African-Americans for Kids
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Kidipede is a history and science encyclopedia for kids, with more than 2000 pages of expert answers to your questions.


African-Americans after Slavery

During the Civil War, in 1863 AD, President Lincoln announced the end of slavery. When the North won the war, in 1865, Congress and the states voted to change the Constitution to make slavery illegal, so all the people who were slaves in the South became free.

Some people chose to leave the plantations, now that they were free. Some of them moved to the North to work on the railroads or as house-cleaners or nannies or cooks, or to start their own businesses. Some people went out West to be settlers or cowboys. A few people went back to Africa.

Sharecropper boy
A 13-year-old boy sharecropping (1937)

But just like when the Austrian and Russian rulers freed their people in the 1850s and 1860s, most people just stayed about where they were before. They still didn't own any land to farm, and if they tried to get land, white people attacked them. A lot of people kept on planting and picking cotton, but now they were sharecroppers instead of slaves. For a lot of people, it didn't make much difference, only there were not so many beatings and you didn't have your kids or your husband taken away from you anymore. But white people still terrified black people by killing them for nothing, or for almost nothing, and no white judge or jury in the south would send any white man to jail for killing a black man.

About fifty years later, though, in 1910, the cotton was ruined by a kind of insect called a boll weevil. A lot of sharecroppers were starving from not having enough cotton to sell for food. Besides, it was getting cheaper to raise cotton using machines instead of people. So a lot more people decided to leave the South and go north to work. Because white people wouldn't hire them for any good jobs, they still worked mostly as servants or in hard, dirty jobs like cleaning streets or building railroads.

Click here for more about African-Americans

African-American Slavery
Later North American People
North American people before 1500
North America home
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Copyright 2012-2014 Karen Carr, Portland State University. This page last updated 2014. Powered by Dewahost.
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