Title: "The first vote" / AW ; drawn by A.R. Waud [November 16, 1867]
The Thirteenth Amendment freed the slaves in 1865. It did not, however, award free men and women any civil rights. Congress made former slaves citizens with the Civil Rights Act of 1866. As citizens, African Americans had the right to make contracts, own property, and receive due process of law. When Harper's Weekly published the above illustration in 1867, many Americans wondered if citizenship included the right to vote. Many southerners did not want African Americans getting civil rights (especially suffrage) and passed the Black Codes. The Black Codes were laws that restricted African Americans to a condition similar to slavery. African Americans did not get the right to vote until the states ratified the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870. A constitutional amendment, however, did liettle to stop the Black Codes and the Jim Crow laws that followed.
Confederate veterans formed the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in Pulaski, Tennessee, in early 1866. Although the KKK was originally designed as a Confederate veterans' association, it quickly took on a political role in reaction to federal Reconstruction in the South. During the late 1860s and 1870s, the KKK served as the paramilitary arm of the Southern Democratic Party. KKK members would drive African Americans and white Republicans away from the polls, threaten them in their homes, and murder them. Congress attempted to stop the organization and passed the Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871. For several years, federal troops and prosecutors managed to "unmask" several prominent KKK members and the organization's membership declined. Yet, with the election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877 and his withdrawal of federal troops from the South, the U.S. government didn't stop the KKK from advocating the social and political supremacy of white, male Protestants.
Title:The "Strong" government 1869-1877--The "weak" government 1877-1881 / J.A. Wales. [1880, detail]
Republican Ulysses S. Grant (pictured atop the carpetbag) became president in 1869 and used the powers prescribed in the Enforcement Acts to send troops into southern states to protect the civil and voting rights of African Americans. He also ordered the Justice Department to step up their efforts to identify, arrest, and prosecute members of the Ku Klux Klan. Grant believed the American public elected him to preserve the "fruits of victory" won during the Civil War. In 1876, Grant declined to run for a third term as president. Republicans nominated Rutherford B. Hayes (pictured behind the plow) in Grant's place. Contested votes in the presidential election of 1876 forced Congress to form a special commission to elect the president. When the commission announced Hayes the victor, many claimed that the commission's Republicans had persuaded Democrats to side with Hayes with promises to end Reconstruction. Indeed, Hayes removed Grant's federal troops from the South following the "Compromise of 1877."
Title: Benjamin Singleton, and S.A. McClure, Leaders of the Exodus, leaving Nashville, Tennessee. [between 1874 and 1879]
After Reconstruction ended, many African Americans began to seek better opportunities outside of the South, where they believed they would never be treated fairly. Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, a native of Tennessee, formed a real estate company and started to advocate for African Americans to move west to Kansas and start their own communities. While Singleton helped organize thousands of migrants, many African Americans attempted to find their own way to Kansas. Those in the latter group often trusted in supposed "conductors," who often asked for payment in advance but never arrived to guide the families west. Some whites considered these poor African American families as disease-ridden and, in places like St. Louis, Missouri, denied them entry. For all of their struggles, the African Americans that made it to the West were known as "Exodusters." For more images of the Exodusters, take a look at these photographs of African American settlers on their homesteads in Kansas.