Blue, Gray, and Black
John Brown's raid convinced the South that Northern harassment of slavery would continue and that the tactics would become even more desperate. At the same time, the election of Abraham Lincoln was interpreted by the South as a swing of the political pendulum in favor of the abolitionists. This was not true. Both Lincoln and the Republican Party had decided that the Anti-slave issue was not a broad enough platform on which to win an election. While Lincoln had made it clear that he himself opposed slavery, he also insisted that his political position, as well as that of the party, was to oppose the extension of slavery rather than to abolish it.
Although he emphasized different beliefs in varying localities, he still maintained that, while he opposed the enslavement of human beings, he did not view Africans as equals. He was convinced that there was a wide social gap between whites and blacks, and he indicated that he had grave doubts about extending equal political rights to Afro-Americans. Besides opposing slavery, he believed that racial differences pointed to the necessity for the separation of the two races, and he favored a policy of emigration. However, he had no interest in forcing either abolition or emigration on anyone. His political goals were to increase national unity, to suppress the extension of slavery, to encourage voluntary emancipation, and to stimulate volitional emigration. He was far from the abolitionist which the South believed him to be. At the same time, abolitionists were as unhappy with his election as were slaveholders. His election was clearly an attempt to strike a compromise, but the South was in no mood to negotiate. It was not willing to permit the restriction of slavery to the states in which the system already existed, and the Southern states seceded.
Once the Civil War began, Lincoln's primary goal was to maintain or reestablish the union of all the states. His strategy was to negotiate from a platform which provided the largest numbers of supporters. With these priorities in the foreground, the government took considerable time to clarify its position on emancipation as well as its stand regarding the use of freedmen in the Union forces. Lincoln suspected that he would not get the kind of solid and enthusiastic support from the Northern states which he needed if he did not work towards eventual emancipation. At the same time, if he took too strong a position in favor of emancipation he feared that the border states would abandon the Union and side with the South. Similarly, the refusal to use blacks in the Union forces might seriously weaken the military cause. Yet, their use might alienate the border states, and it might be so repugnant to the South as to hinder future negotiations.
Early in the war the North was faced with the problem of what to do with the slaves who fled from the South into the Union lines for safety. In the absence of any uniform policy, individual officers made their own decisions. According to the Fugitive Slave Act, Northern officials should have helped in capturing and returning them. When General Butler learned that the South was using slaves to erect military defenses, he declared that such slaves were contraband of war and therefore did not have to be returned. Congress stated that it was not the duty of an officer to return freed slaves. However, on at least one occasion, Lincoln gave instructions to permit masters to cross the Potomac into Union lines to look for their runaway slaves.
In August, 1861, a uniform policy was initiated with the passing of the Confiscation Act. It stated that property used in aiding the insurrection could be captured. When such property consisted of slaves, it stated that those slaves were to be forever free. Thereafter, slaves flocked into Union lines in an ever-swelling flood. Besides fighting the war, the Union army found itself bogged down caring for thousands of escaped slaves, a task for which it was unprepared. In some cases confiscated plantations were leased to Northern whites, and escaped slaves were hired out to work them. In December of 1862 General Saxton declared that abandoned land could be used for the benefit of the ex-slave. Each family was given two acres of land for every worker in the family, and the government provided some tools with which to work it. However, most of the land was sold to Northern capitalists who became absentee landlords with little or no interest in maintaining the quality of the land or in caring for the ex-slave who did the actual labor. These ex-slaves were herded into large camps with very poor facilities. The mortality rate ran as high as 25 percent within a two-year period.
Gradually, a very large number of philanthropic relief associations, many of which were related to the churches, sprang up to help the ex-slave by providing food, clothing, and education. Thousands of school teachers, both black and white, flocked into the South to help prepare the ex-slave for his new life.
