On December 6, 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified. It said, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude ... shall exist within the United States." But Andrew Johnson was already working against it. The President's plan of Reconstruction put power back into the hands of the South's old white leaders . And it gave African-Americans no civil or political rights . Soon every southern state passed laws that discriminated against blacks. The laws were called Black Codes . They made it a crime for any black person to refuse to sign a contract to labor on white plantations . And they gave African-Americans no voice in government. Soon outbreaks of violence against blacks were taking place . At a riot in New Orleans, thirty-four blacks and three whites who stood with them were killed. Some whites put masks over their faces and began terrorizing and killing black people. They were members of a newly formed hate organization, the Ku Klux Klan , and they didn't have the courage to show their faces . It turned out that President Andrew Johnson shared some of their beliefs. In letter after letter he exposed his prejudices. In one he wrote, "This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am president, it shall be a government for white men."
The war had been fought to end slavery. But the black codes were there to do the same old thing: to keep blacks as a subordinate labor force. So, in 1866, Republicans in Congressboth radical and moderateunited to pass the Civil Rights Act . It was designed to nullify the Black Codes. President Johnson vetoed the act . After a veto, two-thirds of Congress must vote for a bill to have it become a law. Two-thirds did. It was the first time in American history that an important piece of legislation was passed over the president's veto . Andrew Johnson was furious. He was also stubborn and uncompromising. "I am right. I know I am right. And I am damned if I do not adhere to it," he declared.