As of December 31, 2014, I retired from full-time teaching in Humboldt State University's Department of History. While this website will remain online, it is no longer maintained.
History 110 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
Reconstruction and the Beginning of Civil Rights
Introduction: As we have already learned, when the Civil War was over, the South was economically, politically, and socially devastated. Thus, Americans faced a formidable task - reintegrating the former Confederate states back into the Union. This task was all the more formidable because very few Southerners were able to emotionally accept the consequences of defeat. We can hear this in the well-known Southern song, "Good ol' Rebel."
Good Ol’ Rebel
By Major Innes Randolph, Confederate Army
Oh, I’m a good old Rebel, now that’s just what I am;
For this Yankee Nation, I do not give a damn!
I’m glad I fought against ‘er, I only wish we’d won,
And I ain’t asked any pardon for anything I done.
I hates the Yankee Nation and everything they do,
I hates the Declaration of Independence, too!
I hates the “Glorious Union” - ‘tis dripping with our blood,
And I hates their striped banner, and I fit it all I could.
I rode with Robert E. Lee for three years there about,
Got wounded in four places, and starved at Point Lookout.
I cotched the “roomatism” a ’campin’ in the snow,
But I killed a chance o’ Yankees, and I’d like to kill some mo’!
Three hundred thousand Yankees is stiff in Southern dust!
We got three hundred thousand before they conquered us.
They died of Southern fever and Southern steel and shot,
But I wish we’d got three million instead of what we got.
I can’t take up my musket and fight ‘em now no more,
But I ain’t a ‘gonna love ‘em, now that’s for sartain sure!
I do not want no pardon for what I was and am,
And I won’t be reconstructed, and I do not care a damn!
Oh, I’m a good old Rebel soldier, now that’s just what I am;
For this Yankee Nation, I do not give a damn!
I’m glad I fought against ‘er, I only wish we’d won,
And I ain’t asked any pardon for anything I done.
Goal #1 - To understand the domestic issues occurring within the Union while the Civil War continued between the North and South, 1861-1865
To better understand the domestic issues handled by the Union during the Civil War, it is important to take a look at the make up of Congress.
The Republican Congresses of 1860, 1862, and 1864 - all of whom were strong central government advocates - made some important economic decisions during the war - decisions that dramatically expanded the role of the federal government.
"... imagine a railroad line as the crease in a black and red checkerboard. Each of the squares in the checkerboard corresponds to a section of public land a mile square. The government gave the black squares to the railroad company while each of the red squares remained part of the public domain and available to settlers. For the original Pacific Railway from Omaha to Sacramento this checkerboard extended ten miles on each side of the tracks. Land grants to other railroads stretched even farther out from the tracks. The government, however, doubled the price on the checkerboard’s red squares from $1.25 - the base rate - to $2.50 per acre. On paper, the government had lost nothing through subsidies to the railroad; the country had gained railroads, and the railroads, by quickly selling off the checkerboard's black squares, as required in the acts, simultaneously promoted settlement and raised money to pay back the loans necessary to build the road ...
Congress was so taken with this system ... that between 1862 and 1872 railroads received grants the size of small and medium states. The federal grant to the Union Pacific roughly equaled the acreage of New Hampshire and New Jersey combined. The main line of the Central Pacific got slightly more land than there was in Maryland. The Kansas Pacific, one of the branches connecting with the Union Pacific trunk, had to settle for the equivalent of Vermont and Rhode Island. The Northern Pacific received the equivalent of New England. In all, the land-grant railroads east and west of the Mississippi received 131,230,358 acres from the United States. If all these federal land grants had been concentrated into a single state, call it "Railroadiana," it would have ranked third, behind Alaska and Texas, in size. The railroads also received state land grants totaling 44,224,175 acres, or an area roughly the size of Missouri, with 33 million acres alone coming from Texas, whose lands were not part of the federal public domain. Finally, cities and towns gave the railroads valuable lands for depots and yards, as well as other subsidies. In addition, the government loaned the Union Pacific and Central Pacific much of the money necessary to build the Pacific Railway." (White, History Now, 2014)
Consequences of Such Actions
And after the war, how did the Union put the nation back together?
