White Supremacy and Terrorism

White supremacy is the belief that white people are superior to others because of their race. Prior to the Civil War, racism and white supremacy had been common attitudes in both the North and the South. After the Emancipation Proclamation, when Union troops began to fight for the abolishment of slavery, Northern attitudes shifted slightly, and many felt that blacks deserved equal legal rights and equal protection, even if they were not considered socially equal.

In the South, however, white supremacists did not believe blacks should have any such rights. During Reconstruction, white supremacists formed political and social groups to promote whites and oppress blacks, and to enact laws that codified inequality. The Ku Klux Klan (founded in 1865) and the Knights of the White Camellia (1867) were secret groups, while members of the White League (1874) and the Red Shirts (1875) were publically known. All four groups used violence to intimidate blacks and Republican voters. Their efforts succeeded, and with the end of Reconstruction in 1877, white supremacy became the reality of the South.

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