Today’s Globalization – An International Conspiracy by the World’s Rich and Powerful

C – Political Globalization


Afro-Americans under American Imperialism

III – The Formal and Informal American government policy towards Afro-Americans

Before we begin our description of American governance with respect to Afro-Americans, I would like to clarify the distinction I have made between “formal’’ and ‘’informal’’ American government policy.

One could say that a ‘’formal government policy’’ is the one which coincides , transmits and applies to the political ideals that are reflected in European Enlightenment(1715-1789), which were adopted and defended by the Founding Fathers of the United States, those who drafted the American Constitution. Any American government policy and any American political institution not conforming to these political axioms which make up the ideological core of America’s Constitutional Democracy, should be classified as ‘’informal’’ and ‘’illegitimate’’ human constructs, as ‘’political hybrids’’.

In the American Declaration of Independence which was adopted by all American colonies on July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson(1743-1826), who drafted in it the political ideals of America’s Founding Fathers, inserted the tenets that, ‘’…We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are life , liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men , deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…’’.(p.17, Freedom, a history of U.S., Hakim, Joy, Oxford University Press, 2003)

These political tenets of the Declaration of Independence were the ideological concepts of those European thinkers who had promoted European Enlightenment during the 18th century , like Jean-Jacques Rousseau(1712-1778), Voltaire(1694-1778), Adam Smith(1723-1790) and Immanuel Kant(1724-1804). Their intellectual teachings had produced a cultural upheaval in Western Civilization, leading to the founding of the United States in 1776, the French Revolution(1789-1799), the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789, and the creation of the modern nation-state which was based on a Constitutional Democracy, the first one being the First French Republic(1792-1804).

If we now examine American history, we observe that since the founding of the United States in 1776, as a Constitutional Democracy, there have been critical political indicators and   everyday societal realities of institutional and ideological digressions in relation to the universal humanistic and democratic values of the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the American Constitution, the last ratified by every American state legislature in 1788.

In the Declaration of the Rights of Man, approved by the Revolutionary National Assembly of France on August 26,1789, Article 16 notes that,’’…A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined , has no constitution at all…’’. ( Taking into consideration this Article 16, we could easily say that during the history of the United States, there have been a multitude of distortions and digressions of the democratic tenets of the American Constitution and the American Declaration of Independence at all levels of policy-making.Starting from the civil rights of American citizens to American foreign policy which has to have the consent of both Houses of Congress(House of Representatives, Senate) , if war is initiated on another country. One could therefore conclude, that the American government, both at the federal and state level, has functioned many times as if there was no constitution, as if the United States was not a Constitutional Democracy!!!

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 -1968 ) in his autobiography, tries to explain objectively the institutional and political contradictions which exist in America’s political culture , between the democratic political guidelines of a Constitutional Democracy and actual government policy towards its citizens, especially its Afro-American citizens. Martin Luther King emphasizes that ,’’…We cannot have an enlightened democracy, with one great group living in ignorance. We cannot have a healthy nation with one-tenth of the people ill-nourished , sick, harboring germs of disease which recognize no color line –obey no Jim Crow laws. We cannot have a nation orderly and sound with one group so ground down and thwarted that it is almost forced into unsocial attitude and crime…’’.(p.9, The autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson, Warner Books 1998)

The first and most critical political indicator of this democratic dysfunction in America’s political culture and American governance entails the vital political question as to who is legally and constitutionally considered a full citizen of the American state and a legitimate participant in the political workings of a Constitutional Democracy, with its elected federal and state political representatives.

Even with the Emancipation Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln(1861-1865), issued on January 1, 1863, and the 13th Amendment to the American Constitution which was passed on December 6, 1865, imposing the total abolition of slavery, as well as the 14th Amendment(1868) defining American civil rights and finally, the 15th Amendment(1870), ensuring the rights of citizens to vote under government protection, Afro-Americans ‘’pragmatically’’ and ‘’practically’’ acquired their civil right to vote only through the Voting Rights Act which was passed in August 1965,   by the American Congress. This government Act prohibited states and local governments from passing laws that discriminated against voters on the basis of race.( This means that it took almost 100 years from the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1868, for Afro-Americans to finally secure their civil status and their civil right to vote as American citizens!!!

The same type of government ‘’maneuvering’’ and ‘’stalling’’ occurred with the Native Americans , who had been granted the right to vote by the 15th Amendment passed in 1870, but practically could not vote due to their ‘’special civil status’’ in the Indian Reservations , established during the end of the 19th century. This created ‘’theoretically’’ a semi-autonomous political status under the direct control of the Central Government, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Snyder Act of 1924, finally recognized Native Americans as full citizens of the United States and their right to vote in federal and state elections. Nevertheless, Native Americans were still prevented from fully participating in elections because the American Constitution had left it up to the states to decide who had the right to vote. After the passage of the 1924 Citizenship Bill, it still took over 40 years for all fifty states to allow Native Americans to vote.(

This political process was finalized due to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which permitted the federal government to supersede state governments and state laws for political matters which affected the American population as a whole, in all the states, similar to the national defense of the country or the country’s foreign policy. This had also been the case with the civil rights of all Afro-Americans during the last 250 years.

Finally, we have the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, granting women the right to vote and providing Congress with the powers to enforce this article through federal legislation. At the time the American Constitution was drafted   by the American colonies in 1776, women were not considered as citizens equal to men, and could not vote, while Afro-Americans who were mostly slaves, were regarded as property, and as such, had no civil rights. This means that women in American society became legally accepted as full American citizens, with full civil rights, almost 150 years after the founding of the United States in 1776.

The one historical event in American history which clearly and objectively demonstrates the institutional characteristics of a political dysfunction and a lack of social integration and unity within the Constitutional Democracy of the United States, has to be the American Civil War(1861-1865), almost 100 years after the founding of the American state.

