African-Americans after slavery - Reconstruction and the Boll Weevil
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Reconstruction

April 2016 - During the Civil War, in 1863 AD, President Lincoln announced the end of slavery. When the North won the war, in 1865, Congress and the states voted to change the Constitution to make slavery illegal, so all the people who were slaves in the South became free.

Some people chose to leave the plantations, now that they were free. Some of them moved to the North to work on the railroads or as house-cleaners or nannies or cooks, or to start their own businesses. Some people went out West to be settlers or cowboys, but Western states made laws preventing African-Americans from moving there. A few people went back to Africa.

Sharecropper boy
A 13-year-old boy sharecropping (1937)

But just like when the Austrian and Russian rulers freed their people in the 1850s and 1860s, most people just stayed about where they were before. They still didn't own any land to farm, and if they tried to get land, white people attacked them. A lot of people kept on planting and picking cotton, but now they were sharecroppers instead of slaves. For a lot of people, it didn't make much difference, only there were not so many beatings and you didn't have your kids or your husband taken away from you anymore. But white people still terrified black people by killing them for nothing, or for almost nothing, and no white judge or jury in the south would send any white man to jail for killing a black man. Black people accused of crimes were often killed without a trial, by lynching.

black girl in white cap holding white baby
Nannying ca. 1900

White workers' unions usually didn't let black people join, and white owners often used black workers as strike-breakers or paid them lower wages. So black people started their own unions, or joined new unions like the STFU, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, that had both white and black members. These helped black people to get better pay and better working arrangements.

About fifty years later, though, in 1910, the cotton was ruined by a kind of insect called a boll weevil. A lot of sharecroppers were starving from not having enough cotton to sell for food. Besides, it was getting cheaper to raise cotton using machines instead of people. So a lot more people decided to leave the South and go north to work. Because white people wouldn't hire them for any good jobs, they still worked mostly as servants - as nannies, or cooks, or taking care of sick people - or in hard, dirty jobs like cleaning streets or building railroads.

Learn by doing: do some babysitting or cook dinner
African-Americans in the 1900s
Martin Luther King

Bibliography and further reading about African-American History:

African-American Slavery
American History
Quatr.us home


Celebrating Black History Month with the pharaoh Hatshepsut, the queen Shanakdakhete, the poet Phillis Wheatley, the medical consultant Onesimus, the freedom fighters Toussaint L'Ouverture, Denmark Vesey, Yaa Asantewaa, and Samora Moises Machel, and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Proud of your class page, homework page, or resource page? Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Cool stuff we've been enjoying: Looking for birthday gifts? Check out these new Chromebooks - all the computer you need for only $229.00!. Then study in peace with these Beats wireless headphones - for the exact same price! When you're done, show off your presentation or watch a movie with this excellent smartphone projector for only $39.99!


Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
ADVERTISEMENT
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 23 February, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT