?All throughout history, African Americans have been fighting for their rights and freedom in the United States. African Americans upon entering America were forced into slavery for rich white men in the North and the South. Following the Civil War, freedom for African Americans was just as bad, if not worse, than before. African Americans had new extremely restricting laws, groups out to kill their race and horrible jobs with little to no pay.
The new laws in the South after the Civil War were called “Black Codes”, which legalized slavery without actually legalizing slavery. For example, in the Section 4 of the Mississippi Apprentice Law, “If any apprentice shall leave the employment of his or her master or mistress, without his or her consent, said master or mistress may pursue and recapture said apprentice, and bring him or her before any justice of the peace of the county.” This quote implies that if any slaves decide to leave his or her master without their consent, they have the right to find said person and bring them to court for further prosecution. Black Codes supported and made this legal, which should not be legal by any means. In 1865, Frederick Douglass gave a speech titled “What The Black Man Wants” to the Anti-Slavery Society. In the speech, Douglass talks about all the fundamental rights that himself and others want. For instance, “Shall we at this moment justify the deprivation of the Negro of the right to vote, because someone else is deprived of that privilege? I hold that women, as well as men, have the right to vote applause., and my heart and my voice go with the movement to extend suffrage to woman; but that question rests upon another basis than that on which our right rests. We may be asked, I say, why we want it. I will tell you why we want it. We want it because it is our right, first of all.” Douglass stresses to the people that voting is a part of their human rights, and should men, women, and people of color should not be denied that right. In the same speech, Douglass also tells the people, “I understand the anti-slavery societies of this country to be based on two principles,—first, the freedom of the blacks of this country; and, second, the elevation of them.” Frederick Douglass did not want sympathy from people with this speech, he simply wanted justice.
In addition to unfair laws, African Americans also had to work extremely hard jobs in horrible conditions for little to no pay. In July 1865, Colonel P.H. Anderson wrote a letter to his former slave Jourdon Anderson and asked him to come work for him again, promising him better conditions. In the letter, Jourdon says “Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the Negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.” Jourdon expresses that he and his wife Mandy worked for Colonel P.H. Anderson for thirty-two years, and should have received $11,682 and did not receive any compensation whatsoever. Throughout the letter, Jourdon brings up many instances of violence while working for Andeson. One instance being his closing statement of the letter, “Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.” It is very surprising that Jourdon was able to leave his old master alive, even though he never received the wages he worked hard for thirty-two years.
Furthermore, African Americans were also targeted by hate groups. Racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan made it their mission to whip and beat African Americans. For example, a testimony made by Thomas L. Berry, a former KKK member told the mission of the group, “The purpose of the organization was to break down the radical party by whipping and killing.” Throughout the testimony, Thomas gives factual proof of the Klan killing Charley Good. Berry also adds, “there was two Negros killed – Sam Skafe and Eli McCollum. Pinckney Caldwell and Joe Smith, members of the Klan, told me they had done it.” Thomas later adds on to the end of his testimony that the killing of Charley Good, who Thomas called “A very good man” was what changed Berry’s mind about the group and decided to leave the Klan. Another testimony made on the KKK was made by Harriet Postle, giving a graphic encounter with the Klan. In the testimony, Postle’s wife says “I told them again he Postle was gone. The one who had his foot on my body mashed me badly, but not so bad as he might have done, for I was seven or eight months gone in travail pregnant. He beat my head against the side of the house till I had no sense hardly left; but I still had hold of my babe.” The KKK was an extremely violent and horrific group that targeted African Americans following the Civil War.
In conclusion, after the Civil War, the freedmen were in fact not free. African Americans still had extremely restricting laws that prevented them from being able to vote, had groups like the Ku Klux Klan beating and killing them, and horrible jobs that barely got any pay if it all. This is what African American’s so-called “freedom” was like following the Civil War.