In the beginning, Lincoln had been very reticent in permitting the use of slaves or freedmen in the army. As early as 1861 General Sherman had authorized the employment of fugitive slaves in "services for which they were suited." Late in 1862 Lincoln permitted the enlistment of some freedmen, and, in 1863, their enlistment became widespread. By the end of the war more than 186,000 of them had joined the Union forces. For the first time in American history, however, they were forced to serve in segregated units and were usually commanded by white officers. One of the ironies of the conflict was that the war which terminated slavery was also responsible for initiating segregation within the armed Forces. In a way this fact became symbolic of the role which racial discrimination and segregation eventually came to play in American society. Besides fighting in segregated units, the Negro soldiers, for about a year, received half pay. The 54th Massachusetts regiment served for an entire year without any pay rather than to accept discriminatory wages. In South Carolina a group of soldiers stacked their arms in front of their captain's tent in protest against the prejudicial pay scale. Sgt. William Walker, one of the instigators of the demonstration, was court-martialed and shot for this action. Finally, in 1864 all soldiers received equal pay.
The South was outraged by the use of "colored troops." It refused to recognize them and treat them as enemy soldiers, and, whenever any were captured, it preferred to treat them as runaway slaves under the black codes. This meant that they received much harsher treatment than they would have if they had been treated as prisoners of war. Also, the South preferred to kill them instead of permitting their surrender. As a result more than 38,000 of them were killed during the war. Many Northerners were also upset by the use of "colored troops." They did not like to have the Civil War considered a war to abolish slavery. Many of them feared that this would only increase competition. As a result, when white longshoremen struck in New York and blacks were brought in to take their place, a riot ensued. Many of the white strikers found themselves drafted into the Army, and they did not appreciate fighting to secure the freedom of men who took away their jobs. Even during the war racial emotions continued to run high in the North.
In 1862 General Hunter proclaimed the freedom of all slaves in the military sector: Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. When Lincoln heard of it, he immediately reversed the decree. He preferred gradual, compensated emancipation followed by voluntary emancipation. He persuaded Congress to pass a bill promising Federal aid to any state which set forth a policy of gradual compensated emancipation. Abolitionists said that masters should not be paid for freeing their slaves because slaves were never legitimate property. Congress also established a fund to aid voluntary emigration to either Africa or Latin America. However, few slaves were interested even in compensated emancipation, and the plan received almost no support. Lincoln finally concluded that emancipation had become a military necessity. In September 1862 he issued a preliminary decree promising to free all slaves in rebel territory. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. However, slavery continued to be legal in a areas which were not in rebellion. Final abolition of the institution came with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment after the end of hostilities.
By the end of the war the South became so desperate that the use of slaves in the Army was sanctioned, and they were promised freedom at the end of the conflict. As the end of the war, some questions had been solved and new ones had been created. Lincoln's belief in the fact that the Union was indissoluble had been vindicated, and it was also evident that national unity could not go hand in hand with sectional slavery. But three new questions were now emerging. How should sectional strife be healed? What should be the status of the ex-slave? Who should determine that status?
Reconstruction and Its Failure
At the close of the war more attention was given to the reconstruction of Southern institutions than to the elevation of the ex-slave. While a handful of the Radical Republicans, such as Sumner and Stevens, were aware that slavery had not prepared the ex-slave for participation in a free competitive society, most liberals assumed that the termination of slavery meant the end of their problems. They believed that blacks could immediately enter into community life on an equal footing with other citizens, Any suggestion that the ex-slave needed help to get started drew considerable resentment and hostility from liberals and conservatives alike. With the abolition of the peculiar institution, the anti-slavery societies considered their work finished. Frederick Douglass, however, complained that the slaves were sent out into the world empty-handed. In fact, both the war and emancipation had intensified racial hostility. The ex-slave had not yet been granted his civil rights. At the same time, he was no longer covered by property rights. Therefore he was even more vulnerable to physical intimidation than before.
As the war drew to an end, Lincoln initiated a program aimed at the rapid reconstruction of the South and the healing of sectional bitterness. With only the exclusion of a few Confederate officials, he offered immediate pardon to all who would swear allegiance to the Federal Government. As soon as ten percent of the citizens of any state who had voted in 1860 had taken this oath, a state could then hold local elections and resume home rule. Since almost no blacks had voted in the Southern states in 1860, his plan did nothing to encourage extending the franchise to them. However, he did believe that educated blacks could and should be given the right to vote, but this extension of the franchise was apparently to be determined by each state at some future time.
