NADIR Literally meaning "the lowest point" or "the time of greatest depression or dejection," the term nadir or, more commonly, "The Nadir," is commonly used to describe the history of African Americans during the last three decades of the nineteenth century. It was during this period that the optimism among blacks generated by the Civil War and the end of slavery was shattered by the institutionalization of Jim Crowism and the creation of a rigid "color line" separating whites and blacks throughout the United States.
The Nadir (or, as Benjamin Quarles has written, "the decades of disappointment") witnessed the transformation of the emancipated African American into a second-class citizen in every respect. According to historian Norman Hodges, blacks became "citizens in terms of obligations, non-citizens in terms of rights; and, yet, not wholly slaves." Following a few years of "citizenship" before the law, according to Hodges, the concept of black equality was forfeited by "uncaring and hypocritical northern politicians and determined southern racists." See also: BLACK REPUBLICAN RECONSTRUCTION, COMPROMISE OF 1877 and JIM CROWISM.