The American Civil War(1861-1865) represented a serious societal conflict between two political cultures within the same nation. It was the industrial northern states ,supporting economic and political innovation with a pluralistic society which rejected black slavery , and on the other hand, there were the agricultural southern states whose socio-political pillars were a landed aristocracy and a large black slave population of over 4 million individuals. The main political focus of the American Civil War was the abolition of slavery in all of the American states. This political position was initiated by the Republican government of President Abraham Lincoln(1861-1865), and supported by the Union of most Northern states. Opposed to the position of the Central government to abolish slavery in the wholeof the country was a Confederation of Southern states, which wanted black slavery to be maintained as a legitimate and legal societal institution.

During the 5 years of the American Civil War, there were between 620,000 and 750,000 casualties in total, more than the number of U.S. military deaths in all other American wars combined. The Union of northern American states had 224,580 deaths from disease, 110,000 killed in action, 275,154 wounded in action, and 30,192 who died as prisoners of war(POWs). The Confederation of southern states had 164,000 deaths from disease, 94,000 killed in action, 194,026 wounded in action, and 31,000 who died as prisoners of war(POWs).(

The cost of the American Civil War for the Confederation of southern states was 22.99 billion dollars adjusted to the dollar’s 2019 value, while the cost to the Union of northern states was 68.17 billion dollars adjusted to the dollar’s 2019 value.(

The northern states representing the Central government of President Abraham Lincoln with its capital in Washington D.C., had defeated the southern rebel states, initially taking military control of the territory making up the southern slave states. In 1867, American Congress divided the south into military districts to help restore and maintain the political legitimacy of the American Central Government.

Military personnel was sent to the south to organize and govern the military districts, and they stayed for more than 10 years.’’…This time is called ‘’congressional’’ or ‘’military’’ Reconstruction(in contrast to the initial period of ‘’presidential’’ Reconstruction). Other Northerners go south to teach, to work with aid programs, to help the state governments to get going again- and sometimes to make money for themselves…’’.(p.164, Freedom, a history of U.S., Hakim, Joy, Oxford University Press, 2003)

Before we examine and analyze historically , the ‘’official’’ and ‘’unofficial’’ American government policy with respect to Afro-Americans, I would like to state my own position or make my own political judgement concerning this particular American government policy and the societal status of Afro-Americans within the country’s political culture.

After many readings(books, articles, newspapers) and the information I was receiving from American television when I was growing up in Canada in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, I firmly believe that since the founding of the United States in 1776 until today, the White American political and economic establishments, as well as White American society, for the most part, have ‘’tried their very best’’ to create, manipulate and impose those socio-political and socio-economic obstacles which would prevent the ‘’real emancipation’’ of Afro-Americans.

A major focus or priority of White American political culture and its American defenders and proponents was to maintain the ‘’status quo’’ of Afro-Americans as ‘’second class citizens’’, economically, socially and politically, similar to the Native Americans. White America wants a ‘’secondary role’’ for the Afro-Americans in defining America’s government policies, its political infrastructure and its economic development.

When the United States was established in 1776, its total population was about 2,5 million people, of which 0.5 million were Afro-Americans, representing about 22% of the total population, the great majority being slaves( the American Constitution was drafted, the Articles that referred to Afro-Americans were ‘’indirect’’, mentioned in the context of ‘’slavery’’. Slavery was considered as a legal and legitimate socio-economic institution , protected by the government , while Afro-Americans were categorized as ‘’the three-fifths of all other persons’’.

In Article I , Section 2, the Afro-Americans are classified as ‘’the three-fifths of all other persons’’ because they are to be calculated in estimating the population of each American state , which will finally determine the number of Representatives each state is allowed to send to Congress, as well as the amount of direct taxes it will have to pay to the Central Government. The ‘’three-fifths’’ of a person was a compromise reached between the southern and northern American states, the first having the largest concentration of Afro-Americans, the great majority being slaves.

Article I , Section 9, and Article IV, Section 2 of the American Constitution, dealt with Afro-Americans not as citizens but as ‘’chattels’’ , with an economic value which had to be protected and defended legally. The Afro-American was considered as ‘’chattel’’, like a valuable farm animal, not as a human being. The Afro-American was not a ‘’regular citizen’’ who had the legal right to defend his or her self-interests or welfare, to be protected by the American government, or the right to participate in the political procedures of a Constitutional Democracy through voting in federal or state elections.(p.99, Freedom-a history of U.S. , Hakim, Joy, Oxford University Press, 2003)

Even though the Emancipation Proclamation is considered to be one of the 10 most important state documents in the history of the United States, the real political justification for it was neither moral or ideological , but ‘’practical’’ and ‘’opportunistic’’ . Certainly ,President Abraham Lincoln(1861-1865) as a democratic politician was against slavery as an American socio-economic institution, but the freeing of slaves through the Emancipation Proclamation was a ‘’strategic act’’ by the President not an ‘’ideological act’’.

We first recognize this, when we consider the historical fact that Abraham Lincoln as President, issued the preliminary draft of the Proclamation on September 22, 1862, stipulating that in the case that the Southern States did not cease their rebellion against the Central Government by January 1, 1863, then the draft would be activated as the law of the land. Therefore, the Proclamation was a political threat to the southern rebel states. The Confederate Southern States did not accept Lincoln’s political proposal or ploy , and the President issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.(

Similarly, the Emancipation Proclamation was selective and not universal, it would free the slaves who were living in the Southern Rebel States and not in all of the American states. For President Lincoln, the emancipation of the slaves in the rebel states served his political power base and the administrative   preeminent role   of the Central Government in a variety of ways.

The first and most crucial one was the economic, political and social ‘’disruption’’ of these southern states, since the large majority of slaves in the United States lived in these states. In 1860, 90% of Afro-Americans were slaves, and while Afro-Americans made up only 13% of the country’s population, in the South , ‘’one in three people’’ were Afro-Americans.(

Lincoln’s second focus in issuing the Emancipation Proclamation was to legitimize the means and the reasons to confiscate ‘’indirectly’’ wealth and property from the southern states, by legally and constitutionally eliminating the legal right of slave owners in the south to possess slaves, a very valuable property and commodity.

