The South continued to struggle to find its new place in the country after the Civil War and Reconstruction. The days of the “Old South”-- The Lost Cause, chivalry, slavery as a “positive good”, etc (Gone With the Wind, anyone?) were over. Despite some small areas of industrialization and some rallying calls to construct a “New South,” the south struggled to rebuild.
Some southerners promoted a new vision for a self-sufficient southern economy built on modern capitalist values, industrial growth and improved transportation. Henry Grady, the editor of the Atlanta Constitution spread the gospel of the New South with editorials that argued for economic diversity and laissez-faire capitalism.
Despite progress, the South remained a largely agricultural section and also the poorest region in the country. The poverty of the majority of southerners was not caused by northern capitalists. Two other factors were chiefly responsible:
Systems of sharecropping and tenant farming continued to steep the South in agriculture and, more importantly, continued to oppress disenfranchised individuals, mainly African Americans. 👨🏿🌾 👨🏻🌾
The KKK continued to use violence to keep African Americans out of the polls and out of legislative offices. Lynching was widespread. Literacy tests, grandfather clauses, and poll taxes were also used to restrict voting rights.
Supreme Court and Civil Rights
The Supreme Court ⚖️ made a series of decisions that severely limited the nature of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, the Court ruled that Congress could not legislate against racial discrimination practice by private citizens, which included railroads, hotels and other businesses.
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In the most important of these cases, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), it ruled that segregation was constitutional under the doctrine of “separate but equal.” This ruling ushered in the Jim Crow Era.
Various political and legal devices were invented to prevent blacks from voting. The most common were literacy tests, poll taxes and political party primaries for whites only (white primaries). Many southern states adopted grandfather clauses, which allowed a man to vote only if his grandfather had cast ballots in elections before Reconstruction.
Still, many brilliant minds (such as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, and Ida B. Wells) continued to debate the nature of racial relations and advocate for civil rights.
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