Blacks wartime service breaks barriers of discrimination

As black soldiers helped the Union achieve victory in the Civil

War, some white people began to reconsider their earlier beliefs that blacks were inferior and should be kept separate from whites. "The performance of Negro soldiers on the front lines in the South helped make things easier for colored civilians in the North," James M. McPherson noted in The Negro's Civil War. During the war years, the U.S. government passed several new laws designed to reduce discrimination against blacks. For example, one law allowed blacks to carry the U.S. mail, and another permitted blacks to testify as witnesses in federal courts.

A major turning point for blacks came in 1865, when John S. Rock (1825-1866) became the first black lawyer allowed to argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Just eight years earlier, the Supreme Court had ruled in the Dred Scott case that blacks did not have the rights of citizens of the United States. The government took a number of other important measures to reduce discrimination and provide equal rights for black people after the Civil War ended.

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