Historical background

Slavery

Slavery was a common practice at the time the United States declared its independence from the British in 1776. The Declaration of Independence did not change the status of slaves (even if it stated that "all men are created equal"), 

However, between the creation of the independent United States (1776) and the American Civil War (1861-1865), several Northern states abolished slavery. The South, whose cotton industry was largely dependent on slave work, did not pass such abolitionist laws. On the contrary, it sought to strengthen slavery.

Because of anti-slavery laws in the Nor…

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Emancipation laws

The Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 was only the first of a series of acts that were meant to abolish slavery and give African Americans equal rights. The Proclamation established that enslaved African Americans in ten of the rebellious Southern states that were not under the Union's control were to be free.

Note that, in Texas, the Proclamation did not become law until the 19th of June, 1865, and the event turned into the celebration of Juneteenth Independence Day, which commemorates th…

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Jim Crow laws and segregation

After the Reconstruction, Southern states passed a series of laws and local constitutions which were meant to prevent African Americans from becoming registered voters and from voting. These laws are also known as disenfranchisement laws.

Gradually, black voters could neither vote nor be represented, and the South was overwhelmingly ruled by a white majority of representatives of the Democratic Party – which had historically been the party supporting slavery before and during the Civi…

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The Great Migration

The discriminatory laws and the fact that African Americans were prevented from exercising their civil rights in the South lead to a huge migration of African Americans from Southern States to Northe…

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Civil rights activism during the Jim Crow period

During the Jim Crow period of segregation and up to the start of the civil rights movement, members of the African American community and civil rights activists were already fighting racial discrimination.

In 1909, various activists formed the biracial National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which would become one of the most important civil rights organizations in the country. NAACP was originally led b…

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