What Was Redemption in American History?

Redemption in American history is a term used to describe the period following the Civil War when southern states implemented policies to restore white supremacy and suppress black rights. The term “Redemption” was coined by white southerners who claimed that they were saving the South from “Negro domination.”

The Reconstruction Era

The period immediately following the Civil War was known as Reconstruction. During this time, Congress passed a series of laws aimed at rebuilding the South and granting African Americans basic civil rights.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery, while the 14th Amendment granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States and promised them equal protection under the law. The 15th Amendment prohibited states from denying citizens the right to vote based on race.

However, Reconstruction was short-lived. Southern whites resented these changes and began implementing measures to undermine black political power and maintain white supremacy.

Jim Crow Laws

In 1877, federal troops were removed from the South, marking the end of Reconstruction. Southern Democrats took control of state governments and began passing Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans.

Jim Crow laws mandated separate schools, restaurants, theaters, and other public facilities for blacks and whites. Black citizens were denied access to voting booths through poll taxes, literacy tests, and other discriminatory measures.

The Supreme Court upheld Jim Crow laws in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which established the “separate but equal” doctrine that allowed states to segregate their citizens based on race.

The Rise of White Supremacy

The end of Reconstruction also marked a rise in violence against African Americans. White supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan terrorized black communities through lynching’s, beatings, and other forms of violence.

Southern Democrats sought to disenfranchise black voters by implementing policies such as literacy tests and poll taxes. By 1900, the number of black voters in the South had declined from more than 800,000 to just over 100,000.

The Legacy of Redemption

The period of Redemption had a lasting impact on American history. It marked a turning point in the struggle for civil rights and racial equality. The Jim Crow laws that were put in place during this time would remain in effect until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Today, the term “Redemption” is used to describe the efforts of white southerners to restore white supremacy and undermine black political power during Reconstruction. While these policies were ultimately defeated, their legacy lives on as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for racial equality in America.

  • Key Takeaways:
  • Redemption refers to the period following Reconstruction when southern states implemented policies aimed at restoring white supremacy and suppressing black rights.
  • Jim Crow laws enforced racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans.
  • The rise of white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan led to violence against black communities.
  • The legacy of Redemption lives on as a reminder of America’s ongoing struggle for racial equality.


The period of Redemption in American history was a dark time marked by racism, violence, and political corruption. It was a turning point in the struggle for civil rights and racial equality that would continue well into the 20th century.

While we have made progress since then, there is still much work to be done. The legacy of Redemption serves as a reminder that we must remain vigilant against racism and bigotry in all its forms if we are to build a truly just and equitable society.