The Legacy Of The Civil War And The Long Road To Civil Rights

"Freedom March" by Stuart Hamilton

The flames of the Civil War forged the framework of modern America.

"The Civil War was the fulcrum for the civil rights movement," said Lawrence Goldstone, a constitutional scholar and author of Inherently Unequal, which examines the factors that led to Jim Crow laws in the United States.

In the following years following the Civil War, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery; the 14th conferred citizenship and equal protection under the law to white and black; and the 15th gave black American males the right to vote. In 1875, the most comprehensive civil rights legislation in the nation’s history granted all Americans “the full and equal enjoyment” of public accomodations.

Just eight years later, the Supreme Court, by an 8-1 vote, overturned the Civil Rights Act as unconstitutional and, in the process, disemboweled the equal protection provisions of the 14th Amendment. Using court records and accounts of the period, Lawrence Goldstone chronicles how “by the dawn of the 20th century the U.S. had become the nation of Jim Crow laws, quasi-slavery, and precisely the same two-tiered system of justice that had existed in the slave era.”