U.S. History 19th Century Study Guide

U.S. History 19th Century Study Guide - sharecropping late...

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sharecropping: late 1860s After reconstruction, African Americans were freed, but whites made it nearly impossible for them to own their own property. They continued to work for white people through sharecropping, or tenant farming. A landowner would hire sharecroppers to work their land, giving them a place to live while they farmed. When the crops were harvested, the landowner would take a huge sum of it from the sharecropper, leaving a small amount for them to live off of. There was not much to sell by the time the landowner took his share, and the sharecroppers barely made a profit. This kept many African Americans in the same deadly cycle, leaving them no room to improve their lives. Without owning their own land, African Americans were unable to “improve their situation economically, socially, or politically” (W/B/G 33). Jim Crow Laws: These laws made it possible to legally segregate against African Americans. Southerners used these laws to “disenfranchise black voters and to institute legal segregation” (W/B/G 29). This began in the early 1890s. These included poll taxes and literacy tests. These laws kept African Americans from making any real progress in equal rights and Southerners continued to look at them as lesser than. These laws also proved that the Reconstruction period was not very successful in changing the South’s ways. “New South”: After Reconstruction, Southerners started calling for a “New South”. This idea emerged in the 1880s. The leading spokesman was Henry Grady, editor of the Atlanta Constitution . This was their attempt to catch up to the industrialization that already existed in the North. Southerners called for “the erection of mills and factories” (W/B/G 31). They wanted their industrialization, urbanization, and diversified culture to grow. Despite their vision of a “harmonious, interdependent society in which each person and thing had a clearly defined place”, the South remained mainly agricultural. Even with factories rising, many remained in poverty. Despite Grady’s promises that their situation was getting better, African Americans were widely discriminated against. Most worked as tenant farmers and remained in the same economic position with no chance of improvement. Plessy v. Ferguson: This case was heard in 1896. Plessy, a young African American, deliberately sat in the “white only” railway car and refused to move to the “black only” railway car. Although he could have passed for white with his light skin tone, he made it blatantly clear that he was an African American sitting in a “white only” railway car. He was jailed and challenged the state of Louisiana in court. He lost his case to Louisiana, as well as the Supreme Court. His lawyer argued that it violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, but it was no help. This case condoned the South’s behavior on segregation and gave them more encouragement to discriminate, knowing they could get away with it.
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