Almost all of the rights obtained by blacks during the Post-Civil War Reconstruction period were wiped out by a terrible Supreme Court decision and a filthy presidential election. During Reconstruction, the Confederate states were redefined as “conquered provinces“’ and subject to the will of Congress. The South was occupied by Union troops authorized to enforce military rule, as well as the provisions of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. The most odious Amendment to the Southern leaders was the 14th Amendment, which, in order to be readmitted to the Union, States were barred from passing any legislation which would deprive “any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law” and the “equal protection of the laws.” During Reconstruction, blacks served in every former Confederate legislature, and the U.S. Congress and Senate.
In 1876, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in U.S. v. Cruikshank that although the 15th Amendment guaranteed every black the right to vote, Congress could not deny Southern states the right to deny blacks the vote through literacy and property-ownership requirements. In that same year, the presidential election was one of the filthiest in U.S. history. The Republican’s ran Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio; the Democrat’s ran Samuel Tilden of New York. According to historian Douglas Brinkley (History of the United States) Tilden received 260,000 more votes than Hayes, but “irregularities – fraud, violence, and intimidation that kept some quarter million likely votes from being cast – committed by Republicans in the South and Oregon, effectively stole the election from the Democrats. A commission was named to investigate the election but it was followed by more chicanery.” Some Southern Democrats threatened open rebellion. The Republicans mollified them with a terrible compromise. The Republican’s agreed to end Reconstruction, and withdraw all military from the South and in return, Hayes would become president. The deal was struck only one week before the inauguration. The result was that Southern blacks were abandoned by the Party of Abraham Lincoln, the same Republican Party that had done so much to free them from slavery. One by one, Southern States disenfranchised black voters by establishing unfair literacy qualifications, methods of testing and property ownership. Constitutional rights became meaningless. New Southern Constitutions were shaped to the advantage of the Ku Klux Klan. The result was that America ended over sixteen years of a Civil War and difficult Reconstruction “without establishing full freedom for African-Americans.”
The election of 1876, as well as other similar Supreme Court decisions, controlled American society for 88 years, until 1964 when our Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education and the new Civil Rights Act gave to every American citizen the ”equal protection of the laws” guaranteed by our Constitution.