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The American Civil War and the Reconstruction Era

28 Jul 2016History Essays

The Preamble to the United States’ Declaration of Independence clearly states that

“All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable, rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Our founding fathers had always affirmed the principles of equality and justice. Yet for decades equality and justice had always been a very expensive commodity in the United States. The institutionalized slavery had always been the major stumbling block, especially for the African-Americans.

It bears stressing that though the United States was known for the ideals of liberty, equality, freedom, and justice, for centuries African Americans were either enslaved or discriminated. They were considered as commodities which can be sold by their masters at any time. Even after the abolition of slavery after the end of Civil War, discrimination continued against African Americans. A study was conducted on the impact of slavery and discrimination against African-Americans. It showed that African-American children were so affected by institutionalized slavery and discrimination that they would choose white dolls over black ones which are an indication that they disliked or even hated themselves.

The American Civil War ended in 1865 with the defeat of the Confederacy and the overthrow of slavery. It was expected that the ideals of the Declaration of Independence will finally become a reality. Several amendments to the US Constitution had been ratified which not only accorded legal protection to the newly freed slaves but also confirmed the abolition of slavery. These were the Thirteenth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and the Fifteenth Amendment.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was finally ratified in 1865 which confirmed the abolition of slavery by providing that

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed which accorded legal rights to the newly freed slaves by granting them due process and equal protection by providing that

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States… are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.... nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified which protected the rights of the newly freed slaves to vote by providing that

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Despite the abolition of slavery and these amendments to the constitution, the institutionalized discrimination continued even during the period of Reconstruction and for several decades after.It seemed that the rights granted to the African Americans have all been limited to paper and have never been actually implemented. African Americans were often treated differently than the whites in almost every part of the United States. Laws were passed by state legislatures that legalized and even mandated the segregation of races.

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