Reconstruction | Part 2, Hour 1
Hour three of the series examines the years 1877-1896, a transitional period that saw visions of a “New South” set the stage for the rise of Jim Crow and the undermining of Reconstruction’s legal and political legacy. With cotton still king in the South, sharecropping became the dominate economic fate for many black farmers, while convict leasing echoed slavery in new and harrowing ways. During this time, African Americans aptly named the Exodusters, exercised their ability to move freely by leaving the South and migrating west to Kansas with hopes of owning land and living in peace. This exodus would precede the Great Migration in the 1930s; however, it would not remove the stain of segregation. In 1883, the Supreme Court gutted the Civil Rights Act of 1875, thus making it legal for business owners to refuse to serve black patrons. In response to being denied access to public spaces, many African Americans created their own businesses and recreational spaces in a segregated South and in other parts of the county. But even these “safe havens” could not fully protect African Americans from the growing onslaught of violence and lynchings. Fredrick Douglass and Ida B. Wells are among the many key figures who would use the power of their pen to write about the ills of lynching. Others like Isaiah Montgomery and Booker T. Washington would take a more accommodationist approach to tackling injustice. Throughout the episode, African Americans continue to exercise agency over their lives, circumventing attacks and challenges as Jim Crow encroaches and Plessy v Ferguson takes center stage at the Supreme Court, where “separate but equal” would become the law of the land.