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HIS 204: Week 5 - Final Paper: The history of African-Americans from 1865 to present




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The history of African-Americans from 1865 to present
The African-Americans history has been a contradiction of incredible triumph in the face of
tremendous human adversity. This thesis will present a detailed examination of the black
experience in America from 1865 till present times in light of that contradiction to provide an
understanding of the role of black people have played in the history of the nation and an
assessment of why they were excluded from the promise of American democracy until the
relatively recent past. This thesis will trace the African American historical experience starting
from the 1860s until the recent times. This paper analyses the various economic, political, social
and cultural methods African-Americans have employed to survive in an overwhelmingly hostile
environment and describe how the issue of black slavery came to be central to the politics of the
new nation.
The Civil War era
By the end of the 1850s, North feared complete control of the country by slaveholding means,
whites in the South believed that the North was determined to destroy its way of life. While the
White Southerners had been embittered by Northern defiance of the 1850 federal fugitive slave
act and had been alarmed in 1859 by the raid at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, led by the white
abolitionist John Brown. After Lincoln was elected president in 1860 on the antislavery platform
of the new Republican Party the Southern states seceded from the Union and formed the
Confederate States of America.

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The Civil War, that ultimately liberated the country’s slaves, began in 1861. Preservation of the
Union and not the abolition of slavery was the initial objective of President Lincoln. Lincoln
initially believed in gradual emancipation and with the federal government compensating the
slaveholders for the loss of their property. In September 1862 he issued the Emancipation
Proclamation declaring that all slaves residing in states in rebellion against the United States as of
January 1, 1863, were to be free. Thus the Civil War became a war to end slavery with all its
African American leaders such as author William Wells Brown, physician and author Martin R.
Delany, and Douglass vigorously recruited blacks into the Union army. By the end of the Civil
War more than 186,000 African American men were in the Union armed forces. They performed
heroically despite discrimination in pay, rations, equipment, and assignments as well as the
unrelenting hostility of the Confederate troops. Slaves served as a labor force for the Confederacy,
but thousands of them dropped their tools and escaped to the Union lines.
The Reconstruction
As a result of the Union victory in the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment
to the Constitution (1865), nearly four million slaves were freed. The Fourteenth Amendment
(1868) granted African Americans citizenship, and the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) guaranteed
their right to vote. Yet the Reconstruction period (1865–77) was one of disappointment and
frustration for African Americans as these new provisions of the Constitution were often ignored,
specifically in the South.
During this period the African Americans wielded political power in the South for the first time.
Their leaders were largely lawyers, clergymen, and teachers who had been educated in the North

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