The slaves had waited for their day of deliverance, but when it finally came, the rejoicing didn’t last long. They were ill prepared for life after slavery.
- Much of the South was destroyed during the Civil War. Cities, such as Atlanta, were burned down. Both white and black people had nothing left.
- Some people thought the slaves should be sent back to Africa. But who would pay for the trip: And what would they do when they got there? America was their home.
- It was illegal to teach slaves to read or write. When they were set free, they had no money, no possessions, and few skills.
- Some of them moved North to find work; others headed West to homestead. Most of them stayed where they were. They became sharecroppers, often for their previous masters. A sharecropper farms the land for someone else, paying for some of the expenses and getting some of the profit. The problem was that most landowners weren’t honest. They often found ways to swindle the blacks of their money.
- The Freedmen’s Bureau built schools to teach the newly freed slaves how to read and write. And then they were given the right to vote. Some of them even ran for office. But mostly, these years were long, hard ones.
- The war had been so bitter and hard. People felt a lot of anger and hatred, and much of it was directed at the blacks.
- One group, the Ku Klux Klan, actively threatened black people. They dressed in white sheets and hats and marched about, shooting out windows, burning homes down, or even killing black people. They were angry that black people had been given the same rights they enjoyed.
- Finally, the federal government gave up on the idea of Reconstruction. Jim Crow laws divided everything. There were libraries, schools, theaters, restaurants — even drinking fountains — just for white people. Blacks had to get their own.
- The North might have won the Civil War, but the South won Reconstruction.
Watch a video about Jim Crow laws.