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2.3.3 Racial inequality and the Civil War

The abolition movement became the most intense and controversial reform activity of the period. Beginning in colonial times, many Americans-called abolitionists-had demand­ed an end to slavery. By the early 1800's, every Northern state had outlawed slavery. But over the years, the plantation system of farming had spread throughout the South, and the econo­my of the Southern States depended more and more on slaves as a source of cheap labour.

Left a major symbol of the anti-slavery movement "Am I not a Man and a Brother?" [The question of whether to outlaw or allow slavery became an important political and social issue in the early 1800's. Through­out the years, a balance between the number of free states (states where sla^r-y was . prohibited) and slave states (those where it was allowed) had been sought. This v. meant that both sides would have an equal number of representatives in the United States Senate. As of 1819, the federal government had achieved a balance between free states and slave states. There were 11 of each.

The long dispute between the North and South over the issue of slavery came to a head after the Mexican War ended in 1848. The vast new area the United States had acquired in the West during the 1840's created a problem Americans could not avoid. It was obvious that the new land would sooner or later be split up into territories, and then into states. Pro-slavery Americans, Southerners on the whole, argued against any restraints on slavery in the new territories and states being established. Anti-slavery Americans, mainly Northerners, wanted the federal gov­ernment to outlaw slavery in the newly-acquired lands. Still others proposed the "doctrine of popular sovereignty". That is, they said the people of the territories and states should decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery. All these alternatives seriously risked upsetting the balance in the Senate.

After 1854, Southerners increasingly referred to themselves as a separate national group. In the No- rth, abolitionists stepped up their campaign against slavery. *"

Eleven Southern states seceded from the Uni­on and formed the Confederate States of America, with two others "associated" and so the flag showed 13 stars.

Right is one of the original Confederate flags, now on display at the Minnesota Historical Society.

The election of 1860 also reflected the nation's division. The Democratic Party split into Northern and Southern wings. Only the Republicans remained united. They nominated Abraham Lincoln for president and this Republican unity helped Lincoln win the election.

Lincoln had earned a reputation as an opponent of slavery, and his election was

unacceptable to the South.

The Civil War began on April 12,1861, when Southern troops fired on Fort Sumter, a military post in Charleston Harbor.

The North had superior financial and indus­trial strength, and a larger population than the South, but the South gained the upper hand at first. Gradually the North took more and more territory until Confederate resistance wore down, and Union armies swept through the South. On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee-the com­mander of the Confederate Army-surrendered to the Union commander General Ulysses S. Grant.

Left General Ulysses S. Grant

The four years of bloody fighting between the North and South had a stag­gering effect on the nation. No other war in history has taken so many American lives.

On Jan. 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which de­clared freedom for slaves in all areas of the Confederacy that were still in rebellion against the Union.

Toward the end of the Civil War, the North set out to establish terms under which Confederate States would be readmitted to the Union. The process through which the South returned, as well as the period following the war, was called Re­construction.

Northerners divided into two groups over Reconstruction policy. The moder­ates wanted to end the bitterness between the North and South, and the radicals believed the South should be punished. President Lincoln might have worked out a compromise. But assassin John Wilkes Booth shot him on April 14, 1865. Lincoln died the next day. Vice President Andrew Johnson became president. He tried to carry out Lincoln's policy, but he was unable to overcome radical opposition.

The Reconstruction programme drafted by Congress included laws to further the rights of blacks. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution (1865) outlawed slav­ery throughout the United States. The 14th Amendment (1868) confirmed the citi­zenship of blacks, and the 15th Amendment (1870) made it illegal to deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

White Southerners loyal to their old tradi­tions bitterly resented the new political system. Many joined the Ku Klux Klan, (KKK) a secret society that used violence to keep blacks, jews and other ethnic minorities from voting and trying to achieve equality. The original society was officially disbanded in 1869 but remained a powerful force. The KKK continued destroying the property of black people and even some­times lynching them until the 1980s.

Right a Klan meeting with their so-called "grand wizard" in the centre.

Congress insisted that the Confederate States agree to follow all federal laws before being readmitted to the Union. Between 1866 and 1870, all the Confederate States returned to the Union.

Reconstruction had limited success. It expanded the legal rights of blacks and set up public school systems. But the old social order, based on white supremacy, soon returned to the South. The fundamental problem of the black's place in society remained to haunt future generations.