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Reconstruction and Race Relations

Reconstruction and Race Relations
Examine three (3) methods that the overwhelmingly white southerner power structure used after the Civil War to make the exercise of freedom challenging for former slaves.
Identify three (3) actions which freed people took in order to challenge the efforts of certain white southerners to keep them in a slave status following the end of the Civil War.
Describe two (2) aspects of the post-Reconstruction political and social climate that left former slaves and other groups vulnerable to discrimination and second class citizenship. Note: Discuss at least two (2) pieces of legislation at the local, state, and/or federal levels during the nineteenth century that solidified the status of African Americans and other non-white Americans.
Provide two (2) examples of the effects of racial tension from the nineteenth century which have spilled over into American society today.Use at least three (3) quality academic resources in this assignment.
HIS105 WEEK 3: The New South and the Industrializing West
Slide 1    Introduction    Welcome to Contemporary US History.  In this lesson we will discuss an overview of the topics associated with the New South and the Industrializing West.
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Slide 2    Topics    The following topics will be covered in this lesson:
The “New South”
The Industrializing West
The Populists
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Slide 3    The “New South”    Beginning in the late 1870s, white southern landowners and entrepreneurs developed a vision of a “New South”, with a modern, industrial economic system.
As we saw previously, the defeat of the Confederacy, the abolition of slavery, and the death of the plantation economy provided the South with opportunities to build factories and turn raw materials into finished products: cotton into cloth, tobacco into cigarettes, coal and iron ore into steel.
One of the few successful industries to come out of the New South was the textile industry, which grew quickly due to the widespread availability of cheap labor and cotton, and due to easier transportation made possible by the growing rail system.
Remember that is the region where small farmers and agricultural tenants, as well as sharecroppers, suffered decades of long hours, low pay, unsafe working conditions, and deplorable living conditions.
The “New South” boosters argued that, with its plantation economy destroyed by the Civil War and Reconstruction, the South would develop a new economy more attuned to the industrial capitalism that defined the rest of the American economy.
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Slide 4    The “New South”, continued    The abolition of slavery in 1865 created the potential for a new economic reality for millions of African-American slaves and their former masters. It is true, however, that for some – especially the elderly – the situation did not change much, as in essence, the new free citizens continued to work for those who were their masters during the slavery era. Most of those who did escape slavery found themselves without security, resources, connections, job prospects, and sometimes, basic civil rights. Nonetheless, others adapted immediately to their newfound freedom and thrived.
Racial disenfranchisement was a major issue. After the war, several Southern states immediately took measures to ensure that African Americans were still subjected to their masters – now called “employers” – who could still have them jailed for disobedience or arrested if they tried to escape. And don’t forget that newly freed slaves also faced other drastic civil rights violations. Laws promoting segregation, and otherwise limiting the rights of African Americans, soon became known as “Jim Crow laws“.
Some whites, upset by the abolition of slavery and the defeat of the Confederacy, created new groups and organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the White League to maintain the privileged social status of the whites, and to punish African Americans who did not fully submit to the old social order. Blacks accused of crimes could be victims of lynching in some extreme situations, and violence was common.
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Slide 5    The “New South”, continued    Even as moderate white support for the Reconstruction waned in the 1870s, and as African Americans lost many of the political and economic gains they had achieved during Reconstruction, many blacks continued to build communities and maintain some political power. With the resistance of whites to interracial politics and society clearly evident, many African Americans, including Turner and Campbell, emphasized black-centered communities and organizations.
The ways in which the Reconstruction era allowed for the building of foundations in black communities can be seen in the development of a parallel civil society within black communities, a process that began during Reconstruction and continued throughout the Jim Crow era.
Ultimately, despite the overwhelming failure of Reconstruction to realize equal citizenship, it was the creation of these frameworks for the development of black communities that maintained the promise of Reconstruction. Through these efforts, African Americans would attain the education, begin the economic development, and build the supportive communities that would be necessary to eventually challenge Jim Crow.
