and Civil Rights
*What were some ways
Southern African-Americans lost their rights in the late 1800s?
(black codes, labour contracts, poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather
clauses, terrorism, poverty as sharecroppers)
*What did Plessy v. Ferguson declare? (separate but equal)
*Some African Americans tried to change things. Booker T.
Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. His goal
was to educate African-Americans in trades so that they could gain
economic independence—only then could they seek political and civil
rights. Read the quote from his Atlanta Exposition Address on
*W.E.B. Du Bois, an African-American from Massachusetts with a Ph.D.
from Harvard (who did not have to face the oppression of blacks in the
South, although he did face discrimination in the North) criticised
Booker T. Washington for going along with political
discrimination. He said African-Americans should demand full
equality immediately and that it was the duty of the nation as a whole
to make sure they got it.
*Ida B. Wells was one of those African-Americans who spoke out against
discrimination. She was born in Mississippi but moved to Memphis
as an adult. After friends of hers were attacked by a mob in 1892
she began to write about lynching (killing (usually by hanging)) in the
South (although it occurred in many parts of the North as well).
Eventually she was run out of Memphis by people who got tired of her
criticism, and lynching continued to be a problem in the United States
for decades, and efforts to specifically outlaw lynching (as a crime
separate from murder or manslaughter) were not undertaken by Congress
until 1918, and then were blocked by Southern senators. About
5,000 African-Americans were lynched between 1890 and 1960.
*In 1905, W.E.B. Du Bois and other African-Americans who wanted full
civil rights right away met at Niagara Falls (on the Canadian side,
because no hotel on the New York side would let them stay there).
*They called themselves the Niagara Movement. Their primary
attitude was that Booker T. Washington’s plan of gradual process was
degrading, slow, and essentially a sell-out, as Washington compromised
with whites by not asking for too much equality—Du Bois said that
Washington’s approach could ‘create workers, but it cannot make
men.’ (Washington, though, thought it was easy for Du Bois to
take this attitude, as he had not grown up under slavery nor did he
have to live with the daily pressures and prejudices of the
South). Furthermore, only a few hundred people joined the Niagara
Movement, and on its own it never accomplished much. However, it
was one of the inspirations for one of the most important groups to
work for African-American rights.
*In 1908, a white mob in Springfield, Illinois tried to break into a
jail to lynch two black men (who were safely removed by the Sherriff
with the help of a local white restaurant owner, whose restaurant was
soon burnt down in the race riot that followed and killed seven
people). That such a thing could happen in Abraham Lincoln’s home
town horrified the Niagara Movement and white reformers, too.
*In 1909, white and black reformers formed the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People, meant to help African-Americans get
better jobs, better education, equal rights, and an end to racial
insults. They used the courts to try to get better treatment, and
very slowly (over the course of 60 years or more) this approach
*The NAACP mostly focused on the middle class, but in 1911 black
workers in big cities formed the Urban League to focus on their
needs. It helped poor African-Americans buy clothes, send their
children to school, and find jobs. Both the NAACP and the Urban
League are still active.
*Other groups tried to win more rights and better treatment as
well. Jewish Americans formed the Anti-Defamation League in 1913
to protect Jews from violence (which was once a problem—not only
blacks, but also Jews, were attacked in the 1908 Springfield Race
Riot), discrimination, and racial slurs (some of which are still
*Asian-Americans also had little success in protecting their rights in
California. In 1913, California passed a law allowing only
American citizens to own land. Because Asian immigrants could not
become citizens, many Chinese and Japanese lost their land, unless they
could put it in their children’s names (because having been born in
America, their children were American citizens). Efforts for
Asian-Americans to gain the right to become citizens were blocked by
the US Supreme Court in 1922.
*Mexican-Americans also tried to form groups to promote their rights,
but most of those formed in the early 1900s did not last long.
Their land was sometimes seized in the Southwest and many
Mexican-Americans were required to sign long-term labour contracts much
like those forced on African-Americans in the South. In 1911 the
Supreme Court outlawed these contracts.
*Furthermore, Mexican-Americans Octaviano Larrazolo was born in
Chihuahua, Mexico, but lived most of his life in New Mexico and served
one term as governor there (but was not nominated for a second term
because of his support for women’s suffrage). At the age of 70,
was elected to the US Senate—the first Hispanic-American to serve in
that body—although he died only 6 months into his term.
*American Indians also formed groups to demand more rights, but the
groups they formed in the early 1900s did not last long, either.
By 1924, though, the Indian Citizenship Act finally gave American
Indians the right to be considered citizens and vote in national
elections (although they were still often prevented from voting in
local and state elections).