Early in 1867, Congress passed a series of laws called the Reconstruction Acts. These laws abolished the Southern state governments formed under Johnson's plan. They also divided all the states that had seceded from the Union, except Tennessee, into five military districts. A major general commanded each area. Federal troops stationed in each district helped enforce the Reconstruction Acts.
The Reconstruction Acts also outlined the process of readmission for the 10 Southern states that still had not rejoined the Union. Election boards in each state would register as voters all adult black males and all qualified adult white males. The voters elected a convention, which adopted a new state constitution. This constitution gave black men the right to vote. The voters then would elect a governor and state legislature. Finally, the state had to ratify the 14th Amendment.
Ku Klux Klan
The Ku Klux Klan is a group of white secret societies who oppose the advancement of blacks, Jews, and other minority groups. The Ku Klux Klan, is also know as the KKK or the Klan. It often uses violence to achieve its aims. Klan members wear robes and hoods, and burn crosses at their outdoor meetings. They also burn crosses to frighten those who are nonmembers. The KKK has had four major periods of activity: (1) the mid-1860's to the early 1870's, (2) 1915 to 1944, (3) the late 1940's to the early 1970's, and (4) since the mid-1970's.
The birth of the Klan began as a social club by a group of Confederate Army veterans in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1865 or 1866. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former Confederate general, was the Klan's first leader which is known as the Grand Wizard. Klan members believed in the superiority of whites and soon began to terrorize blacks to keep them from voting or exercising the other rights they had gained during Reconstruction, the period following the end of the American Civil War in 1865. The Klan threatened, beat, and murdered many blacks and their white sympathizers in the South. To hide their identity, Klan terrorists wore disguises, draped sheets over their horses, and rode at night. The KKK spread rapidly throughout the Southern United States and became known as the Invisible Empire. Its attacks helped drive blacks out of Southern political life.
In 1871, Congress passed a law called a force bill, which gave the president the authority to use federal troops against the Klan. The KKK soon disappeared. However, in the early 1900's, William J. Simmons, a former Methodist clergyman, organized a new Klan in Atlanta, Georgia. It was formed as a patriotic, fraternal society for American-born white Protestants. The Klan directed its activities against groups it considered un-American, including blacks, immigrants, Jews, and particularly Roman Catholics.
By electing public officials, the Klan became a powerful political force throughout the South and also in many Northern and Western states, including Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Ohio, and Oregon. Public criticism of Klan violence and quarrels among Klan leaders weakened the organization. By the 1930's, only local Klan groups in the South remained strong. The organization died out again in 1944.
Increased civil rights activities during the 1960's brought a new wave of Klan violence. Klan members were involved in many terrorist attacks, including the killing of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, and the bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama, church in which four black girls were killed. President Lyndon B. Johnson used the Federal Bureau of Investigation to probe the Klan. Some members were sent to prison, and membership fell to about 5,000 by the early 1970's. During the seventies, leaders tried to give a more respectable image to competing Klan groups. Some accepted women as members and set up youth groups. The KKK especially appealed to whites who resented both special programs designed to help blacks and job competition from blacks and recent immigrants.
Sharecropping is a type of farming where farmers work on land that is owned by someone else. Sharecroppers received a share of the crop from the land on which they normally did all the work. Sharecroppers frequently had an open account at the plantation supply store. The commissary often charged high prices. As a result, the workers would become indebted to the owner and would be forced to work off their debts…