President Hayes kept his campaign promise to remove Federal troops from the South, ending the period known as Reconstruction. The order was given on May 1, 1877. The decision to end Reconstruction and return the rule to Southerners soon resulted in the disenfranchisement of Blacks in the South.
The end of Reconstruction in 1877 was a significant turning point in post-Civil War America, particularly impacting the lives of African Americans. Beginning in 1865, Reconstruction aimed to rebuild the South and integrate former slaves into American society as free citizens. However, by the late 1870s, a mix of political, economic, and social pressures, along with a growing fatigue in the North concerning southern affairs, culminated in the withdrawal of federal troops from the South. The Compromise of 1877, which settled the contested presidential election of 1876 by favoring Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, symbolizes this conclusion. As a condition of this compromise, Republicans agreed to pull federal troops from the remaining Southern states.
This troop removal paved the way for the immediate resurgence of white Democratic dominance in the South. African Americans, who had achieved significant political strides during Reconstruction—holding office in many Southern states—witnessed a rapid erosion of their political influence. This decline was further exacerbated as many black individuals were systematically and violently removed from voter rolls or dissuaded from voting altogether.
By the close of the 19th century, this diminishing political power was further encroached upon by the enactment of "Jim Crow" laws in Southern states. These regulations institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination, establishing separate and unequal facilities for whites and blacks. Alongside these restrictive laws, African Americans grappled with economic disparities. The rise of sharecropping in the South entrapped many in a cycle of debt and dependence on white landowners, creating an almost inescapable economic hierarchy.
Yet, the challenges didn't end with legal and economic constraints. The resurgence of white supremacist groups, notably the Ku Klux Klan, meant that violence against African Americans became alarmingly prevalent. Tactics like lynching served as grim reminders of the racial hatred and mechanisms of control that sought to suppress the black population. Furthermore, the American legal system seemed to further entrench these racial divides. In the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the "separate but equal" doctrine, solidifying the legal basis for racial segregation for many ensuing decades.
The conclusion of Reconstruction initiated a series of setbacks for African Americans, making their pursuit of civil rights and equality a prolonged struggle that continued deep into the 20th century.