The third focus of the Emancipation Proclamation was the strengthening of the country’s Central Government and especially that of the President’s executive war powers.

The fourth reason was the political support Lincoln’s government would receive from Afro-Americans within the Union States as well as from Afro-Americans within the slave or Confederate States. In the emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln declared that all Afro-Americans who were in good physical condition would be received into the armed forces of the United States.’’…Five months after the Proclamation took effect; the War Department of the United States issued General Orders No. 143, establishing the United States Colored Troops(USCT) . By the end of the war, over 200,000 African-Americans would serve the Union army and navy…’’.(

Finally, within a moral and ideological context , Abraham Lincoln who was against slavery, even though through the Proclamation he initially freed only the slaves in the rebellious states, by the end of the Civil War (12 April 1861- 9 April 1865) , the Proclamation had influenced all American citizens to support and accept the abolition for all Afro-American slaves in both the North and South, while also promoting their civil rights.

The Thirteenth Amendment of the American Constitution was passed through Congress in December 1865, abolishing slavery in the whole United States.

The Fourteenth Amendment was adopted in July 1868, which defined citizenship and gave protection to a citizen’s civil rights from being denied by the federal and state governments. This Amendment was bitterly contested by the former slave states of the South with their large Afro-American populations, because it granted and protected the American citizenship for all Afro-Americans.

The Fifteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution was ratified in February 1870 by the American Congress, prohibiting the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on race. This Amendment was essentially directed to the Southern states who were trying through Congress to introduce legal impediments like ‘’literacy tests’’ and ‘’poll taxes’’, to obstruct the political emancipation of Afro-Americans , which would ensure their civil rights as American citizens.(

One could say that President Abraham Lincoln through his government policies concerning ‘’black slavery’’ ,reflected in the American Civil War(1861-1865) and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, was able to change America’s political culture to become more democratic, pluralistic and inclusive!!!

Five days after the Civil War ended , President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated . He died on April 15, 1865, and Vice President Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency.

Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) came from the South and wanted the Southern states to be readmitted into the Union of American states, with the least of political obstructions and with the least of reforms to their established socio-economic and socio-political infrastructures. He appointed military governors who would administer the former Confederate states until new civilian governments could be formed with new state constitutions. President Johnson (1865-1869) was a staunch White Supremacist politician who fully reflected the socio-political ideals of most Southerners and many Northerners concerning the societal status of Afro-Americans within White American society.

In his 1868 State of the Union address , President Andrew Johnson declared that, ‘’…The attempt to place the white population under the domination of persons of color in the South has impaired , if not destroyed , the kindly relations that had previously existed between them; and mutual distrust has engendered a feeling of animosity which leading in some instances to collision and bloodshed , has prevented the cooperation between the two races so essential to the success of industrial enterprise in the southern states…’’.(

This political declaration by President Andrew Johnson may have sounded racist and may have alienated him from many in Congress, especially the Radical Republicans, who wanted to introduce full equality between blacks and whites, and a more pluralistic society, but in its ideological context , it is clear and accurate in presenting the dichotomy between the ‘’informal social consensus’’ of White Americans towards Afro-Americans and their ‘’formal political identity’’ as Democratic American Citizens within a Constitutional Democracy . It is what we have described earlier in Part II of our article, when we emphasized the dichotomy which exists between the ‘’persona’’ and the ‘’psyche’’ of White Americans towards Afro-Americans.

The Freedman’s Bureau was created by Congress on March 3, 1865, to provide temporary one-year assistance to former slaves and destitute southern whites, victims of the social ravages of the American Civil War in the South. In July of the following year, Congress extended the life span of its administrative functions until 1872, this over President Johnson’s veto in Congress.

The American Congress decided then, that no ex-Confederate land would be given to the freed slaves, nevertheless, the Freedman’s Bureau was invested with the authority to sell to freedmen and destitute Southern whites, all abandoned and confiscated lands at a marginal sell-price , encouraging land ownership among former Afro-American slaves. Throughout the entire time of its administration , the Freedman’s Bureau controlled ‘’less than two tenths of one percent’’ of all southern lands, most of which President Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamation of May 29, 1865, restored to former slaveholders, while many freedmen were expelled from ‘’the land that they had paid for’’!!!.

As a consequence of President Johnson’s racist policy against the former Afro-American slaves or freedmen, the Freedman’s Bureau had to change its strategy of land ownership by freedmen, encouraging them to look for work with former slaveholders. Many became tenant farmers, renting land from their former slave masters, who took advantage of their weak socio-economic status and limited political defenses, by exploiting them, almost as slaves, often denying them of their earnings.(

The Freedman’s Bureau also provided food and medical care to the former slaves, while also establishing schools for them. By 1870, a quarter million black children and adults attended more than 4,000 of these schools in the South and several black colleges.

Educating the freedmen was the Bureau’s most important legacy, but also through its administrative capacities and prescribed political role , it facilitated the freedmen’s everyday survival.’’…The Freedman’s Bureau also helped the former slaves in the workplace. It tried to make sure that the former slaves received fair wages and freelychose their employers. The bureau created special courts to settle disputes between black workers and their white employers. It could also intervene in other cases that threatened the rights of freedmen…’’.(

During the summer and fall of 1865, most of the Confederate states held constitutional conventions to draw up their own constitutions , ‘’theoretically’’ according to the political directives of Congress, but President Andrew Johnson being a ‘’white supremacist’’, permitted only white Americans to participate as delegates who would soon frame the new state governments.

