The Nadir of Civil Rights,
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
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
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.
“nadir” was not so much a low point in African American history
as it was a time of regrouping, and of struggle against the
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
Black people were portrayed, not only as
less intelligent, but who, if given equal citizenship, would