporting their demands completely. After the Thirteenth Amendment was passed, Southern states began issuing Black Codes.
Black Codes denied most legal rights to newly freed slaves by prohibiting African Americans from voting, sitting on juries, or even appearing in public places,”1. The Fourteenth amendment and the Civil Rights Act countered such codes but discrimination was still very noticeable. The next ways the Southern thought to undermine the equality of former slaves and the caucasians of the time was to pass Jim Crow Laws. Many fought these laws, claiming they violated the Civil Rights Act, but after a series of court cases and arguments, the Court decided such cases to be out of their jurisdiction.
In addition, many states added a poll tax, qualifications, and literacy tests for someone to be able to vote. To make sure these only affected former slaves, a grandfather clause was added that basically said that if someone’s grandfather was able to vote, they were able to get by the new requirements to vote. A famous court case that also shows the racial discrimination against former slaves was the Plessy vs. Ferguson case. In this case, Mr. Plessy, a part African American man boarded a train car reserved only for whites, which was against the law at the time, the law was taken to court.
Instead of ruling in favor of the unfairness, the Supreme Court decided it was entirely fair because as long as separate but equal things were offered, then it did not violate any amendments, or the Constitution. If separate but equal things had been provided, it would not have been too bad, but states took it liberally and often times, the separate items for African Americans would be far worse and cheaper than those offered for whites. In all of these cases, the American government could have done something, they could have helped the former slaves, instead they chose to sit by and watch the injustices pile up.
Finally, the former slaves were not given all of the rights that white men and women of that age received. They were denied even some of the most basic and taken for granted citizenship rights, and were subject to cruel things. It took quite a few amendments and laws to get them to a point even remotely close to the level of a caucasian person. Even after they were raised that high and had protections, they were harassed and their rights were undermined even time it was even remotely possible for it to happen.
It was not even just in the South, although not as harsh as the South, the North still discriminated greatly against the former slaves of the Nation. Nothing that was given to them was ever enforced, and often times the American government would ignore or avoid the subject. TI were not able to vote, first because of black codes and then because of qualifications. To make matters even worse, qualifications were never the same and could not be studied for. The person working at that time decided how hard or easy a test would be.
It could be as bad as recite the entire Constitution for those that the person did not know or wanted to keep out, to recite the abc’s or something simple along those lines for those that the worker did not want to impede or knew. They could not pursue their goals in life, only certain companies and employers would hire former slaves, and these were usually people hiring for domestic, hard, or unwanted jobs. The employer also discriminated against and would most likely hire any white person over a really good black worker.
This undermined their pursuit to happiness, because they had very limited careers and would most likely not get their dream job, this blocked their pursuit of happiness, and there was no way around it because most could not find dreams if there are none they would be able to pursue. Being limited on jobs also limited their freedom and liberty because most of the jobs offered to former slaves were low paying, the former slaves would not be able to save enough money to move up the social ladder or hange their lifestyle. They were treated disrespectfully and were not given sanitary and nice things to use in public like the caucasians received. Everything for them was basically limited, and that also made everything harder on them. All in all, the American government had a chance to do a lot for the former slaves, but they did not take enough of those chances to help and provide the former slaves with things that they need. Many of them had almost no experience for life like this and did not know where to begin.
They had no money or land because they were not given their promised pensions, when laws were passed, they were not enforced so it was easy for most states to pass acts, laws, and codes that undermined or blocked the former slaves from receiving benefits from such things, and most of the basic rights given to mankind were denied to them, they had so many limits on education, job prospects, and other things so they could not vote, they were not always free, and they could not fully pursue a happiness that they would enjoy.