During this period of Reconstruction of the South(1865-1877) and the political and legislative procedures by Congress ,ensuring the full Emancipation of Afro-Americans, the general opinion of White southerners then with respect to the ‘’new social status’’ of Afro-Americans is best summarized by an article written in the ‘’Daily Telegraph’’, of Macon, Georgia, which states that ,’’…There is such a radical difference in the mental and moral nature of the white and black race, that it would be impossible to secure order in a mixed community by the same law…’’.(

During the years immediately following the American Civil War(1861-1865), President Andrew Johnson clashed constantly with the Republican controlled Congress, especially with the Radical Republicans, on the Political Reconstruction of the South. President Johnson vetoed legislations such as the establishment of the Freedman’s Bureau in 1865 and the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

The 1866 Civil Rights Act stated that ‘’all persons born in the United States(except for American Indians) were ‘’hereby declared to be citizens of the United States’’ and that ‘’such citizens of every race and color…shall have the same right…as is enjoyed by white citizens’’. Two years later, in 1868, these rights were further secured legally by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which defined the legal parameters of American citizenship and guaranteed all citizens equal protection under the law.(

The first political and legal focus of the 1866 Civil Rights Act was the reversal of the 1857 Supreme Court ‘’racist ruling’’ in the Dred Scott vs Sandford case, which stated that because of their foreign ancestry, native-born , free Afro-Americans, were not U.S. citizens, and therefore had no right to sue in American courts, which practically meant absolutely ‘’no legal protection’’ by the American government.

I would like here to provide more details concerning this ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, to demonstrate clearlythat the Highest Court in the land completely ignored the democratic tenets of the Constitutional Republic, which has been demonstrated ‘’time and time again’’ through the years , involving the civil rights of Afro-Americans, as well as Native Americans, as we observed in our article on ‘’Native Americans under American Imperialism’’.

Second, by quoting directly some segments of this Supreme Court ruling of March 6, 1857, we could better clarify the Constitutional legal status of Afro-Americans during this period of American history, a position which was defended in a variety of ways by the Supreme Court of the United States, by the American Congress, by state legislatures and state courts, up to the 1950s and the 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement by Afro-Americans.

On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Dred Scott, a free Afro-American, who was legally challenging the unfair treatment he was receiving from state courts related to his civil rights as an American . The Supreme Court ruled against Dred Scott in a 7 to 2 decision, which was presented in a 200 pages legal document. The opinion of the Court- the ‘’majority opinion’’, was written by Chief Justice Roger Taney, who once again demonstrated the prevalence of racism and ‘’white supremacy ideology’’ at the highest levels of American justice.

In the opinion of the Supreme Court, the ‘’majority opinion’’, Chief Justice Roger Taney states that ,’’…We think …that (black people) are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘’citizens’’ in the Constitution, and that therefore can claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary , they were at that time (of America’s founding) considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them…’’.(

A second focus of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, was the annulment of the political efforts made by the new state governments and the new legislatures of the southern states, dominated absolutely by White southerners and supported by President Andrew Johnson , who wanted to restore the ‘’political status quo’’ which existed prior to the American Civil War(1861-1865).

The white southern legislators saw little reason not to continue their political tradition of unequal treatment of Afro-Americans . They imposed severe restrictions on both the former slaves and the emancipated Afro-Americans through artificial legal regulations, where neither of these two groups could vote, serve in juries, travel freely, or work in occupations of their choice; even their marriages were outside the law.(

These racist and restrictive legislative measures by the southern state governments were called ‘’ black codes’’ and were applied only to Afro-Americans.’’…The defining feature of the post-Civil war Black Codes were vagrancy laws which allowed for the newly freed Black population to be arrested and sentenced to hard labor…’’.(

Many in the North, viewed these Black Codes as a way to get around the 13th Amendment and restore slavery in a different legal context. The Union military governors and the Freedman’s Bureau immediately declared the Black Codes invalid.

With the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1868,a new Congress hostile to the South took over the control of the Political Reconstruction of the South. This Congress overrode President Johnson’s vetoes in relation to the establishment of the Freedman’s Bureau in 1865 and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. These Congressional battles eventually led to the impeachment of President Johnson in 1866 by the House of Representatives, the first impeachment of a president in American history.(

Now under the directives   of a new ‘’more progressive’’ American Congress, most southern states held new constitutional conventions during 1867 and 1868, where this time around , the freedman citizens voted and participated. The new ‘’more democratic’’ state constitutions guaranteed the right of Afro-American adult males to vote and run for public office. We therefore witness for the first time in America’s history, some Afro-Americans in the South being elected in state legislatures and to Congress. By 1868, most states had repealed the remaining racist Black Code laws.(

When Congress withdrew federal troops from the Southern states in 1877,ending the Political Reconstruction of the South, the living conditions of southern Afro-Americans soon deteriorated. Reconstruction had brought positive changes in the lives of Afro-Americans in the South, especially in education and civil rights, but by 1877, the tide of political progress began to reverse due to the country’s changing political climate and the negative economic circumstances in the country.’’…The North had lost interest in helping Southern blacks. Many factors had helped kill Reconstruction: economic trouble in the country, a more conservative consensus within the nation, a general feeling in the country that Reconstruction had failed, the resurgence of the Democratic party, and a growing respectability for racist attitudes…’’. (

Thestates in the South slowly began trying to end the voting rights of their Afro-American citizens by inserting various technical clauses in their own state constitutions which could obstruct Afro-Americans from voting. While the 15th Amendment to the Constitution had legally givenAfro-Americans the right to vote, ‘’grandfather clauses’’ and ‘’poll taxes’’ made it almost impossible for them to exercise this right. These laws became popularly known as ‘’Jim Crow’’ laws, and remained in force from the end of Reconstruction in 1877 until 1965, this, always with the direct or indirect support of the American state through its various legislative and legal institutions. By 1910, all Southern states had excluded to a large extent its Afro-American citizens from voting.(

The term ‘’ Jim Crow’’ comes from the name of a black character from the mid-nineteenth century American popular theatre or vaudeville theatre , a theatre of minstrels. Crows are big black scavenger birds, and Crow was the last name of a theatre fictional character, who was almost always played by a white minstrel wearing blackface makeup. This minstrel character in the vaudeville shows became so popular , that ‘’Jim Crow’’ became an ‘’abusive name calling’’ by White Americans from the South for people of African descent.

