American History as It Happened

MODULE ONE: 1865–1877


Compare and contrast: Examine the tactics described in Documents Three (“Education in the Late Rebel States”) and Four (“The Moral of the Memphis Riots”) by southern whites to oppress blacks. Explore the similarities and differences between the tactics in these three categories:

I. Goals

The tactics described in both documents were aimed at oppressing black people in the southern states and keeping them from gaining rights as citizens. The approach discussed in Document Three, which revolved around well-organized efforts to prevent blacks from learning to read, was devised to keep them ill-informed and powerless. In Document Four, the goal is starker: to attack, injure, and intimidate black people through the use of mob violence, aided by the collaboration of local law-enforcement officials.

II. Causes and Effects
The cause of both tactics was the racial prejudice of the defeated Confederate population, their raw feelings of “envy, hatred, and malice” toward the newly freed blacks, and their refusal to share civil rights.

The overall effects of these tactics were similar—the oppression of African Americans. The tactics in Document Four, of course, threatened black lives and resulted in many injuries and deaths. By contrast, the education-based tactics cited in Document Three may not have endangered African-American lives, but they posed a great threat to African Americans’ livelihoods. By keeping newly freed blacks illiterate and unprepared for jobs beyond menial labor, these tactics made their social progress enormously difficult.

III. Time Frame
Violence (riots, lynching, other forms of attack and murder) and the accompanying lack of protection from law enforcement caused immediate harm. In addition, the threat of violence inhibited black people from claiming the rights that were supposedly guaranteed under the US Constitution.

The tactics outlined in Document Three/education were systematic and long-range: Those well-organized campaigns to deny African Americans education were intended to cripple the advancement of masses of people both in the present and far into the future.