When the president issued the
Emancipation Proclamation, it was not really something that had effect in Georgia because it was more aspirational and it was more strategic. President Lincoln was trying to increase
the number of freed slaves in parts of the south who could
fight against the Confederacy. But the Emancipation Proclamation did very little in terms of freeing slaves at the time it was issued in 1863. And finally in April of 1865, when General Lee surrendered to General Grant in Virginia, we began to see in Georgia a real
movement towards the freeing of slaves. But it was a slow process. Emancipation came almost place by place slowly because there were, in many parts
of Georgia, not enough federal troops to enforce the end of slavery, to enforce the Emancipation. So it became a very slow process. By 1868 in Georgia, there were enough federal
troops to enforce the the US Constitution. And there was the beginning the passage of
federal amendments to the US Constitution. There was what we call today a Reconstruction Constitution adopted in Georgia in 1868. And that recognized the equality of people. It recognized the right of people to work
and be paid for their work. And at that point there began to be some African Americans who were actually elected to office because they were then able to have the vote. And there was great white resistance to this. The whole society in Georgia was built
on the notion that white people were superior and black people were inferior. And between 1876 and 1896,
there was a back and forth. It was a 20-year period in which this whole notion of the equality of every citizen was in play every day. Whether it was someone trying to vote,
someone trying to go to school, someone trying to get a job that paid a decent wage, someone trying to get a house that
they could own themselves. Every part of society there was an uncertainty about just how much equality under the law the state would permit. And white folks generally
wanted no equality for African Americans. And black folks obviously wanted their
full citizenship, their rights that they they were entitled to under the the new
Reconstruction Amendments. And generally that fight went on and there was an
uncertainty about what it actually meant, until a case went before the US Supreme Court. And that case we now remember
as Plessy vs. Ferguson. Plessy vs. Ferguson was a Supreme Court case in 1896 involving an African-American man
named Homer Plessy. It took place in Louisiana. And Homer Plessy sat in a white-only railroad car. In Louisiana, this railroad car company, they
had separate cars for whites and blacks. And so he sat in the white-only railroad car, refused to leave, the case ends up going through the lower court. It gets to the US Supreme Court. And the US Supreme Court decided that it did not violate the Equal Protection Clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment. So what they decided is separate-but-equal
doctrine came to be. That as long as you have equal facilities—and they were anything but equal in the South— as long as you had equal facilities
it was okay to separate the races. It basically what it allowed the southern states to do with some things they were already
doing with their Jim Crow laws. They make African Americans
to be second-class citizens. Jim Crow separated folks on streetcars. They separated folks in bathrooms. Black folks would not be allowed to use a spigot
where water was flowing just to get a drink, even if it was used by white folks in any way. They just simply wanted to separate
black people from all of white folks. And then assure that in Jim Crow laws that they were unable to influence society
so that they could change any of this. Some Jim Crow laws were passed during
this time to disenfranchise African Americans. Disenfranchise means to deny African Americans the right to vote, to deny a certain group of people. And we associate it with our society to
deny African Americans right to vote. There were several different ways to disenfranchise. One of the laws was the poll tax. Well, these former slaves just coming out of
slavery did not have a lot of money. They could not afford the fee to pay in all
these different elections. Another was the white primary. In the white primaries, you had to
be a white person to vote in it. So African Americans were not even
allowed to vote in the primary elections to even pick the candidate that they wanted. And then you had literacy tests, which again it
was illegal as slaves to learn how to read and write— to teach a slave to read and write. So the majority of African Americans
could not pass these literacy tests because they could not read and write legibly. What Jim Crow era did was
establish a way with the sanction of the Supreme Court in Plessy vs. Ferguson,
in which to indirectly infringe upon those rights, with the blessings of the rest of the country and the
US Supreme Court…until Brown vs. the Board.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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