A Failed Revolution
Stevens had helped write the Fifteenth Amendment, which was passed in 1869. It gives black men all across the country the right to vote . In the South social reforms are now spreading quickly. Integrated legislatures are creating free public schools. Soon black boys and black girls are enrolled in 4,000 new schools in the South. At least nine black colleges are opened . In the near future Congress will pass a civil rights bill prohibiting discrimination in hotels, theaters, and amusement parks. It is a civil rights revolution. A freedom movement. But it will not last.
Economic conditions in the South are dreadful. Cotton prices are low, the weather is poor, and so are the harvests. The white farmers are exhausted and angry: their sons are deadkilled in the warand their savings are gone. They have no money to hire workers or buy equipment and seeds, and most of the black farmers have no land. Before the war there were no lynchings of blacks. Slaves were valuable possessions. Now hate groups, like the masked Ku Klux Klan, begin waging war on former slaves. Lynchings become increasingly common . Ben Johnson, a southern black, becomes a witness to one of their crimes. He writes: "It was on a cold night when the Ku Kluxers comed and drug the niggers Ed and Cindy outa bed. They carried 'em down in the woods and whup them, then they throws 'em in the pond, their bodies breaking the ice. Cindy ain't been seen since ."
In 1871, the black citizens of Frankfort, Kentucky, send a petition to Congress. It reads: "We believe you are not familiar with the Ku Klux Klan's riding nightly over the country and in the county towns, spreading terror wherever they go by robbing, whipping, ravishing, and killing our people without provocation. We have been law-abiding citizens, pay our tax, and, in many parts of the state, our people have been driven from the pollsrefused the right to vote."