After Lincoln's assassination, Andrew Johnson further accelerated the pace of reconciliation. Granting personal pardons by the thousands, he initiated a plan for restoration which was even more lenient. Southern states resumed home rule, and, in the Federal election of 1866, they elected scores of Confederate officials to Congress. At the same time other Confederate officials were elected to other local posts throughout the South. One of the most urgent tasks taken up by these new home-rule governments was the determination and definition of the status of the ex-slave. State after state passed black codes which bore an amazing resemblance to those of slavery days. Blacks were not allowed to testify in court against whites. If they quit their jobs, they could be imprisoned for breach of contract. Anyone found without a job could be arrested and fined $50. Those who could not pay the fine were hired out to anyone in the community who would pay the fine. This created a new system of forced labor. At the same time, blacks could be fined for insulting gestures, breaking the curfew, and for possessing firearms. This created the kind of supervision of personal life which was similar to that of slavery. Although the Thirteenth Amendment had made slavery unconstitutional, the South was trying to recreate the peculiar institution in law while not admitting it in name.
Radical Republicans in Congress were outraged both at the unrepentant obstinacy of the South and at the leniency of Johnson's plan for restoration. After refusing to seat many of the Southern delegates to Congress the Radical Republicans went on to pass civil rights legislation which was aimed at protecting the ex-slave from the black codes. President Johnson, however vetoed these bills as well as the Fourteenth Amendment. An enraged Congress passed the civil rights legislation over his veto and came within one vote of impeaching the President. Although impeachment failed, Johnson lost his leadership in the government, and Congress, within two years after the end of the war, began Reconstruction all over again. The first large-scale Congressional hearings in American history were held to investigate the conditions in the South. The investigation documented widespread poverty, physical brutality, and intimidation as well as legal discrimination. The committee made a detailed examination of the race riots which had occurred in Memphis and New Orleans in which scores of blacks had been killed. It concluded that the New Orleans riot was in fact a police massacre in which dozens of blacks were murdered in cold blood.
Congress removed home rule from the Southern states and divided the area into five military districts. Even those Southerners who had already received federal pardons were now required to swear a stricter oath in order to regain their right to vote. State conventions met to draft new constitutions. These conventions were dominated by a coalition of three groups: new black voters, whites who had come from the North either to make personal fortunes or to help educate the ex-slave, and Southern whites who had never supported the Confederacy. The oath of allegiance required a citizen to swear that he was now and always had been loyal to the Federal Government. This excluded all the Confederate officials. These new Southern reconstruction governments operated under the protection of the Army and with the encouragement of the Federal Government. They strove to reconstruct the South economically, politically, and socially.
They established a system of public education, built many new hospitals, founded institutions for the mentally and physically handicapped, and attempted to reform the penal system. During Reconstruction blacks played a significant political role throughout the South. Besides voting in large numbers, they were elected to local, state, and federal offices. Between 1869 and 1901, two became U. S. Senators and twenty were members of the House of Representatives. Senators Revels and Bruce were elected from Mississippi. P. B. S. Pinchback was elected to the Senate from Louisiana, but he was not permitted to take his seat. He did serve as Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, and, for three days, was Acting Governor.
White conservatives in the South were outraged, and they were determined to have , absolutely nothing to do with a government which permitted Negro participation. They spread the myth that Reconstruction governments were in the grip of intolerably stupid and corrupt black men. Although Negroes were elected to state governments in significant numbers, the fact was that at no time were they in control. Moreover, when the critics themselves came to power, they did nothing to undo the work of the Reconstruction governments. This fact cast doubts on the sincerity of their criticism. The one thing which the white conservatives did when they regained power was to disenfranchise the blacks. This indicated that their real complaint in regard to Reconstruction was the participation of Negroes in government. With the Federal Government protecting the civil and political rights of the ex-slave, the South was unable to use the law to keep him in his place. The passionate belief in white superiority and a desperate fear of black retaliation caused many whites to resort to physical intimidation to achieve their purposes. The Ku Klux Klan was the most notorious of a large number of similar organizations which spread throughout the South. Negroes and white sympathizers were beaten and lynched. Some had their property burned, and others lost their jobs if they showed too much independence.
