From the files of Bob Malkas: History 103


Local Voices

Bob Malkas

We could be doing Lansing a great service by finally asking parents to investigate what is going on in our U.S. History classes.

1865. The Civil War is over. The North and its principles had won. The South and its principles had lost. The main question that had to be answered was, How would the United States be reunited as one nation again?

This would have to be decided as the nation entered into the next period of history, which was called Reconstruction.

After the armistice was signed, the North wasn’t prepared to just walk away and trust the South to adopt a new way of life without the institution of slavery to support it. Opportunities were present, and waves of opportunists were ready to take advantage of them by moving to the South from the North because of them. Others sent by the federal government were there to ensure that socio-economic changes resulting from the War were made.

The result of many of the actions at times were draconian in nature, and they were forced upon the South without being negotiated or showing them a way to change their past social-economic policies. Instead, they were forced immediately upon them without realizing that strategy would result in failure.

The North believed that the South had to accept a new lifestyle without question. These changes could not be done effectively just by flicking a switch. An evolution of the thinking of the once-confederate states would take education and time to establish. It should have been anticipated that if pushed too hard, the South could fight back, which they did. The goal should have been to heal and unite instead of punish.

U.S History calls these reactions Black Codes, later known as Jim Crow laws. When I taught U.S History, that term was never used. The Black Codes were exclusively a product of the South and the Democratic party that would not accept the results of the Civil War.

By the 1880s an organized movement called Southern Redemption had begun in earnest. It was a political movement designed to redeem the South from the new Civil Rights movements now evolving in society. One southern newspaper declared, “It is safe to say that had the southern people known in 1865 what was in store for them, they would not have laid down their arms.”

What happened next would lay the groundwork for social problems in the future. The Reconstruction period ended in 1876, and the northerners still in the south went home, leaving the south to do things on their own. The state governments were now in charge. Those governments decided to fight back and would enact laws that restricted the voting rights for blacks dictated by the 13th Amendment.

Other devices were used to further the Redemption Program by imposing poll taxes as a requirement before one could vote. Literary tests were a means used by the southern Democrat Party governments to disenfranchise blacks.

Another device used was laws only allowing individuals to vote where their fathers or grandfather had been registered to vote prior to the passage of the 15th Amendment. As early as 1865 southern Democrats were passing these Black Codes to prevent blacks from holding office, owning agricultural property, or serving on juries.

Changes were on the way. Not complying with the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. It was left up to each state to implement the laws of the nation, and both sides failed in that responsibility.

David Barton’s book, American History in Black & White, would document how ineffective the laws were at that time. Even under these type of pressures black Americans achieved, and Barton accomplishes the narration well.

These achievements are not taught in District 215 today. Check the curriculum guide and ask questions. Any so-called Jim Crow laws we hear about today would be unconstitutional and subjected to legal action if attempted. Yet we still hear charges.

I invite comments to hear other points of view. You can send them to Words in the Wind, Post Office Box 168, Lansing Illinois.

Bob Malkas

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  1. Hi Bob, believe it or not, some of those similar questions were asked at TFD215 in 2020. It may be time to ask them again.

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