When Reconstruction ended in 1877, African Americans in the South faced many of the problems they had faced since Emancipation. Some of these problems were getting worse, and new problems were gaining importance.
In your group:
- Brainstorm a list of new and intensifying problems African Americans in the South faced after Reconstruction. Use what you know about conditions during Reconstruction and racial attitudes in the region to develop ideas.
- Record your ideas on a piece of paper.
- Study the Timeline of African American History in African American Perspectives, 1818-1907.
- Use the Timeline and your own ideas to develop a list of three to five important problems facing African Americans in the South after Reconstruction.
- When you have completed your list, you will discuss it with the rest of your class.
Select a problem faced by African Americans in the post-Reconstruction South.
Search African American Perspectives, 1818-1907 to learn more about your problem. Examine at least three primary sources from the collection before preparing your presentation. The search tips below will help you choose search words.
For example, if you are studying 'Voting Rights' search on suffrage, vote, and other related words. This chart includes some helpful keyword search terms. You may need to think of some additional search words to find documents for your topic. Remember to look at the language in the document for additional search terms. What terms do the authors of the documents use in their writing? These terms were the language of the day and will lead you to successful searches for more material in the collection.
|Problem||Keyword Search Terms||Sample Primary Source|
|Lynching||lynching, hanging||"Lynch Law in Georgia"|
|Race Riot/Violence||civil rights, violence, riot||"Open Letter to President McKinley"|
|Voting Rights||suffrage, vote||"The Hardwick Bill: An Interview"|
|Segregation/Jim Crow Laws||equality, segregation, black laws, jim crow||"Equality Before the Law"|
|Education||education, higher education, industrial education||"Education of the Negro"|
Use the skills you have learned to analyze the sources. Answer the following study questions about your problem and use them to help organize your presentation for the model African American Congress:
- Who was involved with this problem? What was at stake?
- How serious was this problem?
- How did this problem affect African Americans in the South after Reconstruction?
- What was one solution proposed for this problem?
- What were some arguments for and against this proposed solution?
When you have completed your research, prepare a five-minute presentation to the class about the problem and a proposed solution. The class will conduct a model African American Congress as it might have taken place after Reconstruction. See Brief History of African American Congresses to learn more about congresses. The Congress will choose solutions to be included in its report.
- African-American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907, Library of Congress
- American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940, Library of Congress.
Look especially for documents in the Southern region within the collection.
African American Congresses date back to 1830, when 40 delegates met in Philadelphia to discuss work problems of African Americans in Cincinnati. The group established the precedent for holding national assemblies to discuss matters of concern for African Americans. Congresses or assemblies met at irregular intervals for the next thirty-five years until the end of the Civil War. Members usually included African American ministers, editors, business owners, and intellectuals. Discussions centered on morality, education, economy, self-help, and equality of opportunity.
Congresses or conventions continued at intervals throughout the post-Civil War period. In Louisville, in 1883, ia convention of African Americans met to plan congresses for regional African American leaders to discuss political policies and conditions. From these regional conventions, held throughout the 1880s-90s, several rights organizations emerged, including the National Association of Colored Men (1896) and the National Afro-American League (1890), which became the Afro-American Council (1898).
The Constitution of the National Afro-American Council stated the following objectives for the organization:
- To investigate and make an impartial report of all Lynchings and other outrages perpetrated upon American citizens.
- To assist in testing the constitutionality of laws which are made for the express purpose of oppressing the Afro-American.
- To promote the work of securing legislation which in the individual States shall secure to all citizens the rights guaranteed them by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
- To aid in the work of Prison Reform.
- To recommend a healthy migration from terror-ridden sections of our land to States where law is respected and maintained.
- To encourage both industrial and higher education.
- To promote business enterprises among the people.
- To educate sentiment on all lines that specially affect our race.
- To inaugurate and promote plans for the moral elevation of the Afro-American people.
- To urge the appropriation for School Funds by the Federal Government to provide education for citizens who are denied school privileges by discriminating State laws.
- The Afro-American Council remained active until 1906. Its platform advocated civil rights, and foreshadowed the goals of the Niagara Movement (1905), founded in part by W.E.B. Du Bois. The Niagara Movement later led to the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1910).