In 1869 Congress took action against the Klan and other white supremacy organizations, The Klan was officially disbanded, but, in fact, it only went underground. Most of these organizations were spontaneous local developments, and this made it difficult for either federal or state governments to find and destroy them. Often their tactics were successful in shaping election results. Their propaganda was also useful in influencing public opinion. They insisted that they were only protecting women, children, and civic morality. The federal military forces stationed in the South were too small to be effective against such widespread guerrilla activities, and many of the soldiers, though they had fought against slavery, were still in sympathy with white supremacy.
Although Reconstruction did protect some of the political and civil rights of the Afro-American community, it achieved almost nothing in improving the social and economic situation. The concept of social and economic rights was almost nonexistent a century ago. Political rights, however, without economic security could be a mere abstraction. Meaningful freedom had to be more than the freedom to starve. This meant that the ex-slave needed land, tools, and training to provide him with an economic base that would make his freedom real. The ex-slave had limited education, limited experience, a servile slave attitude, and he was in need of social and economic training to compensate for the years of slavery. Without this he could not enter a competitive society as an equal. Emancipation was not enough.
Most slaves had been engaged in plantation agriculture and were destined to continue in some kind of farm work. Sumner and Stevens led the fight in Congress to provide each of them with forty acres and a mule, and this would have provided the basis for their developing into an independent class of farmers. However, they were doomed to remain a subservient mass of peasants. The prewar slave plantation was replaced by sharecropping, tenant farming, and the convict lease system. In some cases the ex-slave was provided with land, tools, and seed by plantation owner who, in turn, was to get a share of the crop at the end of the season. His share was always so large that the cropper remained permanently in his debt. Similarly, tenant farmers paid rent for their land and were extended loans by the store keeper for their provisions. Interest rates ran so high that they too remained in permanent bondage. Finally, some plantation owners leased convicts from the state and worked them in chain gangs which most closely resembled the prewar slave system. In every case, the result was that black farm laborers remained members of a permanent peasant class.
The other hope for the advancement of the ex-slave was through the development of industrial skills. At this time the American labor movement was emerging and was striving to protect and elevate the status of industrial workers. If the ex-slave had been integrated into this movement, it would have helped many of them to achieve economic security. At the same time, it would have strengthened the labor movement itself. However, white workers usually saw blacks as job competitors rather than as part of a mass labor alliance. In 1866 the National Labor Union decided to organize black workers within its ranks, but by 1869 it was urging colored delegates to its convention to form their own separate organization. This resulted in the creation of the National Negro Labor Convention. This split between black and white workers tended to push blacks into political action while whites put all their efforts into economic advancement.
The Knights of Labor was formed in 1869, and it did seriously try to organize blacks and whites. In the North it operated mixed locals, and in the South it had separate black and white organizations. It employed both black and white organizers. In 1886 its total membership was estimated at 700,000 of which 60,000 were black. The following year its total membership had shrunk to 500,000, but its black membership had increased to 90,000. The early labor movement which strove to organize the mass of industrial workers was soon replaced by skilled trade unions which aimed at the organization of a labor elite.
Although the American Federation of Labor did not profess racial discrimination as a deliberate national policy, many of its individual trade unions did, and, because of its federated structure, the A. F. of L. had no power over local discriminatory practices. Whites in skilled trades used unions to maintain an exclusive control in those trades, and they deliberately strove to relegate blacks to the lower ranks of industrial labor. Barred from the road to advancement, black labor became a permanent industrial proletariat.
The Freedmen's Bureau was the one federal attempt to raise the social and economic standing of the ex-slave. Along with the American Missionary Association, the Freedmen's Bureau did significant work in education. Hundreds of teachers staffed scores of schools and brought some degree of literacy and job skills to thousands of pupils. However, beyond the field of education, the bureau did little except to provide temporary help. Begun as a war measure, when the Radical Republicans came into control, they put it on a more permanent footing. Even liberals, however, were not prepared to support a long-term social experiment, and, after some half dozen years, the Bureau was terminated. This left the Afro-American community without the economic base necessary for competing in American society on an equal basis.
