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State and Federal Legislation Affecting African Americans and Farmers During 1880-1920

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The turn of the twentieth century brought profound changes to millions of Americans, and African Americans and farmers were no exception. Crop failures, economic hardships, and the failures of Reconstruction stimulated a Great Migration of southern blacks to northern cities. Racism and a glutted labor market prevented many African Americans from attaining the better life they sought. Despite these setbacks, they established new cultural institutions and modified older ones to meet the needs of urban life. Farmers didn't have it any easier, problems brought about an Agrarian Revolt in the 1890's.

Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865,

the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially abolished, and continues to prohibit, slavery. The 13th amendment was passed at the end of the Civil War before the Southern states had been restored to the Union and could have easily passed the Congress. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution intended to secure rights for former slaves. It includes the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses among others. It was proposed on June 13, 1866, and ratified on July 9, 1868. This amendment provides a broad definition of national citizenship, overturning the Dred Scott case, which excluded African Americans. It requires the states to provide equal protection under the law, and was used in the mid-20th century to dismantle legal segregation, as in Brown v. Board of Education. The Fifteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that governments in the United States may not prevent a citizen from voting because of his race, color, or previous condition of servitude. It was ratified on February 3, 1870. These laws were designed to help African Americans but many would find a way around them, causing the plan to backfire.

After the end of the American Civil War in 1865, during the period known as Reconstruction, the federal government was able to provide some protection for the civil rights of the newly-freed slaves. But when Reconstruction abruptly ended in 1877 and federal troops were withdrawn, southern state governments began passing Jim Crow laws that prohibited blacks from using the same public accommodations as whites.

The discrimination however did not stop there. States began to pass poll taxes, a tax set to discriminate and was a pre-condition of the exercise of the right to vote, emerged in some US states between the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries. After the right to vote was extended to all races by the enactment of the 15th Amendment, many Southern states enacted poll tax laws which often included a grandfather clause that allowed any adult male whose father or grandfather had voted in a specific year prior to the abolition of slavery to vote without paying the tax. These laws achieved the desired effect of disenfranchising African Americans. The United States government did not levy any poll taxes that blocked access to voting rights mostly because this was the a major contribution to United States revenue. Literacy tests were also passed to discourage voting. The 15th amendment forbade any state from forbidding any male citizen aged twenty-one or over from voting on the basis of race. It did not, however, prevent the implementation of other qualifications

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