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African-American Civil Rights Movement (1865–1896)

The African-American Civil Rights Movement (1865–1896) refers to the post-Civil War reform movements in the United States aimed at eliminating racial discrimination against African Americans, improving educational and employment opportunities, and establishing electoral power. This period between 1865 and 1895 saw tremendous change in the fortunes of the black community following the elimination of slavery in the South.

The year 1865 held two important events in the history of African Americans: the Thirteenth Amendment, which eliminated slavery, was ratified; and Union troops arrived in June in Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, giving birth to the modern Juneteenth celebrations. Freedmen looked to start new lives as the country recovered from the devastation of the Civil War.

Immediately following the Civil War, the federal government began a program known as Reconstruction aimed at rebuilding the states of the former Confederacy. The federal programs also provided aid to the former slaves and attempted to integrate them as citizens into society. During and after this period, blacks made substantial gains in their political power and many were able to move from abject poverty to land ownership. At the same time resentment by many whites toward these gains resulted in unprecedented violence led by the local chapters of the Ku Klux Klan, and later in the 1870s by such paramilitary groups as the Red Shirts and White League.

In 1896 the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson, a landmark upholding "separate but equal" racial segregation as constitutional. It was a devastating setback for civil rights, as the legal, social, and political status of the black population reached a nadir. From 1890 to 1908, beginning with Mississippi, southern states passed new constitutions and laws disenfranchising most blacks and excluding them from the political system, a status that was maintained in many cases into the 1960s.

Much of the early reform movement during this era was spearheaded by the Radical

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