Red Record

Ida B. Wells-Barnett wrote a Red Record in 1895. This remarkable woman wrote this article during a critical time in American History, a time when blacks had civil rights, yet they could not exercise those rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was passed 20 years earlier and slavery was abolished 10 years prior to the Civil Rights Act, still blacks could not exercise their rights. Despite the death threats on her life, Ida B. Wells-Barnett insisted on writing this information to inform the world of the injustices that African-Americans faced in America during this era.

In this article, the writer states that southern white people, in essence, butchered blacks for what they (whites) interpreted as “rape”. White southern men, as the article states, believed that it was impossible for a voluntary alliance to exist between a white woman and a colored man; therefore, the fact of an alliance is proof of force. Ida B. Wells-Barnett put her life and livelihood in danger when she decided to write an editorial in her paper, the Free Speech. Surprisingly, this paper was printed in my hometown, Memphis, Tennessee, on May 21, 1892.

The one thing that disturbs me is the way in which southern white men treated blacks in the south. It appalls me to learn that white men, in that era, would go to the extent of breaking into a penitentiary, steal a black man, and then hang him for their definition of rape. The law was established so that every citizen in America could have the right to a fair trial. However, in the South, the law undoubtedly meant nothing to the white man, especially when it came to dealing with matters that involved blacks.

The white man felt as if he was “The Law”. Blacks were freed from slavery in 1865 by the 13th amendment, yet they were still oppressed. Through the accomplishments of the 14th amendment, blacks were given citizenship and the 15th amendment gave black males the right to vote. Blacks, in spite of all their governmental rights, still were not seen as an equal race, but an inferior one by most southern whites. One of the few groups of people that showed compassion towards blacks was northern white women.

These women were not seen as aiding the situation to the white man, but as “nigger teachers”. I feel that the southern white men knew the potential that the blacks had within them; therefore, in an attempt to keep them oppressed, the white man tried to intimidate the northern white women and allege that some black men were raping white women, when in fact the white women may have been attracted to the black man after discovering the intelligence and love he possessed. I am sure race mixing at that time was shunned; however, I do know that it could have taken place.

It grieves me to learn that more people died unjustly and without a trial than people who were tried and convicted in a court of law in the United States during this era. Wells-Barnett states that she did not write her paper in the spirit of vindictiveness; nevertheless, it is hard to believe that a person of her status would not want to be vindictive. Plessy v. Ferguson These are excerpts from the trial Plessy vs. Ferguson. Throughout the course of my studies, I have learned that whites and blacks often participated in everyday activities during the 1870’s and 1880’s.

By 1883, this ended after the Supreme Court encouraged racial segregation by overturning the Reconstruction legislation. Plessy was seven-eighths white and one-eighth black. In some southern states if a person had

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any black blood, they were considered black. Therefore, a group of prominent Lawyers sought to test the constitutionality of a segregation law that was passed in Louisiana in 1890. In my opinion, the judge in this case was racially discriminatory and biased.

I agree that this case does not conflict with the 13th amendment; however, it does conflict with the 14th amendment. The following statement was taken from this article, and I believe the judgment was faulty. “The object of the 14th amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political, equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either.

Laws permitting, and even requiring their separation in places where they are liable to be brought into contact do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to the other, and have been generally, if not universally, recognized as within the competency of the state legislatures in the exercise of their police power …. ” This statement is, as far as I can tell, a statement that condones racial inequality. There is no doubt that the 14th amendment guarantees all men equality before the law.

On the surface, it may not imply racial inferiority; nevertheless, it indicates that the law has no jurisdiction when it comes to social equality as opposed to legal equality. Due to the outcome of this case, racial segregation was condoned by the Supreme Court, a decision that stood for the next fifty years. Report on Wounded Knee Massacre and the Decrease in Indian Acreage (1891) This article contains excerpts from an annual message written in December 1891.

It is not clear to me who the author of this message is; nevertheless, what is clear is that there were some major hostilities between the Sioux Indians and the white settlers of this era. The Sioux were upset about the reduction of the appropriation for rations and the delays attending the enactment of laws to enable the Department of the Interior to perform the engagements entered into with them. From this article and what I understand from the text, the Wounded Knee Massacre is one of the most merciless events that our history holds in its deep dark past.