The one achievement of Reconstruction had been to guarantee minimum of political and civil rights to the ex-slave, but white supremacy advocates were adamant in their intention to destroy this advance. Where terror and intimidation were not successful, relentless economic pressure by landowners, merchants, and industrialists brought most of the ex-slaves into line. Year by year they exerted less influence at the voting booths. Although the country was aware of this, Northern liberals were growing weary of the unending fight to protect the freedman. Furthermore, masses of Northern whites sympathized with Southern race prejudice. While they did approve of ending slavery, they were not willing to extend social and political equality. The North had begun to put a higher priority on peace than on justice. Industrialists were expanding their businesses rapidly, and they wanted the South to be pacified, so that it would be a safe area for investment and expansion. If this meant returning power to white conservatives, they were willing to pay the price. The presidential election of 1876 degenerated into chaos and confusion. Samuel J. Tilden, the Democratic candidate, and Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican, disputed its results. Democrats and Republicans both claimed twenty electoral votes from Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida. The first returns had shown that Tilden was the victor, but Republicans, especially Army veterans, warned that they would not accept such a result. The Republicans represented themselves as the party of the Union, and they claimed that the Democrats were the party of secession. The debate grew so heated that it appeared war could erupt again. Pessimists warned that it would be the last free election in American history. After months of bickering, a compromise was reached. The South was willing to support Republican Hayes if, when in power, he would remove the troops and restore home rule. The votes were counted again in the four states in question, and all twenty were awarded to Hayes allowing him to win by one electoral vote.
Hayes began on an ambivalent note. On one hand he said that the country must have honest and equal government, This would appear to be a concession to the South which complained vehemently about the supposed corruption of black Reconstruction. On the other hand, he admitted that the rights of blacks must be protected by the Federal Government. In practice, however, by returning the South to home rule, he abandoned the ex-slave. He said that the ex-slave's interest would be best protected by being left in the hands of honest and influential Southern whites. Hayes had expressed an awareness of the brutality and intimidation which still continued in the South, but he had apparently concluded that federal intervention only aggravated the problem. In his opinion Southern gentlemen were not thieves and cut-throats; they too were educated, civilized, and Christians. The fact that they were not aware of the brutality in their midst and that some of them undoubtedly participated in it, bewildered him. He was willing to proceed on the assumption that, if the Southern whites were left alone, they would, as they asserted, treat the ex-slave honestly and fairly. Hayes seemed unaware that men could be educated, civilized, and claim to be Christians while at the same time behaving as bigots and racists. To satisfy the industrialists in the North and the white conservatives in the South, Hayes buried the last remains of Reconstruction. However, he made a one-sided compromise. While he committed himself to immediate action, the South was only bound by vague promises to be fulfilled at some indefinite date. At the end of his term white supremacy in the South was more firmly rooted than it had been when he took office
The New Racism
For several years the fate of the Southern Negro hung in the balance. With home rule restored, the South, so it seemed, had achieved its goals. Bourbon whites, the remnant of the plantation aristocracy, dominated the Southern Democratic party and through it controlled state and local governments. There was a growing discontent among small farmers who wanted the state governments to alter the tax burden and interest rates in their favor. Largely spearheaded by the Populist movement, Negro and white farmers came to see that their interests were identical. The Southern Farmers' Alliance grew rapidly, and it encouraged the formation of the colored farmers' organizations with which it was closely allied. In Georgia, Tom Watson led the attempt to form a coalition between Negro and white farmers against the interests of the conservative white aristocracy. Hopes for a genuinely popular government and for a society free from racial tension reached a high level.
Unfortunately, some Negroes continued to back the Democratic party. House servants had always felt close to the gentry, and many of them remembered that poor white farmers had always been particularly prejudiced against them. In turn, conservatives deliberately encouraged racial hatred in order to drive a wedge between poor whites and Negroes within the rising Populist movement. It became evident to both Democrats and populists that the Negro vote had become the deciding vote in many states. White farmers and white aristocrats both felt uneasy over this state of affairs.
