Civil War to Civil Rights

Photo of African American man drinking from water fountain marked 'Colored.'

Though the Civil War began the movement to extend equality to African Americans, the promises of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments provide easier to accomplish in theory rather than in practice. The promising start towards racial equality soon faltered during the tensions of Reconstruction and laws were soon enacted across the country which enforced segregation of the races and the second-class status of African Americans.

Today, nearly 150 years since the end of the Civil War, people of all races, colors, creeds and beliefs continue the struggle to make America a nation where truly "all men are created equal."

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  • Booker T Washington National Monument

    A Time of Reckoning

    Photo of Booker T. Washington speaking in Louisiana

    Though the end of the Civil War brought the 13th Amendment, ending slavery and providing emancipation for more than four milllion enslaved people, the Reconstruction era during which Booker T. Washington came of age witnessed legislation that attempted to limit African Americans' new found freedoms. Read more

  • Photograph of a young African American Union soldier

    African American children, whether enslaved or freed, were heavily affected by the Civil War. The actions that these children took in order to help better their families and lives is a testament to the war itself. Read more

  • Fort Davis National Historic Site

    African Americans in the Frontier Army

    Painting showing African American soldiers in New Mexico in the 1870s

    Following the Civil War, permanent African American regiments were constructed in the United States Army. Although segregated due to race, these regiments served with honor and distinction, and helped to tame the Wild West. Read more

  • Woodcut image of an African American male slave in chains

    The Civil War culminated eighty years of sectional tensions - tensions begot at various times and places by debate over economic policies and practices, cultural values, the extent and reach of the Federal government, but, most importantly, the role of slavery within an American society striving for identity and economic strength on the world stage. Read more

  • Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

    Dred Scott Case Trials

    Painting of Dred Scott

    For decades the Supreme Court moved carefully around various controversies regarding slavery, but in 1857 it did no such thing. In the Dred Scott decision, it swept away decades of equivocation and ruled that the United States government had no legal right to limit the expansion of slavery into any part of the nation. Abolitionists and free-soilers were stunned. Read more

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