Reading 4U: Freedom And Its Difficulties


By 1870, black Americans had been declared citizens with all the rights guaranteed to every citizens. But they were members of a conspicuous minority within a white society. Furthermore, most were uneducated, unskilled, and unprepared to provide for their own basic needs. With freedom, Negroes found many new problems-legal, social, and economic.
  After the Civil War, Negroes began migrating to the big cities in the North, and this trend continued into the 20th century. In the North, blacks found greater freedom, but conditions were still difficult and opportunities limited. Discrimination in the sale and rental of housing forced blacks into poor, crowded, mostly black communities often referred to as ghettos. In general, facilities for living and learning were grossly inadequate in these communities.
  Blacks who remained in the South endured conditions even more difficult and degrading. Southern blacks were forced to obey state laws (called "Jim Crow laws") which kept them segregated from white people. The races went to different schools, drank from different fountains, used different washrooms, ate in different restaurants, and were buried in different cemeteries. On buses, blacks were required to sit in the back. For Southern blacks, there was no such thing as justice in the courts of law. Once accused of a crime, blacks were almost certain to be found guilty by all-white juries.
  Southern whites, who wished to keep the power of the vote from the large black population of the South, used the thread of violence to discourage blacks from registering to vote. When a black person did try to register, devices such as a poll tax (a tax on the right to vote) or a literacy test (unfairly administered) were used to deny this right.