The result was widespread agreement to systematically and legally eliminate Negroes from politics altogether. State constitutions were either amended or rewritten. Literacy tests and poll taxes became standard devices for limiting Negro voting. The "understanding test" required a citizen to interpret a portion of the state constitution to the satisfaction of the registrar. The severity of the test varied invariably with the color of the applicant. The "grandfather clause" prohibited those whose ancestors had not voted from exercising the franchise. Because slaves had not voted, their descendants were disqualified. Although the Fifteenth Amendment had been designed to guarantee the vote to the ex-slave, the South now evaded it. Although both major parties complained about this disenfranchisement and condemned it as being unconstitutional, neither party took any action. The Supreme Court also played an important part in restricting the freedom of freedmen. In 1883 it declared the 1875 Civil Rights Act to be unconstitutional. This act had made it illegal for individuals to discriminate in public accommodations. Although it had never been enforced, the court's decision nevertheless, came as a setback, because it was the signal to the South that through Jim Crow legislation Negroes could be kept in "their place." Under slavery there had been considerable social contact between the races. Segregation as a social system was begun in the North prior to the Civil War, but, during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, Southern states made it a legal requirement. Its relentless growth is carefully outlined by C. Vann Woodward in his book The Strange Career of Jim Crow. Finally the South developed two societies with two sets of institutions: separate railroad cars, separate waiting rooms, separate wash rooms, separate drinking fountains, separate hospitals, separate schools, separate restaurants, separate cemeteries and, although there was only one judicial system, separate Bibles for taking oaths.
In 1896 the Supreme Court gave its blessing to the Jim Crow system. Plessy, a Louisiana mulatto, insisted on riding in the white car on the train. He was arrested and found guilty of violating the state statute. He appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court, but it upheld his conviction by claiming that "separate but equal" facilities were not a violation of his rights. Because the court did not define what it meant by equal and did not insist on enforcing that equality in concrete terms, its decision was, in fact, a blatant justification for separate and inferior facilities for Negroes.
Segregation was accompanied by a new wave of race hatred. White Americans came to believe that all Negroes were alike and therefore could be treated as a group. An identical stereotype of the Negro fixed itself on the white mind throughout the entire country. If the Northerner hated this stereotype somewhat less than did the Southerner, it was only because the number of Negroes in the North was considerably smaller. At the end of the century only two percent of the total number of Afro-Americans was to be found in the North. The great northern migration had not yet begun.
Both the Northern press and the genteel literary magazines contained the same vulgar image of the Negro which was to be found in openly racist communities in the South. Whether he appeared in news articles, editorials, cartoons, or works of fiction, he was universally portrayed as superstitious, stupid, lazy, happy-go-lucky, a liar, a thief, and a drunkard. He loved fun, clothes, and trinkets as well as chickens, watermelons, and sweet potatoes. Usually he was depicted as having been a faithful and loving slave before Emancipation, but, unfortunately, he was unable to adjust to his new freedom News stories and editorials referred to Negroes in slanderous terms without any apparent sense of embarrassment. Phrases like "barbarian," "Negro ruffian," "African Annie," "colored cannibal," "coon," and "darkie" were standard epithets. Whenever blacks were depicted in cartoons or photographs, the stereotype presented them as having thick lips, flat noses, big ears, big feet, and kinky woolly hair. News items concerning those involved in criminal activities almost always identified them by color. This contributed to the development of the stereotype of the criminal Negro.
Throughout its history, America had been predominantly an Anglo-Saxon and Protestant country. The Afro-American stood out in sharp distinction to this picture both because of his color and his African heritage. By the end of the nineteenth century America was being flooded with immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. They too were much darker than the dominant strains of Northern Europe, and many were Catholics. There was a growing feeling that these new immigrants, like the Negroes, were inherently alien and intrinsically unassimilable. Liberals in the progressive movement, who were concerned about protecting the integrity and morality of American society, were in the fore-front of those who feared the new hordes of "swarthy" immigrants.
