The Civil War was the turning point in the history of the US. The Civil War brought consistent economic and social changes and defined, to a significant extent, the future development of the US as a democratic country, where human rights are respected. At the same time, the outcomes of the Civil War were not as perfect as they might seem to be, especially for African Americans, ex-slaves, who actually carried out the burden of the struggle of Federal troops against Southern army, but, eventually, they got little changes in their inferior position compared to the whites. Moreover, W.E.B. Dubois argued in his “Black Reconstruction”¯ that, in the post-Civil War USA, African Americans and white workers became mere puppets in hands of the white bourgeoisie. In such a way, the bourgeoisie encouraged racial tension between white and black employees in order to come white and black workers come into clashes with each other. In such a context, the failure of African Americans to improve their socioeconomic position consistently and to gain larger impact on the political life of the US is quite logical. At any rate, it is obvious that, regardless of certain changes in the US society, the position of African Americans had hardly changed since the Civil War.
In fact, the lack of positive changes in the life of African American employees was paradoxical because African Americans played an important part in the Civil War. To put it more precisely, the Emancipation Proclamation made possible widespread black military participation in the Civil War. The involvement of African Americans in the war between the North and the South played a crucial role because African Americans enforced consistently the Northern army and gave a strategic advantage in the war of the North against the South. At the same time, the Emancipation Proclamation was the first step toward the introduction of equal rights for blacks and whites.
Nevertheless, the emancipation of African Americans did not go further and African Americans failed to improve their position after the end of the Civil War. Instead, they faced the problem of the poverty, racial discrimination and ongoing oppression from the part of the dominant white group.
In this regard, Dubois’ idea that the racial conflict was used by the bourgeoisie to maintain control over the working class is quite logical because, instead of consolidation of working people in the USA, they started to struggle with each other. White workers viewed black workers as their rivals in the labor market. Therefore, black workers represented a threat to white workers. As a result, white workers came into clashes with black workers preventing the emergence of a strong movement of workers, which could have protected interests and needs of all employees, regardless of their race.
In such a context, it is obvious that the racial policies after the Civil War and the lack of improvement of the position of African Americans influenced substantially racial relationship not only in the post-Civil War era, but also in the modern society. What is meant here is the fact that the abolition of slavery did not bring the desirable relief to African Americans. Instead, they kept suffering from poverty, while racial discrimination became a norm. In addition, conflicts with white workers contributed to the formation of racist views, according to which blacks were viewed as inferior, while whites were viewed as superior. The racial inequality and the ideology of superiority of whites and inferiority of blacks widened the gap between white and black communities in the USA. Therefore, the contribution of African Americans in the victory of the North in the Civil War was not just neglected but African Americans faced a new problem ”“ the problem of the widening gap between formal rights and actual lack of opportunities to become equal to the whites. As a result, even today, it is possible to find traces of such discriminatory practices, which used to be a norm in the post-Civil War period.
On the other hand, the oppression of the African American community did not occur spontaneously. In stark contrast, it was a widely-spread policy maintained by the authorities in the US. In spite of the abolition of slavery, the US still needed a cheap labor force. In such a situation, landowners as well as capitalists owning large plants were interested in the minimization of costs of the labor force. The minimization of the labor course in the US could and did occur because of the increased competition between the whites and the blacks. However, white and black workers failed to unite their effort to start an organized labor movement. The labor movement could help workers to gain more economic rights and opportunities to improve their position. Obviously, the economic elite, namely white landowners and capitalists were not interested in the strengthening of the working class because it would threaten to their economic domination. Moreover, the strong working class would force landowners and capitalists to share their revenues with workers that would decrease benefits of capitalists and landowners.
Furthermore, the political power was still in hands of the whites, while the participation of African Americans in the political life of the country was limited substantially. In actuality, the white elite defined the political life of the country and it was mainly the white community that could influence the political life of the US somehow. In stark contrast, the black minority was practically excluded from the political life of the US. African Americans were not represented at all levels of the political system of the US. Even their vote rights were limited consistently and their vote rights were not equal to those of the whites. As a result, today, it is still possible to observe the low participation of African Americans in the political life of the country. They pay little attention to the political life and often ignore elections because they believe that their votes are insignificant in national terms. Moreover, many African Americans are convinced that they will not change their life even if they participate in the political life. Obviously, all these trends are the result of discriminatory policies practiced in the past in the post-Civil War period.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that the Civil War brought great hopes to African Americans but the post-war period was the great disappointment for them because they did not improve their position significantly. Moreover, the ruling elite, comprised of the white bourgeoisie, encouraged conflicts between white and black employees. As a result, racial conflicts became a norm, while the proletarian consciousness of American employees was underdeveloped that met interests of the ruling political and economic elite.