The Civil War had ended, and for more than a decade a wave of equality spread across the states that had formed the Confederacy under the protection of 200,000 Union soldiers. Black legislators were elected and equitable laws passed. Children of all races were educated and minority businesses flourished.
In 1877 Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew all troops from Confederate soil, as he had promised Southern White democrats he would do, to secure his Presidency and resolve the election impasse between him and Samuel Tilden, the Democratic nominee. Old attitudes resurfaced as Rebel flags were raised once again, not in battle, but heralding the return of White superiority. New and expanded Jim Crow laws were passed, Ku Klux Klan membership increased, and racial blockades that prohibited Black families from leaving the south followed. Thousands of Blacks were beaten or lynched without trials, and the states that had abandoned the Union now successfully deprived Negros of their civil rights.
The decades that followed were filled with a unique American energy. Railroads continued to expand westward. The Patent Office was busy registering new inventions that fueled the industrial revolution. America was becoming increasingly urbanized and moving vast resources from the land to the factory.
The 14th, 15th and 16th Amendments, which had been passed during the Civil War to guarantee equal protection to people of all races, were being successfully challenged in state courts throughout the old Confederacy. Racial mixing would not be permitted. Separate schools and churches were becoming obligatory and separate train cars and eating facilities were becoming mandatory for Blacks and Whites.
Hayes was succeeded in 1880 by James Garfield but four months after taking office the new President was assassinated by a crazed and frustrated office seeker who thought he'd been wronged. His Vice-President, Chester A. Arthur took over the reins. Arthur, a Union Army General, was more interested in reforming the Civil Service system of the Federal Government than in taking any action to defend the new Amendments against the South's Jim Crow laws. In the nation's new racial consciousness he also signed a Bill making it impossible for any Chinese immigrants to become citizens.
Another blow to racial equality in the south came in 1883 when the Ku Klux Klan Act, that had been passed in 1871 to fight the organized violence of whites against blacks, was overturned by the Supreme Court decision averring that the Federal Government had no right to interfere with state activities. Racial policies, henceforth, would be matters for states to deal with and of no interest to the Federal government. 'Separate but Equal' became a government mantra in facilities that were rarely equal.
A new century dawned and the United States, now one hundred million souls spanning the continent, embarked on a time of great changes. It was the era of Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, William Randolph Hearst, Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers. It was the time of Emily Dickenson, Scott Joplin and nickelodeons. It was the time of one of the worst economic depressions in the country's history. It was not a time of racial harmony. Within a decade war spread across Europe as countries found new ways to kill. Arsenals now included tanks, airplanes and gas warfare. Americans were called on to enlist in the struggle but a racist mindset continued to separate white from black.