Goal #2 - To explain how the federal government designed its plan for reconstructing the United States
Reconstruction was a politically devisive idea - even within the Republican Congress. Why? Because the party was divided between Conservative Republicans and Radical Republicans - and because a small number of democrats still existed in Congress. Thus, four different plans for reconstructing the nation were presented before an official Reconstruction Policy was adopted.
The First Plan: Lincoln’s Reconstruction Program required bringing the seceded states back into the Union as quickly as possible by passing the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction of December 1863.
The Second Plan: The Radical Republican Program was designed to re-construct the fabric of southern society and reshape southern communities to reflect their egalitarian beliefs: equal political rights and equal economic opportunity for all people, both of which would be guaranteed by a powerful national government.
The Third Plan: President Johnson’s Restoration Program argued that Reconstruction was the job of the executive branch - not Congress. He had a different mission - to create functioning state governments in the South that would restore the United States, but would not make major political and social changes designed to reconstruct Southern society. Johnson, a southern Democrat, placed the responsibility for restoration under executive control. In May 1865, when Congress was out of session, he announced his restoration intentions.
In December 1865 when the 39th Congress was convened, the Republican majority prevented the seating of all white southerners elected to Congress under Johnson’s plan - so there were not enough southerners to support his plan. This action, then, through the responsibility for reconstruction back to Congress.
The Fourth and Final Plan: Congressional Reconstruction. Congress used four different tools to destroy Johnson’s plan for restoration and created a new plan of their own: passing Civil Rights legislation, nurturing two more amendments through the adoption process, passing the First Reconstruction Act of 1867, and bringing impeachment proceedings against President Johnson.
1. Civil Rights Legislation consisted of two bills, both of which were vetoed by President Johnson and then overturned by Congress, as well as two new amendments.
- The first bill enlarged the scope of Freedmen’s Bureau by empowering it to build schools and pay teachers, and to establish courts to prosecute those charged with depriving blacks of their civil rights. President Johnson vetoed the bill funding the Bureau in February 1866, declaring that it was unconstitutional because Congress lacked the authority to “provide a system for the support of indigent people.” The Bureau, he claimed, was an “immense patronage” that gave special benefits to blacks which were never given “to our own people.” Congress was unable to get the 2/3 vote to override Johnson’s actions. The funding bill was renewed in July, vetoed by Johnson, and finally overridden by Congress so that the Bureau was restored.
- The second bill was Civil Rights Act of 1866 which made all persons born in the U.S. national citizens (except American Indians), enumerated specific civil rights, and overturned the Dred Scott Decision (1857) and the Black Codes. Johnson vetoed this Act arguing that extending federal protection of black civil rights was discriminatory by operating “in favor of the colored and against the white race.” Republicans overrode his veto.
2. The Freedom Amendments consisted of three new amendments: the 13th (already passed during Lincoln's effort to define Reconstruction), 14th, and 15th Amendments.
13th Amendment – passed by Congress in January 1865 and ratified in December 1865 - prohibited “slavery” and “involuntary servitude”(except those convicted of a crime) in the United States. Once the Confederate States of America (CSA) was defeated, approval of the 13th Amendment was a requirement for readmittance into the United States. All of the CSA states did not immediately sign the amendment, with Mississippi being the last hold-out and finally ratified it in 1995.) Implemented and enforced immediately upon ratification. This political cartoon shows the political confusion about what to do with the freed slaves after the end of the war.
