The National Woman Suffrage Association

During the Reconstruction, the primary focus was on the rights of former slaves. Women felt neglected because they believed they deserved attention as well. Women protested for reforming labor and divorce laws. However, women received little or no support for their cause. In addition, they found faults in the 15th Amendment because it only protected African Americans from discrimination but not women. As a result, a group of feminists led a movement to raise awareness for women’s rights.

In 1869, the National Woman Suffrage Association, founded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was one of the women’s rights organizaton that was established. Their chief concern was advocating voting rights for women through a new amendment to the Constitution. In addition, they supported simpler divorce laws and equal pay for women. However,  a year later, the organization joined American Woman Suffrage Association to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association. This collaboration would further assist them in promoting for women’s rights.



The 13th amendment to the United States constitution formally abolished slavery, in 1865. This amendment reads “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This amendment finished the unfulfilled role of the Emancipation Proclamation issued in 1863. This document informally declared all slaves free, but not guarantee that they were indeed free.

It is very important to understand the 13th amendment to be a guarantor of future Americans civil rights. The 13th amendment was later followed by the 14th and 15th amendments, which are also recognized as Civil War amendments. It is important to understand the process this and how long it took for this to formal freedom of slaves to become an amendment. In 1864, the Senate passed the amendment, but the House declined. It was then reintroduced into the House and passed with a vote of 119 to 56.


African Americans citizens under Civil Rights Bill of 1866?

The Civil Rights Bill was created on April 19, 1866. It was passed over the veto of Andrew Johnson.The act declared that all persons born in the United States were now citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition. As Citizens they would be able to make and enforce contracts, sue and be sued, give evidence in court ; inherit,purchase, lease, sell, hold and convey real and personal property. Persons who denied  these rights to former slaves were guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction faced a fine not exceeding $1000 or imprisonment not exceeding a year or both.

Such organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan undermined the act and it failed to enforce the rights of African Americans.  The consequences of this act were that federal penalties were not provided for, so that remedies were left to those involved. Those involved had limited access to legal help and were therefore left without aid. Therefore the act did not really help in providing equal rights.


On the Origin of Species (1859)

In 1859, Charles Darwin published a book titled On the Origin of Species. Darwin’s work was one of the most influential books in history, and we still use many terms coined by him today. The main idea of the book is that plants and animals that are more suited to survive in their environments will survive, and that they will replace those that cannot adapt. This view was very similar to the pre-Civil War view, which justified slavery. During the Gilded Age many people were fighting for social equality, and Darwin’s book posed a serious threat to their efforts.

Darwin believed that evolution is a natural process that occurs in nature, and that no forces should try and limit this. When the government or other organizations try and limit people, and try and make everything equal, they are bringing us back to a more primitive state. According to nature, some things are superior to others, and we shouldn’t have to take certain freedoms away to make sure that everybody is equal. Darwin truly believed that people are responsible for their own fate. He said that people should work on educating their children and doing other things that would help prevent seeking government aid.

The theory of Social Darwinism was pretty popular during the Gilded Age. Many professors wrote works on the theory, most notably William Graham Sumner. Sumner, a Yale professor, said that nobody was entitled to help others. He believed that there were social arrangement made by nature and that we shouldn’t interfere with them. The definition of freedom would be debated throughout this period, and Social Darwinists would constantly battle with people who believed in equality for all.



Foner, Eric. “America’s Gilded Age.” Give Me Liberty!: an American History. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2009. 586-87. Print.


Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890)




















The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was the first Act passed by the U.S. Congress to prohibit trusts.

It passed the Senate by a vote of 51-1 on April 8, 1890 and then passed the house by a unanimous vote of 242-0 on June 20, 1890. The bill was signed into law on July 2, 1890 by then President Benjamin Harrison.

The Sherman Act authorized the Federal Government to dissolve trusts but failed to define the critical terms in the law. In spite of that, the law achieved some success against some famous trusts such as Standard Oil Company, American Tobacco Company, and 100 years later, Microsoft.



The Dawes Act (1887) was passed to hasten the Americanization of Indians. Under the provision of the act:

  • Native American tribes were officially abolished.
  • Each male American Indian was allotted 160 acres of reservation land as his own private property. Private property was expected to replace tribal land ownership, as each Native American became a farmer.
  • Those who adopted this way of life were given United States citizenship and the right to vote. In the 1924, all Native American were made citizens.

