They were given public deference and titles of courtesy because they were white.
They were admitted freely with all classes of white people to public functions, public parks, and the best schools.
The police were drawn from their ranks, and the courts, dependent upon their votes, treated them with such leniency as to encourage lawlessness.
Their vote selected public officials, and while this had small effect upon the economic situation, it had great effect upon their personal treatment and the deference shown them.
White schoolhouses were the best in the community, and conspicuously placed, and they cost anywhere from twice to ten times as much per capita as the colored schools.
The newspapers specialized on news that flattered the poor whites and almost utterly ignored the Negro except in crime and ridicule." Some critics rejected Du Bois' critique of other historians writing about the freedmen's role during Reconstruction.
In the fourth chapter of Black Reconstruction, entitled "The General Strike", Du Bois makes the argument that after the war escalated, slaves in the Confederate states engaged in a general strike wherein they stopped work and sought to cross enemy lines.
He identifies this as a crucial turning point in the war, and an important cause in several outcomes: economic crisis in the Confederacy, a supply of laborers and soldiers for the union army, and a signal that countered slaveholder propaganda that slaves were satisfied with their conditions.
This work emphasized black people's agency in their search for freedom and the era's radical policy changes that began to provide for general welfare, rather than the interests of the wealthy planter class.
Scholarship in the 1970s and 1980s tempered some of these claims by highlighting continuities in the political goals of white politicians before and during Reconstruction.