Abolition of slavery became the bone of contention between the North and South. This resulted in the Civil War between the northern states termed the 'Union' and the seceded southern states forming the 'Confederacy'. Ultimately the resistance was overcome by the Union and the era of Reconstruction started to put back the ravaged economy of the southern states. The rebelled 11 Confederate states had to be restored to their positions in the Union and provided with loyal governments. The role of the emancipated slaves in southern society had to be defined and settled.
With the end of Civil War slavery assumed a new form, viz segregation 1. New Black Codes that restricted the rights of the newly freed slaves were enacted in the South. White dominance was methodically resurrected through secret terror organizations like "Ku Klux Klan". The southern whites found it very difficult to adopt a social order devoid of slavery. This led to what is popularly known as "Jim Crow Laws" in the U.S. history. Enacted in the beginning of 1880s these statutes legalized segregation of blacks. The name of the enactments leads one to assume that a person named 'Jim Crow' was the architect of these laws where as it stems from a popular minstrel song 'Jump Jim Crow', a dance performed with blackface by the white comedian Thomas Dartmouth. Black codes enacted during 1865-66 restricted the fundamental rights of African Americans. They were prevented from voting by ridiculous 'poll tax' and unfair 'literacy tests' and intimidation. Blacks were required to attend separate schools and colleges, railway cars and buses had separate sections earmarked for them. They were not even allowed to sit with the whites for public amusements and entertainments thus denied participation in mainstream community life. Even places of employment were segregated. Protagonists of these savage laws got a shot in the arm when the U S Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the so-called separate but equal accommodation in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). During 1900 to 1920 segregation extended to hospitals, jails and even churches entrenching a full-fledged apartheid regime.
The Civil Rights Act 1964
The crusader of civil rights movement in the U S Dr. Martin Luther King said "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character".
Before we delve into 1964 Civil Rights Act we must remember that it had a predecessor in "The Civil Rights Act of 1957", which was introduced during Eisenhower's presidency but never saw the light of the day. Eisenhower was not known for his support of the civil rights. He believed that one could not force people to change their beliefs; such changes had to come from the heart of the people involved and not as the result of legislation from Washington.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the brainchild of John F Kennedy who became President in 1960 (National, 1964) 2. He wanted to redress the discrimination that had persisted in spite of civil rights laws and constitutional guarantees. The new president was faced with some indisputable facts about the African Americans such as:
57 percent of African American housing settlements was categorized to be of unacceptable standard.
Life expectancy of African American was 7 years less than that of whites.
Their infant mortality was twice compared to that of whites.
Blacks found it very difficult to get mortgages from mortgage lenders.
Property values dropped