Source: http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=old&doc=50#



BLack code

Black code is a series laws passed by the new south government to discriminate against African American. These laws give some basic right to the former slaves, such as legalized marriage, property and limited access to the courts, but they don’t have rights to against whites, such as, voting, serving on juries and in state militias (Foner, 535)
Post the civil war, American government passed 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to protest African Americans and give them civil right to live in United State. However, the new south government used state power to pass law in order to limit African American rights. For instance, African American must sign a year labor contract with their employer. If not, they would be arrested. Black code violated African American’s civil right and their right still is limited as slaves. Therefore, reconstruction became failed.


Free Land For Everyone!

Back in May 1862, President Abraham Lincoln passed the first law that granted land to most people, the Homestead Act. The Homestead Act entitled immigrants, freed slaves and Americans to 160 acres of undeveloped land to increase the expansion to the west. In order to gain access to 160 acres of federal land, Settlers had to follow three steps. Those interested in the new law needed to file an application in order to obtain a homestead title. Next, applicants needed to improve and cultivate the land. Although the first two steps seemed fairly easy to fulfill, there was one other requirement. All applicants needed to remain on the granted land for a minimum of five years in order to file for a deed of title which completed step 3.

Despite the promise of the Homestead Act, many applicants were unable to seize the opportunity the new law offered. Only about 40% of applicants who started the process were able to obtain titles to their homestead land. That 40% amounted to 270,000,000 acres of land which equaled 10% of all the land in the United States.

The Homestead Act was also greatly abused as many individuals committed fraud. Instead of building farms and using the land for agriculture, owners used the land to gain access to water and other minerals. A few owners used the land to gather timber and oil. Eventually the Homestead Act was discontinued in 1976 when the government decided to take control of public land and passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.


Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

On February 24, 1868, the House of Representatives voted impeachment to President Andrew Johnson on vote of 126-47. There were eleven articles of impeachment proving his “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

The reason the Radical Republicans wanted to impeach President Andrew Johnson was because in February, 1868, he removed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, an ally of the Radicals, and replaced him with John McAllister Schofield. This action violated the Tenure of Office Act, which was adopted by Congress in March 1867.

On March 2, the House agreed to the articles of impeachment to him. On May 16, 1868, Andrew Johnson was acquitted on the removal trial by one vote short (35-19) of the two-thirds necessary to remove him. Johnson completed his Presidential term and left office in March, 1869.


The Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation (1863)Emancipation Proclamation (1863)

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”  It proclaimed the freedom of 3.1 million of the nation’s 4 million slaves. The declaration highlighted freedom of all slaves within any state that did not submit to Union control and specified the states where the proclamation was to be unconditionally applied. The freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.

The Emancipation Proclamation enjoined emancipated slaves to “labor faithfully for reasonable wages” in the United States. For the first time, it authorized the enrollment of black soldiers into the Union Army. The proclamation set in motion the process by which 200,000 black men in the last two years of the war fought for the Union. This added to the much needed manpower for winning the war against the Confederacy. Putting black men into the military implied a very different vision of their future place in American society than earlier plans for settling freed slaves overseas.

Source: http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=34


A Letter from a Member of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment

The letter below was written by a soldier, who refers to himself as E.D.W., of 54th Massachusetts Regiment to a newspaper editor. The letter informs the editor about the regiment’s last battle, which took place in Olustee. The 54th Massachusetts were the first regiment to support the 8th U.S., which is the first colored regiment and the first Union force in the Olustee battle field. The 8th U.S. regiment already suffered many damages, and the battle field was still very intense. Another regiment entered the battlefield afterward, but they soon left. “Things were too warm for them,” as E.D.W. had commented.

While E.D.W. has given us some details about the battle, he also complained about how his colored regiment has not receive salary for nearly a year. The white troops would receive their pay every 2 months. There is no reason to discriminate, commented E.D.W.. The black soldiers fought as bravely, if not more bravely, than the white soldiers. Yet the 54th Massachusetts did not receive the same wage or ration at the same interval. Although this letter was meant to be a report of a battle, it is also a request to make the media report the inequalities that black soldiers suffered. This letter is a critical, primary evidence that displays the racial injustice that black people suffered during the Civil War.


April 2, 1864
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

For the Christian Recorder.

MR. EDITOR: – Sir: – It is with pleasure that I now seat myself to inform you concerning our last battle: thus we were in Co. B, on the 20th of Feb. Mr. Editor, I am not sitting down to inform about this battle without knowing something about it.