One of those who feared that the large influx of South and East Europeans would undermine the quality of American life was Madison Grant. In his book The Passing of the Great Race, he warned that Nordic excellence would be swamped by the faster-spawning Catholic immigrants. Originally these racial stereotypes had some cultural and historical basis, but they were gaining a new strength and authority from the sociological and biological sciences centering in the concepts of Social Darwinisn.
Darwinism and related theories in anthropology and sociology helped to give an aura of respectability to racism in both Europe and America. The same kind of pseudo-scientific thinking which was developed in Europe to justify anti-Semitism was used in America to reinforce prejudices against Negroes as well as against Jews and South Europeans. In the first half of the nineteenth century the American anthropologist Samuel George Morton argued that each race had its own unique characteristics. Racial character, he believed, was the result of inheritance rather than of environment. Because these characteristics found specific environments congenial, each race had gravitated to its preordained geographic habitat.
Darwin's theory of evolution offered another explanation for the existence of differing species in the animal kingdom, and anthropologists concluded that it would also provide an explanation for racial differences in mankind. Early anthropologists and sociologists were preoccupied with dividing humanity into differing races and trying to catalog and explain these differences. Phrenology was another pseudo-science which attempted to construct a system according to which intellectual and moral characteristics would be correlated with the size and shape of the human head. On this basis many tried to divide mankind into physical types and to assign to each its own intellectual and moral qualities. Another one who believed that human races could be scientifically measured and that their superiority and inferiority could thus be established was Joseph A. de Gobineau, a French anthropologist. Herbert Spencer took Darwin's concept of the survival of the fittest and used it as a scientific justification for the competitive spirit, It became the basis of the explanation why some individuals moved up the social ladder while others remained behind. Racial thinkers applied the concept of human competitiveness to racial conflict instead of to individual competition. In its usual form the Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic race was depicted as superior, and the Semitic and Negroid races as inferior. Human history was explained as the history of race conflict, and racial hostility was justified because, through this conflict, the superior types would survive and human civilization would be elevated. The concept of human equality was reduced to a meaningless abstraction, Scholars like William Graham Sumner insisted that the founding fathers only intended human equality to refer to their own kind of people.
To Thomas Nelson Page, in the North American Review, it appeared that the African race had not progressed in human history. It had failed to progress in America, not because it had been enslaved, but because it did not have the faculty to raise itself above that status. He continued to argue that its inability to advance in the scale of civilization was demonstrated by the level of social and political life to be found in Liberia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil. In the same journal, Theodore Roosevelt announced that the African was a member of "a perfectly stupid race" which was kept down by a lack of natural development. Another one whose views became influential was Josiah Strong. A prominent clergyman at the turn of the century, he was of the opinion that the pressure of population expansion would eventually push the whites, who had superior energy and talent, into Mexico, South and Central America, the islands of the seas, and eventually into Africa itself. This expansion would lead to racial conflict which would culminate in the survival of the fittest through the victory of the white over the colored races of the world. Strong's belief that white racial superiority would naturally lead to racial imperialism and world domination by the white race was shared by many contemporary Americans. A few of those who shared his ideas were Senator Albert Beveridge, Senator Cabot Lodge, John Hay, Admiral Alfred T. Mahan, and Theodore Roosevelt. Racism opened the door to American imperialism.
The new racism could not depend on the existence of slavery in order to reinforce white superiority. Instead, it drew on racial stereotypes and flimsy scientific opinion. The conquest of Africa by Europe and the American acquisition of lands in the Caribbean and Pacific which were inhabited by darker peoples, were taken as clear evidence of racial inequality even in the land which had been founded on the belief in the equality of all men. Second-class citizenship for blacks had become a fact which was accepted by Presidents, Congress, the Supreme Court, the business community, and by labor unions. Segregation was universal. In the North it was rooted in social custom, but in the South it had been made a matter of law. Separate facilities were inferior facilities. The basic political and civil rights of the Afro-American were severely limited in almost every state.
Perhaps the clearest and cruelest index of the lowest state to which the black had been relegated was the large number of lynchings which occurred at the end of the century, In the 1890s lynchings of both blacks and whites were common. In that decade one black was lynched almost every two days. It became universally accepted that the American principles of justice, liberty, and equality did not have to be applied equally to whites and blacks.