Civil Rights Movement Protest Signs

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Before the American Civil War, almost four million blacks were enslaved in the South, only white men of property could vote, and the Naturalization Act of 1790 limited U. S. citizenship to whites only. Following the Civil War, three constitutional amendments were passed, including the 13th Amendment (1865) that ended slavery; the 14th Amendment (1868) that gave African-Americans citizenship, adding their total population of four million to the official population of southern states for Congressional apportionment; and the 15th Amendment (1870) that gave African-American males the right to vote (only males could vote in the U. S. at the time). From 1865 to 1877, the United States underwent a turbulent Reconstruction Era trying to establish free labor and civil rights of freedmen in the South after the end of slavery. Many whites resisted the social changes, leading to insurgent movements such as the Ku Klux Klan, whose members attacked black and white Republicans to maintain white supremacy. In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant, the U. S. Army, and U. S. Attorney General Amos T. Akerman, initiated a campaign to repress the KKK under the Enforcement Acts. Some states were reluctant to enforce the federal measures of the act; by the early 1870s, other white supremacist and paramilitary groups arose that violently opposed African-American legal equality and suffrage. However, if the states failed to implement the acts, the laws allowed the Federal Government to get involved. Many Republican governors were afraid of sending black militia troops to fight the clan in fear of war.