The Challenge of American History essay

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Before the Civil War a majority of African Americans were slaves who had no legal rights that all other Americans enjoyed. Enslaved African Americans were deemed chattels that could be passed from one person to another or could even be disposed in the most inhumane ways. While American republic was a slave nation in its policy, slavery was mostly practiced in the Southern States (Krauthamer 78-85). The Southern States were mostly agricultural and depended on plantation agriculture; they used the slave labor while the Northern States were mainly industrial and were not as labor intensive, so there was a little lower level of slavery. With the ascendancy of Abraham Lincoln to the American presidency, he engaged in an anti slavery campaign that ultimately led to the emancipation proclamation in 1863 during the Civil War. The emancipation proclamation asserted the equality and inherent rights of all Americans regardless of skin color (Krauthamer 78-85).

With the end of the Civil law which saw the Northern States emerge victorious, all slaves were freed. Freed slaves were however not granted full rights as citizens of the United States, since most Southern States imposed Black codes intended to keep the former slaves in check. While African Americans could own property and have access to the courts, the Black codes prevented them from voting or even testifying against white people. The thirteenth amendment of the constitution in 1865 abolished slavery but did not grant equal rights and citizenship to freed slaves. In 1866 there was a further amendment to the constitution which granted full citizenship to formers slaves. The fifteenth amendment asserted the right of every American to vote regardless of former conditions of servitude, color or race (Masur 124-135). While these amendments were curtailed by other roadblocks, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, these roadblocks have over time been removed; after that the current situation could be asserted to achieve the larger part of the declaration of independence and rights of all men as proclaimed by the founding fathers.

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