The 15th Amendment was passed in 1870 and functioned to prohibit laws being passed that restricted individuals to vote based on "race, color, or previous condition of servitude" (Raleigh, 2001). These amendments were pivotal in the history of African Americans and along with the 20th century Civil Rights movement constitute the most crucial periods in terms of freedom for African Americans.Even as the Constitution guaranteed rights to African Americans there was still a substantial amount of resistance, particularly at the hands of Southern states. This era saw the rise of the Ku Klux Klan as a means of oppressing African Americans. The Klan would engage in acts of terrorism, including house burnings and murder, as a means of intimidating African Americans. The Civil Rights Act of 1871 was put in place to restrict ethnic violence in response to the Ku Klux Klan movement (Stevens, 2001). During this period ‘black codes’ were also enacted as a means of attempting to oppress the recently freed African Americans. These acts were enacted by some Southern states as a means of continuing to restrict the rights of African Americans through controlling employment, their right to own firearms, or act as jurors in trials of white individuals. With the Civil Rights Act of 1866 these acts were repealed (Stevens, 2001). With the added control over employment and the plentiful agricultural land in the Southern regions, African Americans began engaging in sharecropping activities. Sharecropping occurred on land that was previously used as a plantation. In these instances, African Americans would rent small plots of land from the plantation owner to harvest their own crops. During this period there were also extraordinarily high illiteracy rates among African Americans, with a reported 70% illiteracy rate in the Southern states (Stevens, 2001). In response, this era also witnessed the emergence of some of the first schools for black children. While there were public schools built for African American children, these remained segregated throughout the nation. Generally, these schools were poorly funded and inferior to the White schools. In addition to the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and 1871, there was a Civil Rights Act of 1875 designed to ensure that African Americans were treated the same in public accommodations (Stevens, 2001). While good intentioned, this act was ultimately repealed as
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