Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan

Reconstruction and Its
Change in the South
Reconstruction Declines
During the Grant administration,
Northerners began losing interest in
Reconstruction as many believed it was
too costly and time for the South to
solve its own problems.
Southerners protested what they called
“bayonet rule” – the use of federal
troops to support Reconstruction
As more freed African Americans
moved north, prejudice there grew, and
some believed that African Americans
should simply return to plantation work
in the South.
In 1872, Congress closed the
Freedman’s Bureau.
That same year, it passed the Amnesty
Act which pardoned most former
Confederates and allowed them to vote
and hold office again.
Democrats quickly began to regain
power across the South.
Democrats Regain Power
In 1873 a series of political scandals
came to light involving the vice
president and the secretary of war.
At the same time, the nation suffered
an economic depression, and blame
for the hard times fell on the
Republicans and on Grant’s
administration in particular.
Democrats gained seats in the Senate
and won control of the House for
the 1st time since before the Civil
The situation further weakened
Congress’s commitment to
Reconstruction and protecting the
rights of newly freed African
The Election of 1876
The 1876 presidential election between
Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and
Democrat Samuel Tilden was difficult to
decide due to widespread voting fraud.
In January 1877, Congress created a
special commission of 7 Republicans, 7
Democrats, and 1 Independent to
review the election results.
The Independent resigned, however, and
was replaced with another Republican,
so the election was decided in favor of
The Democrats in Congress threatened
to fight the verdict, but they soon
struck a deal.
In exchange for Hayes becoming
president, the federal government
agreed to give more aid to the South
and also to withdraw all remaining
troops from the region.
The End of Reconstruction
Hayes kept his word, and during a
goodwill trip to the South, he
announced his intention of letting
Southern whites handle their
own racial issues.
In Atlanta he told an African
American audience, “Your rights
and interests would be safer if
this great mass of intelligent
white men were left alone by the
general government.”
Hayes’s message was clear.
The federal government would
no longer attempt to reshape
Southern society or help
Southern African Americans.
Reconstruction was over.
Redeemer Governments
White supremacists, calling themselves
Redeemers, regained power in every Southern
Once in office, the Redeemers reversed
improvements made in education by cutting
spending for public schools, particularly those
open to African-Americans.
By the 1880s, only about half of all black
children in the South attended school.
New legislation drew a “color line” between
blacks and whites in public life.
Whites called these new acts Jim Crow Laws,
an insulting reference to a black character in a
popular song.
Those who resisted faced the possibility of
lynching by groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Once they accomplished their original goals of
removing Union troops and putting
Democrats back in power, the KKK turned its
focus toward maintaining a social order in
which whites reigned superior.
Unfair Voting Requirements
Many states also passed laws requiring
citizens who wanted to vote to pay a
poll tax.
The tax was set high enough to make
voting, like schooling, a luxury most
blacks could not afford.
Some states also required potential
voters to pass a literacy test which
were difficult for even the well-educated
to pass.
In theory, poll taxes and literacy tests
applied equally to both black and white
citizens, but in practice, whites were
excused from both by a grandfather
This clause exempted citizens whose
ancestors had voted before January 1,
Because no African-Americans could
vote in the South before that day, the
grandfather clause applied only to
Plessy v. Ferguson
Homer Plessy, a black man
arrested for sitting in a whitesonly railroad car in Louisiana,
looked to the courts for help.
 When his case reached the
Supreme Court in 1896, however,
the justices ruled that
segregation was constitutional as
long as the facilities provided to
blacks were equal to those
provided to whites.
 This “separate but equal”
doctrine was soon applied to
almost every aspect of life in the
South, however these separate
facilities were rarely equal.
 For the next half century,
segregation would rule life in the
Southern Industries
Industry in the South made
dramatic gains after
Some of the strongest advances
were in the textile industry,
although tobacco and lumber
were also profitable.
The iron and steel industry also
grew rapidly as well as railroad
A cheap and reliable workforce
helped Southern industry grow.
Sometimes whole families,
including children, worked in the
factories, although most of these
jobs were still off-limits to
African Americans.
Rural Economies
Still, the South did not develop an
industrial economy as strong as the
North’s, and it remained primarily
After the war, some plantations were
broken up, but many large
landowners kept control of their
When estates were divided, much of
the land went to sharecropping and
tenant farming, neither of which was
An oversupply of cotton forced
prices down, and poor farmers had
to buy on credit to get the food and
supplies they needed.
Sharecropping and overreliance on
cotton hampered the development of
a more modern agricultural economy,
and the rural South sank deeper into
poverty and debt.