Throughout the nineteenth century, African Americans began to obtain freedoms. During the 1860s, the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments were passed, granting African Americans freedom from slavery and allowing them to live without the fear of state governments denying their rights. Immediately after, the Black Codes were passed. These laws, on the other hand, attempted to regulate the lives of former slaves. Then, about ten years later, in 1875, a Civil Rights Act was passed to protect the civil and legal rights of all citizens, regardless of race. However, in the Civil Rights Cases that took place in 1883, the Supreme Court ruled that the public accommodation sections of the act were unconstitutional.  Some disagreed with this ruling, but other believed that African Americans did not deserve equal liberties. In some cases, whites would attack blacks, most commonly through lynching. Similar disagreements and attacks led to the Plessy v. Ferguson case, where it was ruled that with racial segregation laws, African Americans would be safer from the whites’ attacks, and although they’d be separated, they’d remain equal. The Black Codes were part of a larger pattern of Southern whites trying to suppress the new freedom of emancipated African American slaves. The laws were designed to replace the social controls of slavery that had been removed by the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment. These codes denied African Americans the rights to testify against whites, to serve on juries or in state militias, or to vote. However, the laws still granted blacks some rights, such as legalized marriage, ownership of property, and limited access to the courts. Some agreed with the country’s decision to adopt the Thirteenth Amendment, but others accepted the Black Codes. Both caused controversy throughout the nation. Before the Black Codes were brought to an end, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was introduced. This was the first federal law to define citizenship and affirm that all citizens are equally protected by the law. The law was originally vetoed by President Andrew Johnson, but was passed in April of 1866 by Congress to support the Thirteenth Amendment. Still, it failed to secure the civil rights of African Americans. The activities of insurgent group, such as the Ku Klux Klan, undermined the act. This terrorist organization quickly spread into nearly every southern state. Led by planters, merchants, and Democratic politicians, men who liked to style themselves the South’s “respectable citizens,” the Klan committed some of the most brutal criminal acts in American history. Those who defied the norms of white supremacy bore the brunt of the violence.  The Klan sought to overthrow the Republican state governments in the South during the Reconstruction Era, especially by using violence against African American leaders. In York County, South Carolina, nearly the entire white male population joined the Klan. Even women participated by sewing the robes and hoods Klansmen wore as disguises. This group in South Carolina committed eleven murders and hundreds of whippings. Sometimes, violence went from assaults to mass terrorism. In Meridian, Mississippi, about thirty black were murdered, along with a white Republican judge. The bloodiest act of violence during Reconstruction took place in Colfax, Louisiana, in 1873, where armed whites assaulted the town with a small cannon. Hundreds of former slaves were murdered, including fifty members of a black militia unit even after they had surrendered. Unable to suppress the Klan, the new southern governments appealed to Washington for help. In 1870 and 1871, Congress adopted three Enforcement Acts, which aimed to outlaw terrorist societies and allowed the president to use the army against them. The Civil Rights Act of 1875, also known as the Enforcement Act or Force Act, was enacted during the Reconstruction Era in response to violations of African Americans’ civil rights. The act outlawed racial discrimination by hotels, theaters, railroads, and other public facilities. However, in 1883’s Civil Rights Cases, the Supreme Court invalidated the Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Cases were five legal cases that the U.S. Supreme Court consolidated into a single ruling on October 15, 1883, in which the court declared the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to be unconstitutional, since Congress lacked authority to regulate private affairs under the Fourteenth Amendment.  This decision spurred Jim Crow laws that led to the practice of racial segregation in the United States. The 1890s saw the widespread imposition of segregation in the South. In 1896, in the landmark decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, the Court gave its approval to state laws requiring separate facilities for blacks and whites. This case came about in Louisiana, where railroad companies were required to have a separate car or section for black passengers. A Citizens Committee of black residents came together to test the law. Homer Plessy, a light-skinned African-American, refused a conductor’s order to move to the “colored only” section of the car, which got him arrested. When the case was taken to court, in an 8-1 decision, the Court upheld the Louisiana law, arguing that segregated facilities did not discriminate so long as they were “separate but equal” . Separate but equal was a legal doctrine in the United States constitutional law, in which racial segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Under the doctrine, as long as the facilities treated each race equally, state and local governments could require that services, facilities, public accommodations, housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation be segregated by race. The point was not so much to keep the races apart as to ensure that when they came into contact with each other, whether in politics, labor relations, or social life, whites held the upper hand. By keeping the races separated, the blacks would be safe from assaults, like lynchings and the attacks by the Ku Klux Klan as previously stated. In the late nineteenth century, more than fifty persons, a majority of them black men, were lynched, or murdered by a mob, in the South. Although many countries have witnessed outbreaks of violence against minority racial, ethnic, or religious groups, widespread lynching of individuals over such a long period of time was a phenomenon unknown elsewhere. Lynchings and insurgent groups were on the rise during this time. If races were kept separated, it would be doing the African Americans a favor by protecting them. Although the races would be kept separated, they would remain equal and secure.

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