The abolishment of slavery: Part Two


WITHIN five days after the surrender of the Confederacy (southern slave holding states) to the Union of the north, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in public view while watching a play.
Lincoln was seated with his wife when a white man called John Wilkes Booth hopped between the two of them and shot President Lincoln in the head at very close range. Lincoln had excused his bodyguard earlier on and Booth who had been stalking him found an opportunity to strike. Booth initially escaped but was eventually arrested.
John Wilkes Booth was a member of the Confederacy and he had immense hate for Abraham Lincoln for his hand in abolishing slavery which had made the southern states prosperous. Initially Booth had no intention to kill Lincoln.
His original plan was to kidnap Lincoln and put him in the hands of the Confederacy. However, a few days before this could happen, Lincoln made a speech about empowering the blacks of America acknowledging their equality to the white man in terms of rights as long as they were citizens. It was this speech which reportedly made Booth snap.
In 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation was passed, the black Americans were overjoyed and in disbelief. Lincoln became a hero in their eyes and they often wrote letters of thanks to him. When Lincoln was assassinated, many blacks wept and were in fear because they dreaded going back into slavery.
Another problem which arose after the blacks acquired freedom was that of uncertainty as to how they were going to make a living. Most slaves in the south were illiterate and though the Emancipation Proclamation was in writing, blacks were shown images of black people being freed because they could not read. Many of the former slaves were but field hands who knew nothing about industry but planting and rearing animals.
The Emancipation Proclamation showed paintings of white females with wings carrying the blacks. It showed blacks being previously sold and whipped, and then it showed blacks owning houses and fields. The paintings also showed blacks preaching and lecturing to white audiences. There were depictions of black children playing with white children and so forth. The paintings also depicted the devil unshackling the chains of slavery. This, interestingly, was clear admission by the white people that they were no different from the devil.
After the end of slavery blacks had high expectations but for most of them, it was enough to be free. The major problem was that most found themselves free but unemployed and lacking opportunities.
Some disliked heading north for they felt they knew nothing about machines and this would make them uncompetitive. Others opted to remain on their former slave master’s plantations where they would now farm with the former slave master as partners, with the produce being split between the two parties. This happened in cases where the former slave owner genuinely believed in the abolishment of slavery.
The whites of the south began finding subtle and cunning ways of asserting their dominion over blacks. For example, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was formed in 1866 which was only 3 years after the freeing of blacks. The KKK was formed by some whites of the south to terrorise black people so that they retained their fear of whites as in the days of slavery. The KKK resorted to raiding, whipping, and lynching of the former slaves. They also burned down their properties and produce.
The members of the KKK wore white gowns with hoods which masked their faces and revealed only their eyes. Under these white covers, the whites would settle scores with the blacks they disliked and commit the most gruesome atrocities of murder and torture without their identity being revealed.
Some whites tricked the blacks into debt and would have them work for free in the fields as a form of repayment. This would make the affected blacks to feel as if they were being enslaved all over again.
A white man called Andrew Johnson took over as President after Abraham Lincoln. Johnson was not as forthcoming as Lincoln in making sure the blacks of the south were indeed free. As a result, although the blacks were no longer slaves in the south, they also did not have equal rights to the whites and were not allowed to vote or to sit on juries. These restrictions of black rights were numerous and were known as ‘black codes’.
The southern whites were, in most cases, against accepting their former slaves as equals and Johnson was unwilling to persuade the south to change. However, the Congress did not share Johnson’s sentiments and they continued to pass acts that secured blacks more rights. The Emancipation Proclamation was the first act of freeing slaves and it was passed in Lincoln’s time in January of 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation was followed by the 13th amendment of December 1865 which was an outright ban on slavery.
In 1866, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act which stated that all people born in the USA were citizens regardless of race, colour or previous condition (former slave status). Johnson vetoed this act but Congress overrode his presidential veto. This goes to show how racist Johnson was.
This was comparable to the Greeks who took over from Alexander “the Great”. Like Obama and Alexander, Lincoln had black ancestry and was tolerant of blacks. Alexander was exactly the same but, after his death, the Greek nation he belonged to whitewashed black heritage they could find, including Alexander himself.
Congress saw that Johnson was against the empowerment of blacks. He was tolerating black codes and segregation in the south. In reaction to this, the Congress decided to pass the Reconstruction Act which entailed removing the southern governments and former confederate states from power and placing them under military rule. The whites of the south were forced to allow blacks to vote. However, the blacks were often restricted from voting by the infamous KKK through outright terrorism.
In 1875, another Civil Rights Act was passed and this entitled the full equal treatment of blacks in inns, public conveyances (on land or water), theatres and other places of public amusement. Before then, the free blacks were still not allowed to enjoy some public recreational facilities. This Act was rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1883 showing, in the process, the two-sided nature and hypocrisy of American policies on human rights. On paper, America greatly upholds freedom and democracy. On the ground, however, white Americans practise oppression and racism and this is as true today as it was in the past.
In 1887, another white man known as Rutherford Hayes became President. Like Johnson, Hayes did not care about blacks and their welfare. He quickly withdrew troops which were manning the south. Hayes also limited the influence of the north on the south and allowed for the former confederate states to do as they pleased without interference from the north.
Left vulnerable and unprotected, the blacks of the south were forced to be submissive to whites. They were forced to respond to the derogatory names they were called during slavery and they were again restricted from voting until around 1908.
Considering that the blacks of America had been stolen and sold into slavery from Africa, was being set free enough? Was it not necessary for the American government to consider restitution and an orderly repatriation of all freed people back to Africa? Surely the return of a freed slave to his or her homeland of Africa would be the least that a former slave master would do if he was truly remorseful.
However, the blacks of America had been enslaved for hundreds of years and most of them had lost their history. The whites had successfully bred a people who were ignorant and even ashamed of their origins. If one does not know their history they do not know where they are coming from and where they are going.
Such was the state of the freed blacks of America until the coming of Marcus Garvey who reawakened blacks to their roots and planted the American Negro’s dream to return to Africa. Freedom alone was and still is far from being enough.


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