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President Andrew Johnson


Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson

After the Confederate surrender in 1865, President Andrew Johnson, as part of his plan of restoration, or Reconstruction, of the Union, appointed Provisional Governor William Marvin to reorganize the state government. A new state constitution was drawn up, formally abolishing slavery. The new government, however, was dominated by former Confederates. It enacted the so-called Black Code, similar to codes passed in other ex-Confederate states, which significantly denied blacks freedom of movement and of occupation.

Partly because of these acts by the Southern legislatures, the Radical wing of the Republican Party in Congress wrested control of Reconstruction from President Johnson and imposed the harsher regime called Radical Reconstruction. In March 1867 Congress put all the ex-Confederate states except Tennessee under military rule.

Their readmission to the Union was made conditional on their adoption of new constitutions acceptable to Congress. When Florida ratified such a constitution in 1868 and accepted the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, guaranteeing civil rights for blacks, it was readmitted to the Union. Moderate Republicans, many of them from the North (called carpetbaggers by their enemies), drafted the constitution and held most of the offices until 1877. Assisting them were white Southerners who were willing to cooperate (called scalawags). During this period a number of blacks held political office, and blacks generally made modest gains as citizens. However, many whites refused to accept the situation. Blacks were intimidated by terrorist organizations that engaged in such tactics as burning of homes and flogging or lynching of blacks they labeled as “dangerous.”

Partly as a result of such terrorism, the Democrats were returned to power in the 1876 elections. Because the Southern Democrats were committed to white supremacy, blacks were relegated to an inferior position, in which they were forced to remain for nearly a century.

To keep blacks in an inferior position, whites restricted their voting rights using various methods. In the late 1880s Florida adopted a poll tax—a tax on voting—that eliminated the poorest voters, most of whom were black. Fraud and intimidation against black voters were constant factors in keeping the Democrats in power. In the last part of the 19th century, Florida, like other Southern states, established racial segregation through laws providing separate public facilities for whites and blacks. Segregation became a basic rule in Southern society, helping to ensure that blacks would not present a serious challenge to the social order. "Florida" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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