The battle took place in a grove called Olustee, with the different regiments as follows: First was the 8th U.S.; they were cut up badly, and they were the first colored regiment in the battle. The next were the 54th Mass., which I belong to; the next were the 1st N.C. In they went and fired a few rounds, but they soon danced out, things were too warm for them. The firing was very warm, and it continued for about three hours and a half. The 54th was the last off the field. When the 1st N.C. found out it was so warm they soon left, and then there was none left to cover the retreat. But captain J. Walton, of the 54th, of our company, with shouts and cheers, cried, “Give it to them my brave boys! Give it to them!” As I turned around, I observed Col. E.N. Holowell standing with a smile upon his countenance, as though the boys were playing a small game of ball.

There was none left but the above named, and Lieut. Col. Hooper, and also Col. Montgomery; those were the only field officers that were left with us. If we had been like those regiments that were ahead, I think not only in my own mind, but in the minds of the field officers, such as Col. Hooper and Col. Montgomery, that we would have suffered much loss, is plain to be seen, for the enemy had taken some three of four of their pieces.

When we got there we rushed in double-quick, with a command from the General, “Right into line.” We commenced with a severe firing, and the enemy soon gave way for some two hundred yards. Our forces were light, and we were compelled to fall back with much dissatisfaction.

Now it seems strange to me that we do not receive the same pay and rations as the white soldiers. Do we not fill the same ranks? Do we not cover the same space of ground? Do we not take up the same length of ground in the grave-yard that others do? The ball does not miss the black man and strike the white, nor the white and strike the black. But, sir, at that time there is no distinction made, they strike one as much as another. The black men have to go through the same hurling of musketry, and the same belching of cannonading as white soldiers do.

It has been nearly a year since we have received any pay; but the white soldiers get their pay every two months; ($13.00 per month,) but when it comes to the poor negro he gets none. The 54th left Boston on the 28th of May, 1863. In time of enlisting members for the regiment, they were promised the same pay, and the same rations as other soldiers. Since that time the government must have charged them more for clothing than any other regiment; for those who died in a month or two after their enlistment, it was actually said that they were in debt to the government. Those who bled and died on James’ Island and Wagner, are the same. Why is it not so with other soldiers? Because our faces are black. We are put beneath the very lowest rioters of New York. We have never brought any disgrace by cowardice, on the State we left.

Co. B, 54th Mass., Vol.
Jacksonville, Fla., March 13th, 1864.

This is ITEM #60542 from the Accessible Archives, Inc. Database and Web site at http://www.accessible.com/. You or your organization must be a licensed subscriber to access the databases on its site. This letter is posted here with the kind permission of Mr. John Nagy, Accessible Archives, Inc.


The Fourteenth Amendment – 1868

According to “Give Me Liberty!”, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified on July 9th, 1868. It is the principle of citizenship for all persons born in the United States, and which empowered the federal government to protect the rights of all Americans. This includes the former slaves that were recently freed. It also forbids states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 1 states that all persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States. No state can make or enforce any law that will abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.

Section 2 states that representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.

Section 3 states that no person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elctor of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state.



The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887

On February 4, 1887, the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 is passed by the Congress to prevent unfair practices in the railroad industry such as railroad monopolies. Before the Interstate Commerce Act was passed, railroads were privately owned and unregulated thus letting railroad companies take advantage of their power of charging high fees in places they enforced monopoly control. These monopolies were harmful to farmers who either lacked the shipment volume or money. Railroads back then greatly influenced people and businesses because it was an important form of transportation for people and goods.

The Interstate Commerce of 1887 targeted problems of railroad monopolies by setting guidelines for railroads and stopping railroad abuse. The law required railroad rates to be reasonable.


Fifteenth Amendment: Voting Rights(1870)


                     Above picture is the primary document of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, in which it prohibits any state and federal governments from denying any citizen the right to vote based on their “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” According to the textbook “Give Me Liberty”, this amendment was first approved  in February 1869.  It was ratified on February 3, 1870. Fifteenth Amendment not only gives every citizen in the United States a right to vote but also it ended the segregation of blacks. “With the Fifteenth Amendment, the American Anti-Slavery Society disbanded, its work, its members believed, now complete.” (Give Me Liberty: 540)

                        However, this amendment did not give the voting rights to women, it only granted African American the right to vote. Fifteenth Amendment is the third of the Reconstruction Amendments. It contains two sections:

Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude–

Section 2.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.




Assignment due 2/14

1) Read Foner, chapter 16
2) Locate a UNIQUE (to the blog) primary document (text or image) online that relates to the reading of chapter 15 or 16.  Write a post describing the document.  Write 2-3 paragraphs explaining any information about the document that helps contextualize it (who, what, where, when).  For help finding primary documents online, I recommend consulting http://guides.newman.baruch.cuny.edu/content.php?pid=88593&sid=662703
3) Include an image if possible and a link to the document
4) If you haven’t already, add tags and categories on all previous posts