The ‘’Jim Crow’’ laws were a series of anti-black laws and racist cultural practices enforced by local and state governments within the American states of the South, in order to maintain a subservient social status and an ineffective political role of Afro-Americans in the South. The term ‘’Jim Crow’’ is mostly related to racial segregation, especially in the American South, but we have already mentioned other such laws, such as the ‘’the poll tax clause’’ and the ‘’Grandfather clause’’, whose purpose was to obstruct Afro-Americans from voting and participating in the legal political procedures of a Constitutional Democracy. We shall therefore examine these three particular ‘’Jim Crow’’ legal initiatives by state governments and their negative effects on the socio-political development and status of Afro-Americans throughout the country.

We shall begin with the ‘’poll tax’’ voting clause, which required residents to pay this tax to register to vote or provide proof of payment for the tax to vote. Failure to provide a receipt or other proof of payment meant that you could not vote. The political and legal efforts made through the ‘’poll tax’’ to prevent Afro-Americans from the South from voting were very effective. In the state of Mississippi , fewer than 9,000 of the 147,000 voting-age Afro-Americans were registered to vote after 1890, while in Louisiana where more than 130,000 black voters had been registered in 1896, the number went down to 1,342 in 1904.

By 1962, just five states had poll taxes , Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia. That same year, Congress passed the 24th Amendment, outlawing the ‘’poll-tax’’ as a voting requirement in federal elections by a vote of 295 to 86. This Amendment did not become part of the American Constitution until 1964, when South Dakota ratified it.(

To demonstrate how effective the ‘’poll tax’’ clause was in disenfranchising Afro-Americans, we shall provide the following commentary made by Martin Luther King Jr. in his autobiography related to the voting participation by Afro-Americans in the state of Mississippi during 1963. He states that ,’’…The church burnings, harassment, and murders in this state(Mississippi) were direct results of the fact that Negro citizens could not vote and participate in electing responsible public officials who would protect the rights of all people. Many thousands had tried to register, in spite of violence , economic reprisals, and other forms of intimidation- yet in 1963, only 1,636 Negro persons were registered in the entire state…’’. (p.250- The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr., Edited by Clayborne Carson, Warner Books, 1998)

The ‘’Grandfather clause’’ , was a statutory or constitutional legal device passed by seven Southern states between 1895 and 1910, to deny suffrage to Afro-Americans. It states that ‘’…those Americans(all Americans) who had enjoyed the right to vote prior to 1866 or 1867,as well as their lineal descendants , would be exempt from recently enacted educational , property, or tax requirements for voting…’’. The fact that the former slaves had not been granted the right to vote until the passing of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution in 1870, these Afro-Americans were effectively excluded from voting, while at the same time, it assured the franchise to many poor and illiterate White Americans.

Even though the American Supreme Court declared in 1915 that the ‘’Grandfather clause’’ was unconstitutional because it ignored the ‘’equal voting rights’’ of Afro-Americans, guaranteed by the 15th Amendment of the American Constitution of 1870, it was not until 50 years later, as well as almost 100 years after the 15th Amendment, when President Lyndon B. Johnson(1963-1969) introduced the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that the American Congress was able to eliminate the discriminatory and racist legal and political interventions of the ‘’Grandfather clause’’. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, abolished any type of voter prerequisites in order to vote, while it also enforced federal supervision of voter registration. With the passing of the Voting Rights Act by Congress in 1965, the 15th Amendment which permitted all Afro-American citizens the political right to vote, was finally enforceable in its totality throughout the United States.(

As we have already mentioned, during the Political Reconstruction of the South(1865-1877), political steps were taken by the American Congress to legally protect and promote the civil rights of Afro-Americans, especially those of the new freedmen. The Civil Rights Act of 1866, was an effective and powerful political response to the ‘’racist’’ and ‘’discriminatory’’ legislations passed by the state governments of the South in 1865 and in 1866, undermining the social, political and economic status of their Afro-American citizens. These legislations were called ‘’Black Codes’’.

After 1866, Congress passed three more Civil Rights Acts, in 1870 and in 1871, which were intended to further protect the civil right of Afro-Americans to vote ,to hold political office, to be on juries, and to have government protection under the law.

The first Civil Rights Act in 1870, banned the use of terror, force or bribery to prevent citizens from voting, because of their particular race. It granted equal opportunity for every citizen to vote irrespective of race, while it also assigned the legal power to the President to use the army in order to enforce this Act.

The second Civil Rights Act of 1871, provided federal supervision of local and state elections.

The third Civil Rights Act of 1871, became known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, which made state officials liable in federal courts for depriving anyone of their civil rights or of equal protection under the law. This Act also went against the violence directed by ‘’white supremacist groups’’ of the South against the nearly freed populations of Afro-Americans. President Ulysses S. Grant(1869-1877) used the legal authority granted to him by this Act to dismantle the KKK, a paramilitary organization of White Supremacists, whose political agenda was the political subjugation and the social dismantling of Afro-Americans everywhere in the country, but especially in the South.

After the end of the Political Reconstruction of the South in 1877,racial segregation laws were enacted by the legislatures of the American states in the South, eventually becoming the most powerful and the most effective of the ‘’Jim Crow’’ laws, especially in the South. Segregation ‘’Jim Crow’’ laws remained active from the end of Reconstruction in 1877 until 1965, when the Black Civil Rights Movement finally had an important impact on the policies of the American Central Government related to the social and economic plight of Afro-Americans throughout the United States.’’…The laws mandated racial segregation as policy in all public facilities in the southern states. The facilities were supposed to be ‘’separate but equal’’, but in effect were inferior, creating a situation of economic and social disadvantage. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson extended segregation to the military and to federal workplaces…’’.(

The one legislation which attacked ‘’racial segregation’’ on a broad front was the Civil Rights Act of 1875. This Act made it a crime for an individual to deny Afro-Americans accommodations or services because of race or color.’’…The ‘full and equal enjoyment’ of any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters and other places of public amusement…’’.(

This wide range of anti-discriminatory legislation which combatted the ‘’societal segregation’’ of Afro-Americans was once again made void by the Highest Court of the Land, when in 1883, the American Supreme Court annulled its legal status, ruling that the 14th Amendment did not give Congress the authority to combat or prevent racial discrimination by private individuals. But there was a ‘’dirty legal catch’’ to their decision as it related to the legal protection of the victims of racial discrimination.

