Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Ending Slave Emancipation

“The Master, he says we are all free. But it don’t mean we is white. And it don’t mean we is equal.”

The report, Reconstruction in America, documents more than 2,000 black victims of racial terror lynchings killed between the end of the civil war in 1865 and the collapse of federal efforts to protect the lives and voting rights of black Americans in 1876.

 Equal Justice Initiative ’s groundbreaking 2015 research that identified and recorded more than 4,400 black victims of racial terror lynchings from the post-Reconstruction period, 1877 to 1950. 

EJI has documented 34 mass lynchings during Reconstruction. The deadliest of them took place in the fall of 1868 in Opelousas, Louisiana, where an orgy of white violence over two weeks claimed the lives of 200 black people who were mercilessly hunted down through fields and swamps.

The new report allows that grim tally to be further expanded with the addition of the 2,000 documented victims from the Reconstruction era itself – bringing the total number of documented cases of black people who were supposedly free yet were lynched in the most sadistic fashion to a staggering 6,500 men, women and children. EJI notes that its newly revised toll of racial terror lynchings in America is likely to underestimate the total by hundreds or even thousands given gross underreporting of racial violence and widespread efforts to suppress the truth.

Known as Reconstruction, a reign of terror was unleashed by Confederate veterans and former slave owners in a brazen effort to keep black people enslaved in all but name. Freed slaves were lynched at an average rate of almost one every two days.

EJI’s new report depicts the paradox of how quickly the promise of freedom was stolen from freed black Americans. In the first flush of emancipation, more than 3 million black people living overwhelmingly in the south rushed to claim the benefits of citizenship.
A swath of equal rights groups popped up encouraging freed slaves to register to vote. By the summer of 1867, about 80% of eligible black male voters had registered in all but one of the 11 former Confederate states.
Black representation followed, with some 2,000 black men holding elected office during Reconstruction. In 1870 Hiram Revels from Mississippi took a seat in the US Senate, the first African American to serve in Congress.
Such an extraordinary surge of black political participation was matched, however, by an equal and opposite surge of white violence designed to put black people back in the box. Withholding the vote from the country’s new citizens was seen as a crucial means of reimposing white supremacy in the absence of the physical chains of slavery.
On 24 December 1865, less than three weeks after the 13th amendment was ratified abolishing slavery, six former Confederate leaders came together to form the first chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and began what WEB Du Bois described as “armed guerilla warfare”. Appalling acts of sadistic homicidal terrorism, targeted frequently against nascent black leaders who were at the forefront of the movement to claim the benefits of citizenship, were swift to follow. Mass violence were committed against black people who had the audacity, after slavery was ended, to ask to be paid for their work in the fields. Still others were killed because they tried to leave the cotton plantations where they had been enslaved, or because they set up schools to teach black children how to read. In 12 short years, the white supremacists managed through a whirlwind of violence to change the entire course of American history – putting the country on the path towards inequality and discrimination under which it still labors today.

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