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14-08b - XIV The Nadir of Civil Rights 1876-1900 Overview...

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XIV. The Nadir of Civil Rights, 1876-1900 Overview The title of this chapter comes from a work by African American historian Rayford Logan. Compared to the political advances of Reconstruction, and the rebirth of Black politics in the 1920s, this was in many respects a low point in African American history. Not only were African Americans eliminated as a force in Southern politics, they were virtually eliminated from voting under any circumstances. The civil rights acts were not enforced and not only were African Americans subjected to political disfranchisement, social subordination, and economic exploitation, they were the victims of various forms of physical violence, the most notorious and horrifying was in the form of lynching. But while all this repression was going on, African Americans found the strength and the courage to not only survive, but to grow and develop, in numbers and institutional and cultural life, and in their horizons for the future. This “nadir” was not so much a low point in African American history as it was a time of regrouping, and of struggle against the odds. The real low point during this period was in the racial attitudes of White America. Many of the former abolitionists considered that their work had been accomplished with the freeing of the slaves, and went along with the reestablishment of White Supremacy in the South. The taking of Native American lands in the West, the restriction of immigration from southern and eastern Europe, the extension of American imperialist control over nonwhite peoples in the Caribbean and the Far East, and U.S. support of European imperialism in Africa and Asia, all went hand-in-hand with the failure to protect African American civil rights in the South. Whereas all nonwhites and even some whites were viewed as biologically inferior, it was Africans and their descendants in America who were placed at the very bottom of the social scale. The sciences of ethnography and anthropology were used, or more accurately, misused, to demonstrate that different races of people were like different species of animals, and that blond- haired blue-eyed Caucasians were at the top of the human evolutionary scale. Black people were portrayed, not only as less intelligent, but who, if given equal citizenship, would
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become wild and out of control, and be sexually promiscuous with White people, especially White women. Racism and Social Darwinism dictated the dominance of European and Euro American people over the peoples of color throughout the world. Although much progress has been made in recent years in eliminating these notions, the issue of international European and North American control still remains unresolved, and is a key part of the national African American agenda today.
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