The ‘’underhanded formula’’ of the Supreme Court’s decision towards the victims of discrimination was that these victims were instructed to seek justice not from the Federal Government, but from state governments. It was widely then known that the governments of the states had began a ‘’one track’’ legislative course of passing laws and constitutional acts, which legalized and institutionalized the ‘’social inequalities’’ between the races. They began with the legislations requiring the establishment of separate schools for children of each race, soon extending ‘’racial segregation’’ to include most public and semi-public facilities.(

The Supreme Court ruling of 1883, had in a way neutralized the impact of the ‘’Equal Protection Clause’’ of the 14th Amendment , which meant that ‘’segregation by race’’ in the private sector and in a way ‘’racial discrimination’’ by individuals had formally and legally been approved by the Highest Court of the country. This Supreme Court decision was one of several which provided for the legal basis in the efforts of state legislatures to bring back the ‘’social status’’ of pre-Civil War days. We therefore witness ‘’whites only’’ signs starting to appearacrossthe South, but also in the North of the country.(

Beginning with the passage of an 1887 Florida law, states now required that railway companies provide separate accommodations for each race. When a similar bill was proposed before the Louisiana legislature in 1890, the Afro-American citizens of New Orleans , in a vigorous and legally organized campaign opposed it, and despite the presence of 16 Afro-American legislators in the state assembly , the law was passed.’’…Passengers were required to sit in the appropriate areas or face a 25 dollar fine (a large amount at that time)or a 20 day jail sentence. Black nurses attending white children were permitted to ride in white compartments, however…’’.(

Homer Plessy, a young shoemaker who was one eighth black and seven-eighths white, boarded a Louisiana state rail car on June 7, 1892. Supported by two Afro-American interest groups fighting against ‘’racial discrimination’’ and ‘’racial segregation’’ , the Citizens Committee(Comité des Citoyens)   and the black newspaper ‘’The Crusader’’ , Plessy purposefully sat down in the ‘’White Only’’ rail car, and refused to move when asked by the railroad employees to do so. Plessy refusing to pay the fine, was jailed immediately.

Homer Plessy with his Afro-American support groups, took the case to the local circuit court, presided over by judge John Howard Ferguson. Homer Plessy argued in the court that his civil rights under the Reconstruction Amendments 13, 14 and 15, were violated when he was arrested for riding in a ‘’white only’’ railway car. Homer Plessy then went to the Louisiana Supreme Court with little success. He finally ended at the Supreme Court of the United States to plead his case.

On May 18,1896, the Supreme Court voted in favor of Judge Ferguson and the state of Louisiana and against Homer Plessy. The Court decided that Louisiana’s segregation law did not violate the 14th Amendment ‘’so long as the separate accommodations were equal’’.

The following section of the summary of the ‘’majority ruling’’ of the Supreme Court , clearly demonstrates the ‘’cynicism’’ and the ‘’hypocrisy’’ which dominated the feelings and the minds of the justices of the Supreme Court towards Afro-Americans, an attitude shared by most White Americans in the South, and many in the North.

Ιn this summary , Chief Justice Henry Brown expresses the following political position by noting that, ’’…We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so , it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it…If the civil and political rights of both races be equal , one cannot be inferior to the other civilly or politically. If one race be inferior socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane…’’.(

This decision by the Supreme Court in 1896, involving the Plessy vs Ferguson case , a ruling in favor of separate areas for Afro-Americans and White Americans ‘’as long as they were equal’’ , was legally applied for more than 60 years, until it was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1954, in the case Brown vs the Board of Education.

In the case of Brown vs the Board of Education of Topeka, the Supreme Court ruled that segregated facilities were ‘’inherently unequal’’.

The Plessy vs Ferguson Supreme Court decision made ‘’racial segregation’’ legal throughout the United States, although it was applied more forcefully in the South. Nevertheless, some segregationist practices , especially in housing and in the labor market were also very prevalent in the North. Throughout the 1960s, thanks to the political work of the Afro-American Civil Rights Movement and a more democratic and pluralistic social environment , the ‘’Jim Crow’’ laws or regulations were dismantled through legislation at all levels, making it illegal to segregate public facilities, suppress voting, discriminate in housing, or prohibit interracial marriages…’’.(

The Supreme Court’s decision in the Plessy vs Ferguson case in 1896, demonstrates how the Justice System in the United States complemented and also reinforced the general political and social consensus of White America in undermining and in underestimating the social status of Afro-Americans, to the detriment of the democratic tenets of America’s Constitution and its political culture.’’…The ruling resulted in a major setback in the struggle for equality between the races in the United States and set the stage for racial segregation within the South until the overruling in 1954. 1896 needs to be a constant reminder to the people of our country of the horrible damages done to society when the highest court of law in the land rules against justice and equality…’’.(

Within the historical framework of the Political Reconstruction of the South and the ‘’Jim Crow’’ laws of the Southern States, there were two societal components or societal institutions which greatly marked the political culture of the country in the late 19th and early 20th century , especially in the South, while they were both interrelated socio-politically.

The first one was the creation in the 1860s, of a paramilitary political organization in the South by the name of Ku Klux Klan. The second social component was the illegal societal institution of ‘’lynching’’ as a justice process which was essentially ‘’mob justice’’ , beyond the institutionalized legal tools like courts, juries and lawyers or legal representation.

‘’Lynching’’ as a procedure of justice, resulted in the killing executions of Afro-Americans who were ‘’theoretically’’ found guilty by ‘’local groups’’ of people of various serious crimes, such as murder, theft, rape and bootlegging . There were also ‘’mob executions’’ of White Americans who were stigmatized as national traitors because they had cooperated with Afro-Americans and had defended their civil rights. Both of these hybrid and unconstitutional societal institutions were socially active and effective for the benefit of White American interests, but to the detriment of the civil rights and the everyday welfare of Afro-Americans, especially in the South.

