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After the Civil War, black people in the south found themselves with less opportunities to better themselves than white people. This time was known as the "Age of Jim Crow." At this time, first generations of Blacks born into freedom wondered about their place in society and faced the most violent period in the history of racism in the United States. This period would last for more than half a century.
The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution gave black men the right to vote. This did not go over well with the southern white people. To the white people, it showed that Blacks were equal to them, and they did not like it. The Whites kept the Blacks from voting in many ways. One way was through violence. Blacks were attacked if they tried to vote. Intimidation was also used. Many things were held over the black people’s heads as reasons not to vote. Landlords would threaten that black voters would lose their housing and bosses would threaten that black voters would lose their jobs if the blacks did not vote for the white parties.
Transportation was another area where Blacks and Whites were treated differently. On buses, street cars, and trains, Blacks still had to sit separately from Whites almost 100 years after the Civil War. On trains, they actually had separate rail cars. The train cars the black people had to ride in were not as nice as the cars for the Whites. On buses and street cars, the Blacks had to sit in the back and were required to give up their seats if a white person wanted to sit down. There were middle class Blacks, such as lawyers, professors, and college presidents who were able to afford to ride on the "white" cars, but were threatened and not allowed to. Many of the Whites felt they were too good to have Blacks sit in the cars with them. Almost 100 years after the end of the Civil War, there was still segregation on transportation. Sojourner Truth, who refused to sit at the back of a street car in Washington, DC, and others like her helped to pave the way for other Blacks to ride wherever they wanted to.
Ku Klux Klan
The Ku Klux Klan or KKK also treated blacks unfairly. The KKK was a group of white people who thought they were better than Blacks. They went around attacking blacks and any white people they thought were helping Blacks. One of the attacks was on Alonzo B. Corliss in North Carolina. The KKK dragged him out of his house and covered him with raw cowhide and green hickory sticks. When he regained consciousness and asked his attackers why they did this to him they stated, "You teach blacks." Other forms of attacks that were used by the KKK were placing burning crosses on black people’s lawns, burning Blacks out of their houses, and sometimes even hanging them.
Plessy v. Ferguson
One of the first court cases to try to end the discrimination against Blacks was the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. The U.S. Supreme Court stated that it was legal to have separate but equal facilities for Blacks and Whites. Everything could be separate but equal in all things from schools to transportation. Plessy lost the original case against "separate but equal" facilities for Blacks and Whites and in 1896 the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Plessy’s appeal by an overwhelming 8 to 1 vote. In the years following, it was found that separate things were not really equal.
Schools were different for Blacks and Whites from the time the Civil War ended until almost 100 years later. Topeka, Kansas in the 1950’s is an example. Linda Brown, a seven-year-old black girl could not go to the white school a few blocks from her house. Linda had to walk many blocks, pass through a railway switchyard, and then board a bus to get to one of the four schools for black children in the area. At that time, the white schools were mainly new and updated. Where the state spent $142 per student on white children, the black schools were run down and only $72 per student was spent on the black children. Linda Brown’s father fought for the right for black children to be in the same school as whites. This legal case made it to the Supreme Court and won by an overwhelming 9 to 1 vote.
Separate was Never Equal
Restrooms and drinking fountains were also not created equal. Like the schools, the Whites had modern and up-to-date restrooms and drinking fountains while Blacks had to use outdated restrooms or outhouses. Sometimes, drinking fountains for the Blacks were nothing more than pipes sticking out of the wall with running water.
Blacks and Whites also attended their own churches. To this day, many Blacks and Whites attend separate churches. Discrimination and hatred toward blacks still exists in the South as many black churches are being burned and bombed.
As you can see, long after the Civil War and even to this day in some areas, black people were not always treated fairly. Black people have to work very hard to be treated as equals to Whites. Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Jesse Jackson have helped gain equal treatment for all people, and the fight for equality continues today.
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