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Slide 6    The Industrializing West    One of the last barriers to Western expansion was lifted when the Native Americans were placed on reservations. In addition, the expanding railroad could increasingly get people where they wanted to go. Suddenly the resources of the West seemed limitless.
By far, the most numerous of Western pioneers were the farmers. Chasing after a dream of stable existence working a homestead of their own, thousands of migrant families had their dreams crushed by the harsh realities of Western life, where nature, isolation, politics, and economics all seemed to work against the farmer.
Under the Homestead Act, any man or woman twenty-one years old or the head of a family could have 160 acres of undeveloped land by living on it for five years and paying eighteen dollars in fees. They were also required to live on the land, build a home, make improvements, and farm the land before they could own it outright.
Industrial farming refers to the large demand created by the Industrial Revolution for wheat, corn and pig products. The growing railroad system helped move these commodities from the farmers in the West to the consumers in the Eastern cities.
Bonanza farms were large, extremely successful farms, principally on the Great Plains and in the West, that emerged during the second half of the 1800s. Deliberate government promotion of westward expansion and advances in farming turned some western farms into “bonanzas”, which were sources of great wealth for their owners.
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Slide 7    The Industrializing West, continued    Aided by the spread of the railroad that increasingly connected West and East, cattle became the major industry in the grasslands that stretched from Texas to Canada until the 1890’s.
Initially the cattle industry began on a smaller scale in Texas by Mexican cowboys, called vaqueros. In fact, the very Texas “longhorn” cattle originally came from Mexico. Cowboys herded cattle on long cattle drives from the open range to railroad stations in Kansas. From there, the cattle were transported to Chicago or other eastern cities. The towns that sprang up along the rail lines, such as Abilene and Dodge City, were referred to as “Cow towns”.
Another lure to the West was provided by the mining industry. Thousands of optimistic Americans, and even a few foreigners, dreamed of finding a large vein of valuable ore and retiring at a very young age. But very few were so lucky. The chances of an individual prospector finding a valuable lode were slim indeed.
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Slide 8    The Industrializing West, continued    The rapidly industrializing East bore so little resemblance to most of the American West that it was hard to believe the two regions were part of the same country. Except for few urban centers on the coast, the West knew nothing of cities. Instead, the West was an emerging patchwork of homestead farmers, miners, and cattle ranchers. While Easterners tried to make their way in these and other professions, Native Americans desperately clung to the hopes of maintaining their tribal traditions.
Conflict between whites and Native Americans was as old as the earliest settlements, and the transcontinental railroad became the catalyst for much of the new conflict. Before its completion, the only Americans to venture westward had done so on horseback or Conestoga wagon. Now thousands more could migrate much more quickly, cheaply, and comfortably. As the numbers of white settlers from the East increased dramatically, conflicts with the native Plains Indian tribes did as well.
On February 8, 1887, Congress passed the Dawes Act, named for its author, Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts. This law allowed for the president to break up reservation land, which was held in common by the members of a tribe, into small allotments to be parceled out to individuals. In other words, Native Americans registering on a tribal “roll” were granted allotments of reservation land.
In the spring of 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress and signed by the President. This act provided an absolute  ten year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration. For the first time, Federal law barred entry of an ethnic working group on the idea that it endangered the good order of certain localities.
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Slide 9    The Populists    There were tremendous economic difficulties associated with Western farm life. First and foremost was overproduction. Because the amount of land under cultivation increased dramatically, and new farming techniques produced greater and greater yields, the food market became so flooded with goods that prices fell sharply. While this might be great for the consumer, the farmer had to grow a tremendous amount of food to recoup enough profits to survive the winter.
Farmers in the South faced additional problems due to sharecropping. They often got stuck in a cycle of poverty and debt due to having to buy their supplies on credit from local stores. Market changes could easily wipe out these farmers’ profits.
Organization was inevitable. Like the oppressed laboring classes of the East, it was only a matter of time before Western farmers would attempt to use their numbers to effect positive change. And assemble they did: -in their gatherings they soon took the name of Populists. In addition to demanding the free coinage of silver, the Populists called for a host of other reforms. Among the most important they demanded was a graduated income tax, where individuals earning a higher income paid a higher percentage in taxes.