14th Amendment – passed by Congress in June 1866 and ratified in July 1868 - defined blacks as citizens of the United States, thereby promising them full constitutional protection of their civil rights; prohibited states from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” and guaranteed “to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws;" and denied former Confederates the right to hold office.The ratification of the 13th Amendment was a major victory for the North where it was hoped that both the Emancipation Proclamation and the new amendment would quickly diminish the effects of slavery. However, as the Southern states began to pass a variety of Black Codes, it was clear that a new way of controlling ex-slaves, characterized by violence and cruelty, had been created. Consequently, Congress passed the 14th Amendment. Implemented and enforced by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
15th Amendment – passed by Congress Feb. 1869 and ratified in March 1870 - prohibited the denial of the vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude; defined national citizenship to include former slaves; prohibited states from violating privileges of citizens without due process of law; empowered Congress to reduce representation of any state that denied vote to males over 21; and disqualified from state and national offices all prewar office holders who had supported the Confederacy. The last of the Reconstruction Amendments, the 15th Amendment was designed to close the last loophole in creating real civil rights for newly-freed black slaves. In the election of 1868, Republicans received overwhelming majorities in House and Senate. With such strength, in 1869 they passed the Fifteenth Amendment. Implemented and enforced by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
3. The First Reconstruction Act (passed in March 1867 over Johnson’s veto). The South was initially divided into 5 military districts subject to martial law. Then, each state was given a series of instructions to be followed prior to applying for readmission to the union.
- States must first call new constitutional conventions elected by universal manhood suffrage.
- After states drafted new constitutions, guaranteed blacks the vote, and ratified the 14th Amendment, they became eligible for readmission.
- Those states still “unreconstructed” by 1869 - Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia - must ratify the Fifteenth Amendment before they could be readmitted
By 1870, all 10 Confederate states had met the provisions and were readmitted to the Union.
4. Impeachment proceedings.* On February 24, 1868, the House of Representatives impeached Johnson for eleven high crimes and misdemeanors - the last being seeking to disgrace Congress and failing to enforce the Reconstruction acts.
- The Senate trial failed to impeach him by one vote - Johnson’s lawyer had successfully argued that Johnson was guilty of no crime indictable in a regular court.
- Thus, the significant precedent set by the acquittal was that only criminal actions - not political disagreements - warranted removal from office.
* Note that this section on Andrew Johnson's impeachment is part of a larger History Place website entitled "Presidential Impeachment Proceedings." You can also find comparable information for your students to compare Johnson's proceedings with those of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Goal #3 - To understand how the controversial Presidential Election of 1876 ended Reconstruction
To learn more about the hotly contested Election of 1876, see the following resources:
Goal #4 - To explore the Consequences of Reconstruction
1. Rather than radically reconstructing the nation’s economic structure, by the end of Reconstruction, the federal government:
2. This capitulation by the federal government ensured that racial violence and racial prejudice would remain strong in the Southern States for 100 years after the end of the Civil War. In fact, it would not be until 1964 and 1965 that the 14th and 15th Amendments would actually be enforced.
3. White southern violence and the threat of violence against blacks - most visibly at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan - became a common method for keeping blacks "in their place." - illustrated by the cartoon to the left by Thomas Nast, "Worse than Slavery," Harper's Weekly, October 24, 1874. White groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the White League used every form of terror, violence, and intimidation to restore a "white man's government" and redeem the noble "lost cause."
4. At the same time that the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments and various laws designed to protect the civil rights of emancipated blacks created a legal framework for racial equality, most southern blacks had no economic or social framework to reinforce such legal equality. Indeed, by 1877, most emancipated blacks had become victims of a type of economic and social slavery that was reinforced by state and local governments.
5. Between 1865 - the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves - and 1941 - FDR's decision that federal attorneys were required to prosecute all types of voluntary and involuntary servitude - especially peonage - at least 800,000 African Americans were re-enslaved. During this period, the federal government did nothing to intervene on the behalf of African Americans who were involuntarily enslaved, lynched, or otherwise discriminated against.
This type of enslavement - like its historical predecessor - was both racist and economic in motivation. Without cheap and free labor in the South, its economic health was severely threatened. Peonage, convict labor, and sharecropping all allowed white farmers to either enslave African Americans at little cost or to force them into a situation of unwanted labor.
