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.

Photo of an older woman in a white cap and wrap.

Lucretia Mott organized the Seneca Falls Convention with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1848.

The Civil War

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.

Illustration of a group of black men in blue uniforms led by a white officer, charging a beach battlefield under the American flag.

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.

A Costly Civil War

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.

African Americans After the Civil War

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.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments