African Americans living in the southern United States after Reconstruction encountered extreme hardships in everyday life. Race relations between black and white Americans during this time period were highly strained. Segregation started to take place, violent acts brought on by white extremist groups were common, the Jim Crow Laws came into effect, and the disenfranchisement of blacks began. In spite of the many difficult obstacles, leaders of the African American community such as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. De Bois, and Ida B. Wells, spoke out about racial discrimination and brought various solutions on how to prosper economically and politically with the white race, but socially remain separate at the same time.
In the South following reconstruction, the economic growth was at a rapid pace. Industries poured out lumber, coal, steal, petroleum, and tobacco, just to name a few products. Most importantly was the production of cotton. In Tindall and Shi's, America, the "expansion of the area's textile production that began in the 1880's overtook its older New England competitors by the 1920's" (841). The rate of the industrial revolution taking place was so great in the New South that it increased the number of labor fivefold and consumption of cotton eightfold. Unfortunately, for African Americans these jobs were limited to whites only. Businesses began to recruit poor, white families from the country whom they would bring in to work for them. The labor of an entire white family was incredibly cheap, so blacks were not wanted. However, African Americans could take part in sharecropping and tenancy, which grew by the late 1800's due to a prolonged deflation in crop prices over a period of years. In America it states, "By 1890 most southern farms were worked by people who did not own the land" (845). Sharecroppers would offer their labor and in return would receive supplies and a share of the crop.