6. Industrialization increased in the north and along with the depression of 1873, the already-existing social class divisions increased between capitalists and working classes. Such divisions contributed to the rise of economic violence in the late 19th Century.
7. The Civil War and Reconstruction forced white southerners to redefine the political attributes of their world so that they could become more easily integrated into the United States. But neither the war nor reconstruction erased two long-held traditions:
8. Such traditions led to the rise of the Lost Cause Argument - that the real reason for the war was a difference of opinion about the Constitution - not the desire to retain the institution of slavery. To review...
9. The Compromise of 1877 is the key to understanding the evolution of the Civil Rights Movement for the next 80 years.
Goal #5: To examine a timeline of historical civil rights struggles that led to the Civil Rights Movement
What is the difference between the struggle for civil rights and the Civil Rights Movement?
The struggle has evolved for over 400 years through the phases discussed in the timeline below.
Civil Rights, Black Power, and Related Events: A Selective Timeline
The Struggle evolves: From 1857 to 1954, individual African Americans, various African-American organizations, and certain federal agencies sought equal protection under the law.
1857 Dred Scott Case. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that slaves did not become free when taken into a free state, that Congress could not bar slavery from a territory and that blacks could not become citizens.
1863 Emancipation Proclamation. President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing "all slaves in areas still in rebellion."
1865 Thirteenth Amendment. Abolished slavery.
1866 Civil Rights Act. Defined all persons born in the United States (except "Indians not taxed") as citizens. Listed citizen rights, including testifying in court, owning property, making contracts, bringing lawsuits and enjoying "full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings."
1867 Anti-Peonage Law. Congress prohibited all types of slavery and all forms of peonage, no matter what might be allowed by state laws or by state failures to act on federal law. Peonage is the indebted servitude of a person to another. Thus, if you owed someone money, they could use you as a slave until the money was paid back.
1868 Fourteenth Amendment. Prohibited state governments from interfering with civil rights; required giving all citizens "equal protection" under the law.
1869 Fifteenth Amendment. Prohibited states from denying the right to vote because of a person's race.
1870-1871 Ku Klux Klan Acts. Enforced the rights specified in the 14th and 15th Amendments, making such crimes punishable under federal law. Prosecution began in 1871
1875 Civil Rights Act. Prohibited racial discrimination in the selection of juries and in public transportation.
1877 Compromise of 1877. The Election of 1876 was very close. Rutherford B. Hayes ran on the Republican ticket against Samuel L. Tilden, the Democratic candidate. Tilden led in the popular vote, but the count from four states representing a total of 20 votes in the electoral college, was disputed. Congress organized a special electoral commission with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans to decide the disputed votes. The tiebreaker member swayed to the Republican side, and the commission awarded all disputed votes to Hayes, who won the election with 185 electoral votes to Tilden's 184. The Compromise came about when the Senate Democrats threatened to prevent the commission from reporting with a filibuster. Republicans negotiated with the Democrats to abandon the filibuster by offering to withdraw federal troops from the South, appoint at least one Southerner to Hayes's cabinet, and create economic benefits to industrialize the South. Troop withdrawal meant that the Republicans abandoned efforts to enforce racial equality in the South. Thus, the Compromise became known as the Great Betrayal - the federal government's essential promise not to interfere in the rights of the Southern states to handle all matters related to race.
1895 Booker T. Washington. Advocated vocational training for blacks to improve economic status
1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson. The U.S. Supreme Court set a precedent when it ruled that "separate" facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were "equal." The "separate but equal" doctrine was quickly extended to cover many areas of public life, such as restaurants, theaters, restrooms, and public schools. Speaking for the seven-person majority, Justice Henry Brown wrote: "A statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races...has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races...The object of the Fourteenth Amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either."
The lone dissenter, Justice John Harlan, showed incredible foresight when he wrote "Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law...The present decision, it may well be apprehended, will not only stimulate aggressions, more or less brutal and irritating, upon the admitted rights of colored citizens, but will encourage the belief that it is possible, by means of state enactments, to defeat the beneficient purposes which the people of the United States had in view when they adopted the recent amendments of the Constitution."
1909 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Founded by W.E.B. DuBois and other Black activists to provide leadership in the fight for racial equality.
1914 Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Founded by Marcus Garvey to stress racial pride, the importance of African heritage, and racial solidarity across national boundaries. UNIA supporters joined Garveyís call for blacks from around the world to help Africans overthrow colonial rule and build a strong African state which would become a symbol of black accomplishment and power.
1925 KKK March. In its first national demonstration the Ku Klux Klan marched on Washington, D.C.
1930 Nation of Islam. Founded in Detroit by Farad Muhammad. Preaching black nationalism and superiority in an evil white world, members of the Nation of Islam - Black Muslims - looked to the black community for regeneration and improvement.
1933 Elijah Muhammad took leadership over the Nation of Islam.
1935-1948 Charles Houston, the great African-American Civil Rights lawyer, served as the first full-time salaried Special Counsel to the NAACP where he crafted the strategy to end legal segregation, winning cases before the U.S. Supreme Court that chipped away at Plessy v. Ferguson. Between 1935 and 1948, he argued 8 cases before the Supreme Court, winning 7 of them.
1942 Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). CORE was organized in Chicago as an interracial group of students, most of whom were members of the Chicago branch of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), a pacifist organization seeking to change racist attitudes. The founders of CORE were deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's teachings of nonviolent resistance
1941 Presidential Circular 3541 directed the Attorney General to prosecute peonage and any other type of involuntary servitude throughout the U.S. This is the first time the federal government upheld the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and is considered by many to be the official end of slavery in the United States. The estimated number of African Americans enslaved between 1865 and 1941 was 800,000.
1946 Biracial delegation of civil rights activists met with President Truman to discuss racial terrorism in the south. Truman established the President's Committee on Civil Rights to investigate race relations in the South.
1947 To Secure These Rights, the report of the Committee, outlined the problems of racial discrimination and segregation and proposed anti-lynching and anti-poll tax legislation. Truman sent the report to Congress and asked them to enact most of the Committee's proposals.
1948 Integrating the Military. President Truman issued an executive order outlawing segregation in the U.S. military.
The Movement begins, Phase 1: From early 1950s to early 1956, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP) directed a legal phase that sought to desegregate Southern schools.
1952 Malcolm Xwas released from prison where he had become a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI). He quickly became one of the NOI's most powerful and respected leaders. Malcolm ejected integration with a white society that, he said, emasculated blacks by denying them power and personal identity.
1954 Brown vs. Board of Education. U.S. Supreme Court struck down the "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson for public education and required the desegregation of schools across America. On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren read the decision of the unanimous Court: "We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does...We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment."
1955 Second Brown decision. In a second Brown decision in 1955, the Court provided enforcement guidelines for beginning integration with "all deliberate speed."
Rosa Parks. On December 1, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus so that a white man could sit down. This was the event that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Montgomery bus boycott. Launched on December 6 and lasted 381 days.
Emmet Till, a fourteen year old African-American from Chicago, Illinois, was brutally murdered in Money, Mississippi, a small town in the state's Delta region.
Phase 2 : From late 1956 to 1959, black activists openly organized and carried out mass confrontations that directly challenged the white power structure and demanded that both transportation and education be desegregated and that blacks be given their Constitutionally-guaranteed voting rights
1956 Montgomery bus boycott. Warrants were issued to arrest 115 leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott. All were tried and sentenced without a jury.
Browder v Gayle. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery's bus company's policy of segregation was unconstitutional.
On March 12, 100 southern congressmen signed a manifesto urging resistance to integration and denouncing the Supreme Court. Only three southern senators declined to sign - Lyndon Johnson of Texas, and Albert Gore and Estes Kefauver of Tennessee.
1957 Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) founded by civil rights leaders who met in Atlanta on January 10 – 11 to form a regional organization and coordinate protest activities across the South. Sixty persons from 10 states assembled and announced the founding of the Southern Leadership Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration. They issued a document declaring that civil rights weare essential to democracy, that segregation must end, and that all Black people should reject segregation absolutely and nonviolently.
Little Rock, Arkansas. Southern segregated schools became a legal target. At previously all-white Central High, 1,000 paratroopers called by President Eisenhower to restore order and escort The Little Rock 9 black students to school. Governor Faubus closed all the high schools the following school year rather than integrate them
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was created to coordinate the action of local protest groups throughout the South. Under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., the organization drew on the power and independence of black churches to support its activities.
Civil Rights Act. Congress passed the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction - creating the Civil Rights Commission and Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice.
1959 Cooper v. Aaron. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an African-American's right to attend school could not "be nullified openly and directly by state legislators or state executive officials nor nullified indirectly by them by evasive schemes for segregation."
1959 The Hate that Hate Produced was shown on television. The movie catapulted the Nation of Islam into the national limelight as a dangerous organization preaching hate against whites. Consequently, Malcolm X began to get continual requests for radio and T.V. talk shows to defend the NOI.
Phase 3: From 1960 to 1968, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) directed a militant, direct action phase that sought a legalized, formal end to all segregation.
1960 Sit-in protest movement. Began in February at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. and spread across the nation. By August 1961, over 70,000 persons had participated in sit-ins throughout the south and 3,000 had been arrested.
Boynton v. Virginia. Supreme Court ruled that all interstate buses, trains, and terminals be desegregated.
"Mr. Muhammed Speaks," an interview with Alex Haley, appeared in Reader's Digest and was the first feature magazine article about the Nation of Islam. Shortly thereafter, Malcolm X was interviewed for Playboy Magazine.
The first scholarly book on the Nation of Islam was published by Dr. C. Eric Lincoln, The Black Muslims in America.
1961 Freedom Rides began in Washington, D.C when groups of black and white people rode buses through the South to challenge the Boynton decision. Wherever they went, the Freedom Riders were harrassed and assaulted. President Kennedy finally sent federal marshals to protect the Freedom Riders.
1961 Elijah Muhammad, who had moved from Chicago to Phoenix for health reasons, made Malcolm X national representative of the Nation of Islam. This created resentment among Muhammad's inner circle who did not want Malcolm to be the next leader.
1962 James Meredith enrolled as first black at the University of Mississippi. During the subsequent riot, two were killed and many others were injured. 5,000 federal troops arrived to restore order; some stayed to protect Meredith throughout the year.
Bailey v. Patterson. The Supreme Court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional in all transportation facilities.
Citizen Council's grow throughout the South, but were especially strong in Mississippi where the white population worked to stop African Americans from voting.
1963 Birmingham. Police arrested Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other ministers demonstrating in Birmingham, Ala., then turned fire hoses and police dogs on the marchers. While under arrest, Dr. King wrote "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
On May 10, the SCLC and representatives of Birminghams’ business community made a settlement - fitting rooms, wash rooms, rest rooms, drinking fountains, and lunchroom counters would be segregated in a period extending from 3-60 days.
"I have a dream" speech. Martin Luther King addressed over 250,000 people who attended the Freedom March on Washington.
President Kennedy gave the his first Civil Rights speech to the nation.
Medgar Evers. Civil rights leader Medgar Evers was killed by a sniper's bullet.
A church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, killed four young black girls.
1964 Freedom Summer. Whites and blacks went to Mississippi to open "freedom Schools" to encourage blacks to register to vote.
Civil Rights Act. The Act forbade racial, religious, and gender discrimination in public accommodations; allowed withholding of federal grants and contracts from violators; forbade discrimination by employers; and empowered the Justice Department to sue violators.
24th Amendment. The 24th Amendment abolished the poll tax, which originally had been established in the South after Reconstruction to make it difficult for poor blacks to vote.
Civil Rights murders. Three civil rights workers - James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, two white and one black man - disappeared in Mississippi. They were found buried six weeks later.
1965 The Voting Rights Act. The Act stated that "No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color."
Martin Luther King received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam, took a haj to Mecca, When he returned, renamed himself El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, and created the Organization of Afro-American Unity linking African American liberation and Third World revolutionary movements. He was assassinated shortly thereafter.
Selma March. On March 7, hundreds of freedom marchers led by Martin Luther King and John Lewis faced 50 state troopers and mounted officers who forced the marchers to stop. When 25,000 resumed the march on March 25, they were escorted by the National Guard.
1966 Black Power. Stokely Carmichael announced the beginning of the Black Power Movement - a move that called on blacks to seek power through solidarity, independence, and if necessary, violence. This marks the beginning of the end of the Civil Rights Movement.
Black Panther Party. Founded in Oakland to pursue community action and use violence, if necessry, in their quest for equality and empowerment.
1967 Thurgood Marshall becomes the first black to be named to the Supreme Court.
April. Martin Luther King, Jr. began to give anti-war speeches. The first speech occurs at the Riverside Church in Harlem.
U.S. v. Cecil Price e.al. (Mississippi Burning trial). The convictions of seven defendants in this trial represented the first ever convictions in Mississippi for the killing of a civil rights worker. The list of convicted men included Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price and KKK Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers. Eight were men were acquitted, including Sheriff Lawrence Rainey, burial site owner Olen Burrage, and Exalted Cyclops Frank Herndon. In three cases, including that of Edgar Ray Killen, the jury was unable to reach a verdict .
The Civil Rights Movement ends, the Black Power Movement begins and ends, the struggle for civil rights continues.
1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, 22-meter winners, raised their fists in Black Power salute while receiving medals. Consequently, both had their medals taken away.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray pleaded guilty of the crime in March 1969 and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
Civil Rights Act. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing.
1975 Elijah Muhammad died and his son Wallace Muhammad was approved as the head of the Nation of Islam on February 26. Wallace Muhammad immediately reformulated his father's beliefs and practices and publicly shunned his father's black separatist views to bring NOI closer to mainstream Sunni Islam. He renamed his organization - Muslim American Society - and many of his followers assimilated into traditional Islam. By 1975, there were 75 NOI Temples across America.
1978 Louis Farrakhan, who left the Nation of Islam when Wallace Muhammad took over, decided to rebuild the original Nation of Islam upon the foundation established by W. Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad. In 1981, Farrakhan publicly announced the restoration of the Nation of Islam and went forward with Elijah Muhammad's teachings.
1978 Seattle Desegregation. Seattle became the largest city in the United States to desegregate its schools without a court order; nearly one-quarter of the school district's students were bused as part of the "Seattle Plan." Two months later, voters passed an anti-busing initiative. It was later ruled unconstitutional.
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a closely divided decision that race could be one of the factors considered in choosing a diverse student body in university admissions decisions. The Court also held, however, that the use of quotas in such affirmative action programs was not permissible.
1991 Resegregation begins. In Oklahoma City v. Dowell, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that court-ordered integration plans were not intended “to operate in perpetuity” and allowed districts to be released from desegregation obligations once fulfilled. As a result, districts were allowed to return to neighborhood schools where there was no forced busing.
1992 Rodney King Riots. The first racially based riots in years erupted in Los Angeles and other cities after a jury acquited L.A. police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King.
1994 Byron De la Beckwith was tried and convicted 30 years after he killed Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers. (See 1964)
1995 Million Man March. In October, Louis Farrakan mobilized almost a million men to march to Washington, DC and discuss racial solidarity.
1999 Little Rock 9. The nine students who integrated Central High in 1957 received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
2000 Wallace Mohammad, now known as Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, and Louis Farrakhan publicly embraced and declared unity and reconciliation of their two separate organizations.
2001 Convictions of KKK Members. Two former KKK members - Thomas Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry - were tried and convicted for the deaths of 4 girls in the 1963 Birmingham church murders. (See 1963)
In August, the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University published its report, Schools More Separate: The Consequences of a Decade of Resegregation.
2003 Affirmitive Action upheld. In two of the most important affirmative action decisions since the 1978 Bakke case, the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger upheld the University of Michigan Law School's policy, ruling that race can be one of many factors considered by colleges when selecting their students because it furthers "a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body."
2005 Edgar Ray Killen. The ringleader of the Mississippi civil rights murders , Edgar Ray Killen, is convicted of manslaughter on the 41st anniversary of the crimes. (See 1964)
2006 The high school graduation rate for black male students was 47% compared with 75% for white male students.
Resegregation. The Nebraska state legislature approved a measure to split the Omaha school system into three separate districts divided along racial lines: one for white, one for black, and one for Latino students. It was argued this system would give minority’s greater control over their own schools.
2007 Emmett Till's Case. In February, Emmett Till's 1955 murder case, reopened by the Department of Justice in 2004, was officially closed. The two confessed murderers, J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant, were dead of cancer by 1994, and prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence to pursue further convictions.
Jimmie Lee Jackson's Case. In May, James Bonard Fowler, a former state trooper, was indicted for the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson 40 years after Jackson's death. The 1965 killing lead to a series of historic civil rights protests in Selma, Ala.
Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on whether a school district that is not racially segregated and that normally permits a student to attend any high school of her choosing can deny a child admission to her chosen school solely because of her race in an effort to achieve a desired racial balance in particular schools, or does such racial balancing violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment? In Summer 2007, by a 5-4 vote, the Court applied a "strict scrutiny" framework and found the District's racial tiebreaker plan unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the plurality opinion that "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."
Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that Jefferson County's enrollment plan was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Jefferson County's plan involved no individualized consideration of students, and it employed a very limited notion of diversity ("black" and "other"). Jefferson County's goal of preventing racial imbalance did not meet the Court's standards for a constitutionally legitimate use of race: "Racial balancing is not transformed from 'patently unconstitutional' to a compelling state interest simply by relabeling it 'racial diversity.'" The plans also lacked the narrow tailoring that is necessary for race-conscious programs. The Court held that Jefferson County's enrollment plan was actually targeted toward demographic goals and not toward any demonstrable educational benefit from racial diversity. Jefferson County also failed to show that its objectives could not have been met with non-race-conscious means. In a separate opinion concurring in the judgment, Justice Kennedy agreed that Jefferson County's use of race was unconstitutional but stressed that public schools may sometimes consider race to ensure equal educational opportunity.
2008 Wallace Muhammad died.
2011 On April 27th, President Barack Obama released his birth certificate to prove that he was born in the United States. Many Americans proclaimed that the fact that he was forced to prove this is an indicator that racism is alive and well in the United States.
2012 Civil rights attorney and author Michelle Alexander published The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, in which she argued that the subjugation of African Americans through criminalization continues through the prison industrial complex. "Racial caste is alive and well in America," Alexander wrote. "Here are a few facts ... There are more African Americans under correctional control today - in prison or jail, on probation or parole - than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. As of 2004, more African-American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race."
"I THOUGHT THE YANKEES WOULD HAVE HUNG YOU LONG BEFORE THIS"
by Jourdan Anderson
Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865
To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee
Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.
I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane and Grundy, go to school and are learning well; the teacher says grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we overhear others saying, "The colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now, if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.
As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free- papers in 1864 from the Provost- Marshal- General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and kindly- - and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty- two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay day for the Negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.
In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up and both good- looking girls. You know how it was with Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die if it comes to that than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood, the great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.
P.S. Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.
From your old servant, Jourdon Anderson
(Source: Cincinnati Commercial, reprinted in New York Tribune, August 22, 1865.)