With the Political Reconstruction of the South through the specific Reconstruction Constitutional Amendments and various Civil Rights Acts during the 1860s and 1870s, Afro-Americans were freed from the social burden of living as a ‘’subjugated peoples’’ , while also achieving their civil and voting rights. As a societal reaction to these dramatic democratic reforms , especially in the South, most White Americans who were historically attached to an ideology of White Racial Superiority , tried to counter these progressive political developments both legally and individually.

Legally and constitutionally they tried to define the legislations coming out from the Southern state legislatures dominated by White Supremacist legislators , but also individually or in groups, who would execute social policies outside the legal federal and state governmental framework. One of these para-state and illegal political organizations , supporting a White Supremacy ideology in all aspects of everyday American life was the Ku Klux Klan or the KKK.

The KKK was originally organized in the winter of 1865-1866 in the Southern state of Tennessee , a former Confederate state, by six Confederate veterans. In the beginning,the KKK was a secret fraternity club of former Confederate veterans, but soon it became a‘’terrorist organization’’ with a political agenda. Their White Supremacist political goals were to subdue and terrorize the Afro-American population of the South, so that these ‘’freedmen’’ would not succeed in affirming and reinforcing their economic, social and political position within White American Society.

Slowly, the KKK attracted former Civil War Confederate generals and spread beyond the state of Tennessee to every state in the South, and as members it included mayors, judges and sheriffs, as well as common White Supremacist criminals. The Klan in a systematic way murdered Afro-American politicians and white political leaders who supported the civil rights of Afro-Americans, while also intimidating tens of thousands of freedmen from voting as American citizens. The goals of the KKK were political but their methods were terror, terror against all Afro-Americans, which meant that they could be murdered by an ‘’organized mob’’ for almost any reason, and against White Americans who believed in social justice and in democracy.(

The historian Elaine Frantz Parson in her book ‘’Ku-Klux: The Birth of the Klan during Reconstruction’’ , writes that ,’’…From 1866 through 1871, men calling themselves ‘Ku-Klux’ , killed hundreds of black Southerners and their white supporters, sexually molested hundreds of black women and men, drove thousands of black families from their homes and thousands of black men and women from their employment, and appropriated land, crops, guns, livestock, and food from black Southerners on a massive scale…’’.(

The Civil   Rights Act of 1871, which is also called the Ku Klux Klan Act, allowed President Ulysses S. Grant(1869-1877), a former general of the Union Army, to dismantle the KKK which did not appear again until the beginning of the 20th century. This bill authorized the President to intervene in the former rebel states that attempted to deny ‘’any person or any class of persons of the equal privileges or immunities under the law.’’ The President could use the U.S. military , or use ‘’other means, as he may deem necessary’’.(

The KKK resurfaced in the beginning of the 20th century, when the United States experienced an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment and a negative reaction to the great migration of Afro-Americans from the South towards the North, searching for work in its large urban centers. But what reinforced this racist narrative was the release of the movie ‘’The Birth of a Nation’’ by film director and producer D. W. Griffith (1875-1948), in February 1915. The movie was a racist 3 hour epic film about the American Civil War and Reconstruction, projecting the Ku Klux Klan as the ‘’brave saviors’’ of the South torn apart by ‘’crooked businessmen’’ from the North and also by ‘’immoral’’ Afro-American freedmen in the South.

Griffith is considered as one of the greatest film directors of all time, whose father had been a Confederate Army colonel from the state of Kentucky. His movie ,as a popular form of entertainment, broke box-office records throughout the country. This movie seen by millions of Americans, depicted Afro-Americans in a very negative way , while at the same time, it glorified the Ku Klux Klan.

The movie ‘’The Birth of a Nation’’ was a great popular success not only because it was well directed and technically innovative, but also because it told a ‘’quasi-historical’’ narrative whose racist theme was close to the hearts and minds of many White Americans, especially in the South. Film studies professor Paul McEwen explains this aspect simply when he comments that, ‘’…People were primed for the message…hard to argue this was a distortion of history, when the history books at that time said the same…’’. (

Partly because of the migration of   Southern Afro-Americans to the large cities of the North during and just after WWI, the KKK expanded to all the Northern states. Membership soared in Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago, while mayoral candidates endorsed by the KKK won in major Northern cities like Indianapolis , Denver and Atlanta.(

The first wave of the KKK in the late 19th century was primarily a political phenomenon of the South, whose members were mostly lower-class White American laborers , while the second wave of the KKK early in the 20th century, had a national impact throughout the country and was composed mostly of middle-class White Americans. The first Klan organization   focused their attacks mainly on Afro-American freedman from the South, while the second in the 20th century, fought also against Catholics, Jews, intellectuals, and anyone who they thought undermined the purity and unity of traditional American culture. The majority of the members of the modern KKK were urban, middle-class , Protestant White Americans.(

In the 1920s, even though a portion of its members had murdered or physically abused those they considered un-American, the majority of the KKK functioned as a ‘’great fraternal lodge’’ and a ‘’nationwide political power’’. This organization encouraged its top members to become political candidates for political offices in all levels of government, in order to accomplish its nationalist racist political aims. In essence, the KKK was a national political movement of   White Americans who still considered Afro-Americans as inferior.

