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Tuscaloosa Area Virtual Museum

Reconstruction and Segregation

Reconstruction & Segregation

At the end of the Civil War, Tuscaloosa was in great need.  The University was in ruins.  Local industries were destroyed.  Many families had lost member in the violence.  Occupying Union Troops were assigned to the city.  And Blacks were now equal under the law but that fact had not met with universal acceptance by the white population.

Black Tuscaloosans began to assume responsibility for themselves.  The negotiated service contracts for work previously required of slaves.  They learned to read and write and established schools for their children.

They sought to worship independently and not under the direction of white authority.  Hunter Chapel AME Church and the African Baptist Church were established followed by the Bailey Tabernacle CME Church and the Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church among others.

The ability to vote and hold public office was also taken seriously.  Shandy Jones in 1868 was elected to the general assembly where he joined 26 others as part of Alabama’s first class of Black legislators.  The political influence of Blacks was highly resented by many whites and the Klan and White League engaged in acts of intimidation and violence to stop this.

The plans for reconstruction in the confederate states was never fully implemented and the support for the continuing supervision of the South soon waned. When the 1874 election saw the regain of the US House of Representatives by the Democrats the Union Troops departed from Alabama.   In 1877, as part of a congressional bargain elect Republican Rutherfford B. Hayes as president following the disputed 1876 presidential election reconstruction officially ended and Alabama was free to impose restrictions on Blacks.

In 1901 Alabama held a constitutional convention which had as its main goal the establishment of white supremacy within federal limits.  By these means Alabama restricted the Blacks right to vote with poll taxes and examinations by local registrars.  Also imposed were Jim Crow Laws introducing strict segregation in housing, schools, transportation, stores, and all aspects of public life.  Blacks had to ride in the back of public buses or in separate sections of trains, were unable to try on clothes or shoes in white owned stores, were seated in separate areas of dining rooms, and has to use separate drinking fountains and rest rooms.  The term separate but equal put the emphasis on separate but rarely, if ever, on equal.  Lynchings flourished creating fear and compliance.