We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal .
Even after the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, African Americans have been struggling for the right to equal treatment that was promised in the Declaration of Independence. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution may have ended slavery in the United States, but it did not end racial discrimination and prejudice. In the years following the Civil War, blacks in the U.S. have continued to have to fight for equal treatment and civil rights.
After the end of the Civil War the U.S. government set out to reconstruct the country. A major point of concern following the war was how to deal with the freed slaves. The reconstructed states had to define the rights of the more than 4 million "new" U.S. citizens. The idea of treating the freed slaves exactly like white citizens was barely even considered.
States whose governments were devoted to white supremacy enacted what were known as "Black Codes". These codes excluded black people from voting and from juries, did not permit them to testify against whites in court, banned interracial marriage, and punished blacks more severely than whites for certain crimes.
Some states defined any unemployed black person as a vagrant and hired them out to planters, forbade blacks to lease land, and provided those black youths who did not have adequate parental support to whites for apprenticing.
Though the Black Codes were discriminatory, they were designed to address the genuine problem of black-white relations after the war. However, the codes caused a great deal of anger among northern Republicans. They saw the codes as an attempt to re-instate a system too similar to slavery. The Union army's occupation forces suspended the implementation of Black Codes that discriminated on racial grounds.
President Andrew Johnson issued pardons to many of the southerners who fought for the Confederacy.