At the height of its political power and social influence in the 1920s, the membership had reached from 3 to 6 million people. By 1930, the KKK had about 30,000 permanent members, yet in national and state politics , their political and social clout remained and still remains, ‘’in other guises’’,significant.’’…According to a 1976 report by the Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission , ‘governors in 10 states and 13 senators in nine states were elected with Klan help. At least one senator, Hugo Black, who was destined to become a United States Supreme Court Justice, had been a Klansman’…’’.(

Hugo Black(1886-1967) was known as a defender of civil rights during his three decades on the Supreme Court. Hugo Black was born in 1886, and was a lawyer and politician from the southern state of Alabama. He was appointed to the Supreme Court Of the United States in 1937, but shortly after, a reporter exposed his past affiliation with the White Supremacist organization of the Ku Klux Klan.(

Let us now observe the historical and cultural significance of ‘’lynching’’ a social institution related to a form of societal justice executed by a group of people or ‘’a mob’’ and not by the various state institutions of justice and social order such as the courts, the state legislatures and the police apparatus. First of all, we have to specify that relevant historical research has demonstrated that ‘’lynching’’ is a criminal practice which is peculiar to the United States.(

If we now define the term ‘’lynching’’ as ‘’…the killing (by hanging, burning, or torturing) of an individual or individuals, by a group of three or more persons operating outside the legal system in the belief that they have the right to serve justice or to reinforce a tradition or social custom…’’(, then we could conclude that the American political culture lacks a viable or a stable component of criminal justice as a Constitutional Democracy. We could go even further and say that the fact that ‘’lynching’’ could function in American society for more than 100 years(from the 1880s to the 1950s) , there must have been tacit approval by the law enforcement state infrastructure.

Essentially, ‘’lynching’’ or ‘’mob justice’’ was an illegal means of social control of Afro-Americans in the Southern and border states. It represented an ‘’informal’’ popular justice system by   White Americans to terrorize Afro-Americans in order to maintain White Political Supremacy. Yet lynching was not exclusively associated with racism and the White hatred and fear of the Negro American, it was also directed against White American criminals, especially in the western states of the country, such as livestock rustlers, stagecoach robbers, gamblers and bootleggers , since in these states far from the center of American governance, there was a shortage of courts and law enforcement officials.(

According to the Tuskegee Historical Institute records , between 1882 and 1951, 4,730 people were lynched in the United States, 3,437 Negroes and 1,293 whites. The largest number of lynching occurred in 1892, with 230 persons lynched , 161 Afro-Americans and 69 White Americans.(

Lynching occurred throughout the United States, however the great majority cases of lynching in the country took place in the Southern and border states. Various ethnic groups were victims of lynching , including Mexicans, Chinese, Native Indians and Europeans. Nevertheless ,from the late 19th century and after , Afro-Americans were the prime targets of lynching , as White Americans, especially in the South, wanted to maintain racial control following the end of the American Civil War.(

We have already examined how the KKK as a paramilitary political organization had waged war against former Afro-American slaves in the South in order to obstruct their economic, social and political progress , after they had achieved full political emancipation through the various Constitutional Amendments and Civil Rights Acts between 1865 and 1875. One of the methods of their terrorist attackswas ‘’lynching’’.

In 1871, the Afro-American citizens of Frankfort, Kentucky, sent a petition to Congress , to demand government protection from the terror being inflicted on them by the various White Supremacist organizations such as the KKK. In their petition to the American Congress they emphasized the fact that, ‘’…organized bands of desperate and lawless men, mainly composed of soldiers of the late Rebel armies, armed, disciplined, and disguised , and bound by oath and secret obligations, have by force, terror, and violence subverted all civil society among the colored people….We believe you are not familiar with the Ku Klux Klan’s riding mighty over the country, going from county to county, and in the county towns spreading terror wherever they go by robbing, whipping, ravishing, and killing our people without provocation….We would state that we have been law-abiding citizens, pay our tax, and, in many parts of the state, our people have been driven from the polls – refused the right to vote. Many have been slaughtered while attempting to vote; we ask how long is this state of things to last…’’.(pp.173-174, Freedom, a history of U.S., Hakim, Joy, Oxford University Press,2003)

Although many White Americans from the South rejected violence against Afro-Americans, White Supremacists in state positions of power, such as governors , prosecutors, mayors and police chiefs were determined to preserve ‘’racial segregation’’ and the social status of ‘’second class citizens’’ for Afro-Americans. In many areas of the South, the members of the KKK were active and willing to use terror, violence and even murder to maintain the separation of the races.

Many of those carrying out the violence and the lynching were never brought to justice or they were arrested and tried decades later. Lynching was essentially a local community affair, most commonly in the smaller towns in isolated rural communities of the South, where people were poor, mostly illiterate, and where there was a lack of organized community recreation. The people who composed ‘’the mobs’’ in such communities were small land holders, tenant farmers and common laborers, whose economic status was very similar to that of their Afro-American neighbors.

Nevertheless, it seems that the whole state apparatus of these communities was willing to insure the continuation of this illegal justice system, since it was an effective form of ‘’popular entertainment’’ and a ‘’social control’’ of   Afro-Americans as a ‘’subservient race’’.( The Ku Klux Klan was promoting race in these rural towns and from 1882 until 1960, a total of 4,700 Afro-Americans had been lynched.(

In completing this article, I would like to provide two historical facts which I believe are relevant to the substance of our theme.

The first one comes from the autobiography of Malcolm X, where he describes his early life when he was growing up in a rural village in Omaha, Nebraska. His father was a Baptist minister and a political follower of Marcus Garvey and his political philosophy of ‘’back to Africa’’. Marcus Garvey(1887-1940) was a black nationalist from Jamaica, who created a political movement in the United States early in the 20th century. He promoted the full emancipation of Afro-Americans and their eventual return to Africa. The father of Malcolm X was killed by ‘’lynching’’ in 1925.

Related to his father’s murder by lynching , Malcolm X explains that ,’’…Among the reasons my father had decided to risk and dedicate his life to help disseminate this philosophy(Garvey’s) among his people was that he had seen four of his six brothers die by violence, three of them killed by white men, including one by lynching. What my father could not know then was that of the remaining three, including himself, only one, my Uncle Jim, would die in bed, of natural causes…’’.(p.2 — The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Ballantine Books, New York 1992)

The second important historical fact is that only in 2018, the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act was introduced to make ‘’lynching’’ at last a federal crime, after almost more than 150 years of lynching in the United States, and after thousands of Afro-Americans dying horribly in the process.(


lynching usa


Lynching in the United States