The Etiquette of Race Relations in the South: A Study in Social Control

By Bertram Wilbur Doyle | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
IF ETIQUETTE FAIL

IF THE period of the Civil War was characterized generally by harmonious relationships between Negroes and white people, it also seemed to foreshadow future unrest and disorder, provided the slaves were emancipated. Hence, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed emancipation for the slaves, a crisis 1 was precipitated in the South, and a new period of relations between the two racial groups was inaugurated. For, if the purpose back of the 'emancipation was to be realized, former masters and former slave's would need to learn new ways of association.

The new era represented an attempt to institute by legal procedure a system of relations different from that which had grown up in habit and in custom. It seems to have been forgotten, however, that some disorganization must, of necessity, occur in the stage of transition and that to change the status of men by executive fiat neglects the fact that the status was not originally acquired in such a way and, hence, could scarcely be so changed later. For these latter reasons, changes in the legal status of men seldom remain stable unless they have already been manifested in the social and moral order.

"Emancipation had made the Negro free, but it had not made him, in the full sense, a citizen. His status was undefined, different in some respects in every different community. Every day the Negro was compelled to face anew the problem how to, be at once a Negro and a citizen. This has been, and still is, the enigma: of the Negro's existence." 2

The law stipulated that the Negro was to be a citizen, but custom had defined both the forms of behavior expected of Negroes and their place in the social system. The battle lines

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