An Overview of Black History

Compiled & Edited by Phillip True, Jr.

23. The Betrayal of the Reconstruction

The betrayal of the Reconstruction caused massive dislocation and confusion among Black people in the south and in the country in general. They were not prepared for this at all. Suddenly many Whites that they thought of as friends became open and declared enemies. The Freedmen's Bureau and other agencies that had been set up to assist the former slaves were dismantled. Some southern politicians actually attempted to reestablish slavery.

Southern writers, teachers, and bigoted agitators turned the cause of southern redemption into a religion. Finally the Republican Party bargained away the political rights of the southern Blacks in order to pacify the brooding southern Whites. Black politicians held on for a few more years, but their heyday in southern politics was over. The southerners were given the right to handle the "Negro" as they saw fit. This "right" opened the door for the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and other bigoted White terrorist organizations. The murder and harassment of Blacks by the Ku Klux Klan in the rural areas of the South drove Blacks in large numbers into the developing urban cities. In the cities, Blacks experienced even more complicated troubles, in addition to a new sophisticated kind of harassment. Blacks could not find jobs for the skills they had. Housing was poor, and the right to vote and hold public office had been challenged by the Ku Klux Klan in the cities. The Blacks had been deserted by their northern White friends.

Many of the New England school moms who had come into the South a decade earlier had married southerners and had become southern in their attitude toward Blacks. The new Black educational institutions in the South were in serious financial trouble. Begging by the heads of these institutions is what kept most of them alive. This combination of events caused large numbers of Blacks to migrate from the rural and urban areas of the South to the industrial cities of the North. These migrating Blacks were looking for better jobs, better housing, better education for their children, and in general, a better way of life.

The after effects of the betrayal of the Reconstruction were still being felt throughout Black America. The White "friends" that Blacks had in Congress and in the Senate were no longer effective. Black politicians of the Reconstruction had been literally driven from public life. During the 1880's, African Americans were still voting in the South, but in smaller numbers year after year. The physical segregation that would come later, had not yet developed into a codified (to classify) system. However, the division of the White by the Populist movement of the early 1890's, and the past Reconstruction threat of political power for the Blacks, drove Whites who had been moderate on the race question to a place where they became overt racists.

In 1896, the court upheld a Louisiana Law for "Separate but Equal" accommodations for White and Colored races. The betrayal of The Reconstruction was an end to a supposed new beginning for Blacks.


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