In addition to creating deflation, as we will better explore in the next slide, farmers suggested that the money supply be expanded to include dollars not backed by gold. The first strategy farmers attempted was to encourage Congress to print greenback dollars like the ones issued during the Civil War. Since the greenbacks were not backed by gold, more dollars could be printed, creating a deflationary effect.
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Slide 10    The Populists, continued    During the 1870s, farmers in the West and South were afflicted by falling prices, increasing debt, and higher interest rates. The Grange appeared as a national movement to express these farmers’ discontent. They succeeded in their calls for the regulation of railroad rates and state regulation of businesses operating in the public interest.
Another response to poor farming conditions was found in 1877 with the creation of the Southern Farmers’ Alliance. The primary concerns of the Alliance were twofold: Southern farmers attempted to band together to purchase equipment and supplies in bulk to obtain lower prices, and they also attempted to reverse the trend of farm prices that had been declining since the early 1870s. The Alliance addressed these concerns by fashioning cooperatives and trade agreements, efforts that improved the lot of some farmers.
The Populists wanted political reforms as well. We need to realize that at this point, United States Senators were still not elected by the people directly; they were instead chosen by state legislatures. The Populists demanded a constitutional amendment allowing for the direct election of Senators. They demanded democratic reforms, such as an initiative in which citizens could directly introduce debate on a topic in the legislatures. The referendum would allow citizens — rather than their representatives — to vote a bill.
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Slide 11    The Populists, continued    The Farmers’ Alliance joined forces with the Knights of Labor in 1892 to form the People’s, or Populist, party. Their platform was sweeping, but the most prominent issue was silver. The Populists demanded free and unlimited coinage of silver at a ratio of 16:1 to gold.
Primarily over the silver issue, Republican William McKinley defeated Populist William Jennings Bryan in the election of 1896. The election was significant not only because it decided the silver question, which turned out to be of little consequence anyway, but because McKinley ran a campaign with a national approach against Bryan’s more insular one that appealed to only certain groups.
The Populist Movement declined after 1896, when farmers finally began to prosper and Southern Democrats began to gain support by calling for white solidarity.
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Slide 12    Check Your Understanding    Multiple Choice
Q. Historians frequently point out that the “New South” wasn’t actually all that “new,” since the same politicians ended up back in Washington and both freed slaves and poor whites ended up tied to a sharecropping system that left them in debt, usually to the person they worked for. Industrialization did come to the South after the Civil War, but there were few successes. One of these successes is:
A1. The cattle industry
A2. The textile industry
A3. Southern literature
A4. Populism
Correct answer: A2
Feedback: Also thanks to increasingly easier transportation provided by the railroads the textile industry grew fast in the New South because of the large quantity of cheap labor and the wide availability of cotton.
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Slide 13    Summary    We have now reached the end of this lesson. Let’s take a look at what we have covered.
We began by discussing the desire from Southerners for a “New South.” In some ways, the South did change. A myth emerged that the Civil War had been a just war, and that the South had every right to secede, but that the Confederacy had just been overpowered by the size of the Union army and the state of industrialization in the North.
A number of southern business leaders hoped to change the economic system of the South, but only the textile industry had any real success – and since textiles depended on cotton, cotton remained “king” in the South. At the same time, white southerners were trying to maintain their sense of cultural superiority over African Americans, even though many of them were dirt poor themselves.
We then moved on to learn about the industrializing West. Things changed more in the West than in the South, as farming became mechanized. We reviewed the different industries that were booming at this time, the Homestead Act, and the concepts of industrial farming and bonanza farms. We also looked at issues that arose between the farmers and the Native Americans of the region.
Finally, we looked at the political changes that took place due to the rapidly industrializing West. Whatever changes came, it seemed the farmers always felt left out. The result of this was the Farmers’ Alliance, which began with the socializing of the Grange movement and ended with the establishment of a new political party: The People’s Party, better known as the Populists. Their strong agenda moved both major parties to take on some of the major Populist issues, and this, as is usually the case, hammered the last nail into the Populist coffin.
This completes this lesson.
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