Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wilson Introduces Segregation

After the end of the Civil War in 1865, African-Americans emerged into fuller participation in government. They voted by the millions, and Blacks were elected as Representatives and Senators in Congress. Most social institutions were desegregated and integrated. But this era of freedom was soon to be brutally repressed.

President Woodrow Wilson, representing the Democrat Party of southern whites, didn't like the idea of African-Americans exercising full voting rights, or holding elected offices. Before becoming President of the United States, he had been president of Princeton University, where he created policies to discourage African-American students from even applying for admission. Cengage's history text reports that, as the leader of the Democrat Party, he had little sympathy for African-American desires to attend universities,

nor did Wilson, at this time, view with any greater sympathy the campaign for African American political equality. He supported efforts by white southerners in his cabinet, such as Postmaster General Albert Burleson and Treasury Secretary William McAdoo, to segregate their government departments, and he largely ignored pleas from the NAACP to involve the federal government in a campaign against lynching.

We see, then, a giant step backwards. Blacks were voting in fewer and fewer numbers after Wilson became president. His Democrat Party, for example, at this time imposed "poll taxes" and "literacy tests" for voting in those states (like Mississippi) where the Democrat party had a strong hold on political power.

Not until Republicans, like Eisenhower, were elected to the White House would there again be a chance for African Americans to resume that fuller participation in government which they initially had after the Civil War.