By Vivienne Saunders
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Freed black slaves had acquired freedom of movement but because they lacked wealth most remained in the South and farmed. Most remained trapped in poverty, working as tenant farmers (sharecroppers) for the white élite in the economically backward South. Most sharecroppers produced cotton, but with the world glut in the 1870s, prices fell. Not surprisingly, Southern income was less than half that of the North. The lack of economic power kept Southern black progress slow. (b) The political position of blacks (i) Black voters and black ofﬁcials After the Civil War, 700,000 blacks were registered to vote in the South, compared to 600,000 eligible whites.
The federal government in Washington wanted to concentrate on the North rather than racial problems in the South. • Republican voters were predominantly Northerners and Northerners were tired of the South’s ‘black question’. • Most Southerners and some Northerners believed that blacks were inferior and did not deserve equality. • Most Southerners either resented blacks as possible rivals for jobs or wanted to exploit blacks as cheap labour. • The Supreme Court did nothing to ensure that the 14th and 15th Amendments were made a meaningful reality.
Wells did not hold back when talking about the horrors of lynching, describing one in Paris, Texas, where the accused rapist was poked with red-hot irons for 50 minutes, doused with kerosene and set on ﬁre. The accused then tried to get away from the ﬁre and was put back in, twice. ’. (v) ‘The ﬁrst step … is organisation’ Wells found all politicians unimpressive. ’. She was an enthusiastic supporter of T. Thomas Fortune’s National AfroAmerican League. ’ She wanted the League to boycott the segregated railroads, but was soon critical of League leaders: A handful of men, with no report of work accomplished, no one in the ﬁeld to spread it, no plan of work laid out – no intelligent direction – meet and by their child’s play illustrate in their own doings the truth of the saying that Negroes have no capacity for organisation.