I understand why the Sioux warriors were excited by the teachings of their medicine men and chiefs. Hearing of an Indian messiah that would endower them with power to destroy the white man was more than enough to excite the Sioux. The Sioux expressed their excitement in a set of dances and rites known as the Ghost Dances. These dances made the white settlers who lived near the reservation uneasy; therefore, the Army was called in to protect the settlers. I believe if the white man had not begun to take land from the Native Americans, then this massacre would have not happened.

The article states that from March 4, 1889 to December 9, 1891, about 23,000,000 acres of Indian reservations was taken and added to the public domain, this is a harsh fact. The white man caused many Indians to leave their way of life and assimilate into the white man’s society. It appalls me that the writer of this article had the audacity to call the Indian reservation “waste land”. I hope the interpretation of this statement means that the land was being wasted because it was not being used to the capacity in which the white man envisioned.

In closing, I believe the damage that was done to the Indians is irreversible. Tragedy at Wounded Knee (1890) This article tells of the horrifying story, the tragedy at Wounded Knee. The trouble, as stated by Red Cloud, started when the Indians first made treaties with Government. The signing of those treaties marked the end of the Indian’s old way of life and customs; the white man was settling on their land and pushing the Indians out. Red Cloud states that the only way left for the Indians was to adopt the white man’s way of life.

The Government promised them all the means necessary for them to live on their land, yet the government never made good on all of the promises. On the other hand, the Indians were given tools and means to work their land; nevertheless, the few things they did receive helped a little but not enough to make a difference in their lives. The Government did make an Indian Department; however, the Agents were more interested in self-gain, than helping the Indians. This made a bad situation worse. The Government took their (Indians) ponies under the promise that oxen and large horses would replace the ponies.

It seems to me that the Government did everything within its power to disrupt the Indian’s way of life and culture. The Government did everything from taking the Indian’s land to removing the “real chief”. Throughout history the United States government has done what ever it took for them to stay economically stable. No matter what the situation was, be it taking land and starving Indians or oppressing and enslaving African-Americans, this behavior has been a routine practice of our Government.

I thought African-Americans had it bad during this era, however, it seems that the Indians had it just as bad or worse. I cannot imagine the way the Indians felt when their land, traditions, customs, the way they hunted for food, their rituals, and all the things that they cherished was taken; and to add to the sorrow, they were forced to assimilate into a white mans world. This had to be an awful feeling. From what I understand from the text, the Wounded Knee Massacre is one of the most tragic events that our history holds in its past.

The picture this article paints during this horrific event is one that I cannot fathom in my mind. The sound of machine gun fire and seeing dead bodies in the snow paid its toll on the Indian. This event along with others like it has caused the Indian to question the very existence of his God. A Sharecrop Contract (1882) A sharecrop contract, in my opinion, contained many passive forms of slavery. Although the croppers had basic freedoms, they were still controlled by the landowner. This contract’s tone seems to be a demanding one.

The croppers had no choice other than to agree with this contract. Disagreeing could have cost the cropper jail time. It seems that they had no other options, because all of them were former slaves and the only trade that the majority of them had was fieldwork; therefore, there was no better way to make a living than this. Nevertheless, this was not, by any means, a “great” way of life. The croppers were allowed to keep half of their crop, only if they complied with every demand in the contract.

If they did not comply, then they only received two-fifths of their crop. Crops in which they worked and sweated so hard to plant, cultivate, and harvest. The rest went to the landowner. After reading such a contract, I believe that most croppers were discouraged, yet they knew that was the only way for them to survive. In this particular contract, the landowner had a policy that not only included him receiving half of the crop, but the cropper had to feed his workers three times a day. Many other things in this contract disgust me.

One such thing is that the croppers could not sell anything until the landowner was paid, yet before a cropper could bring home his net gain; the landowner had taken an eighteenth of the croppers fifty percent. The reason for this is the landowner charged the cropper to gin and pack all of his (cropper) cotton. In addition, the cropper had to haul, plow in cotton and corn stalks, clean out ditches, and repair fences. Above all the freedoms the sharecropper had, nothing could be more discouraging than the contracts that they were forced to sign. When I speak of force, I do not mean physical force.

These people had no other choice in the matter; this is why I say it is passive slavery. Instead of being beaten, these croppers could now be thrown into jail for not complying with the sharecropper’s contract. The life of a sharecropper can be best described as a person trapped in a revolving door; trapped in a system that was never designed for the sharecropper to become economically stable, but to keep them economically unstable and needy. They were trapped in a continuous effort to pay off their debts. Consequently, most sharecroppers never became wealthy.

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