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Freedom: A History of US.
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Webisode 7: What is Freedom?
Introduction Segment 1 Segment 2 Segment 3 Segment 4 Segment 5 Segment 6 Segment 7

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Awkward Collision
Segment 2
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On December 6, 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified. It said, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude ... shall exist within the United States." But Andrew Johnson was already working against it. The President's plan of Reconstruction put power back into the hands of the South's old white leaders Check The Source - Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction. And it gave African-Americans no civil or political rights Check The Source - "Deliver Us From Such a Moses". Soon every southern state passed laws that discriminated against blacks. The laws were called Black Codes Check The Source - The Louisiana Black CodesCheck The Source - The Mississippi Black Codes. They made it a crime for any black person to refuse to sign a contract to labor on white plantations See It Now - Displaced Former Slaves. And they gave African-Americans no voice in government. Soon outbreaks of violence against blacks were taking place See It Now - Race Riot in Charleston, South Carolina. At a riot in New Orleans, thirty-four blacks and three whites who stood with them were killed. Some whites put masks over their faces and began terrorizing and killing black people. They were members of a newly formed hate organization, the Ku Klux Klan See It Now - Ku Klux Klan Members, and they didn't have the courage to show their faces Check The Source - The Organization and Principles of the Ku Klux Klan. It turned out that President Andrew Johnson shared some of their beliefs. In letter after letter he exposed his prejudices. In one he wrote, Hear It Now - Andrew Johnson "This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am president, it shall be a government for white men."

The war had been fought to end slavery. But the black codes were there to do the same old thing: to keep blacks as a subordinate labor force. So, in 1866, Republicans in Congress—both radical and moderate—united to pass the Civil Rights Act Check The Source - The Civil Rights Act of 1866. It was designed to nullify the Black Codes. President Johnson vetoed the act See It Now - "King Andy" Political Cartoon. After a veto, two-thirds of Congress must vote for a bill to have it become a law. Two-thirds did. It was the first time in American history that an important piece of legislation was passed over the president's veto See It Now - "Awkward Collision". Andrew Johnson was furious. He was also stubborn and uncompromising. Hear It Now - Andrew Johnson "I am right. I know I am right. And I am damned if I do not adhere to it," he declared.

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Did You Know?
William Henry Johnson, who had been a slave in Richmond, Virginia, escaped to Massachusetts during the Civil War and got a job as a janitor in a law office. He became interested in reading law books, and then he became a regular law student in Francis Porter's law office. In 1865, Johnson was admitted to the Massachusetts bar.

Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?

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