The women's rights movement set as its goals equality before the law, in the workplace, and in education. Some women also demanded the right to vote. The idea of women's suffrage sparked controversy. Many Americans, both women and men, thought it was ridiculous. Support for this idea, however, slowly grew.
Lucretia Mott organized the Seneca Falls Convention with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1848.
How did the abolitionist and women's rights movements highlight the limits of American democracy?
By the mid-1800s, the South and the North were developing along different paths. While the South remained largely rural and agricultural, the North was industrializing and had rapidly growing cities. Along with economic differences, the issue of slavery was increasingly driving a wedge between North and South.
The division reached a crisis in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Lincoln opposed extending slavery into new territories. Southerners feared that he would eventually abolish slavery altogether and that the federal government would infringe on their states' rights.
In the Union army, African Americans served in units commanded by white officers. Here, the famous black 54th Massachusetts Regiment attacks Fort Wagner in South Carolina.
Soon after Lincoln's election, most southern states seceded, or withdrew, from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. This action sparked the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. From 1861 to 1865, the agonizing ordeal of civil war divided families as well as a nation.
During the war, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a declaration freeing enslaved African Americans in the Confederate states. After the war, three amendments to the Constitution banned slavery throughout the country and granted political rights to African Americans. Under the Fifteenth Amendment, African American men won the right to vote.
Despite these amendments, African Americans faced many restrictions. In the South, state laws imposed segregation, or legal separation of the races, in hospitals, schools, and other public places. These laws were often called “Jim Crow laws.” Other state laws imposed conditions for voter eligibility that, despite the Fifteenth Amendment, prevented African Americans from voting.
African Americans also faced economic hardships. Newly freed African Americans had no land, and many ended up working as tenant farmers. Some headed west to work as cowhands or buy farmland. Others migrated to northern cities to find jobs in factories.