Last Updated 21 Apr 2020

Reconstruction Era

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The Reconstruction Era Jessica Onken American History Since 1865 Professor Tim Johnston August 2, 2010 Reconstruction 2 The Reconstruction Era The reconstruction era was a difficult time for the African American slaves from 1865 to 1877 because the slaves were freed and there were no jobs for them, had very little or no education, and had very limited opportunity in the south. Reconstruction was one of the most critical periods in American History. The Civil War changed the nation tremendously, and most importantly by bringing an end to slavery.

Reconstruction was a period of great promise, hope, and progress for African Americans, and a period of resentment and resistance for many white southerners. The time period for the Reconstruction era was in 1865 to 1877, when the United States was rebuilding and reuniting after the Civil War. In 1865, four years of brutal deconstruction in the Civil War came to an end, 600,000 American soldiers lost their lives. Four million enslaved African Americans were emancipated. The south was laid to waste; railroads, factories, farms, and cities were destroyed.

Abraham Lincoln was elected president during that time. Abraham Lincoln knew once the states confederacy were restored to the union, the Republicans would be weakened unless they put an end to being a sectional party. Lincoln hoped for peace and to attract people of the former south who supported the Republicans' economic policies. During the Era of Reconstruction, it was highly unstable because while many Northerners saw this as a chance to completely end slavery and have the south merged back into the United States, many in the south saw this as an insult and another injury of the loss of the Civil War.

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Lincoln's plans during this time were to free more slaves and grant freedom. At the end of the Reconstruction Era, freedoms were granted under the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, but were not completely effective. The moral views through religions before and after the war of the north and south Reconstruction 3 were different. With different opinions flowing, the Presbyterian and Methodist churches split into Northern and Southern functions. The Southern churches supported slavery and believed that it was also supported by the Bible.

The north believed that no man should be held in captivity or confinement by another man. The north wanted to end slavery but still most of the Northerner did not consider the black man to be equal to them. There were some Northerners that did believe all men are created equal. Some Northerners showed strong emotions about the eradication of slavery that they became violent. Most of the Northerners did not change after the war, which caused the segregation that continued until the 1960's.

In 1865, the Ku Klux Klan was started in Tennessee to stop blacks from taking advantage of their new rights. Members from the Ku Klux Klan would beat and murder blacks to keep them from having rights. Northern soldiers were stationed in the south to enforce the Reconstruction laws. The soldiers made sure blacks could vote in elections, be treated just like the white people, go to school, and they were also there to prevent any attacks from happening by the southern whites. In 1869, the Southern governments started to end control by the North in Tennessee and Virginia.

Some of the power of the Southerners was regained to run their own state governments, which made the Northerners have less influence on the southern governments. The reason for the southerners joining the Ku Klux Klan was because they did not want blacks to have rights such as voting, owning land, freedom, be treated fairly at jobs, participate in court trials, run for office, etc.. Southern white people were not for reconstructing governments. They would not accept the black men that were once slaves as free black men who now had the right to Reconstruction 4 vote and participate in state government.

As the nation started to celebrate the end of the war in April 1865, president Lincoln was shot and killed After Lincoln was assassinated, Andrew Johnson took over the process of the reconstruction. Johnson made the reconstruction less efficient. He forgave some ex-confederates and didn't take the same steady approaches as Lincoln did. Johnson was a southerner, and like Lincoln, a self educated man who climbed up the ladder from an inferior decent. Southerners were now making new laws called black codes, which meant it made blacks' lives harder and to prevent them from using their new rights.

Some codes forced blacks to work for a year, and if they didn't, they were thrown in jail for being unemployed, and also let them be whipped by their bosses. By enforcing labor contracts, and laws, the strict black codes kept freedmen tied to the plantation. This period was described as violence, revenge, retaliation, and eye for an eye against African Americans. The justice system of the south provided no refuge or assistance. The all white police force frequently terrorized African Americans, and the judges and other officials rarely prosecuted crimes against blacks.

When the news of the black code laws and the violence against the freedmen spread to the North, it created outrage and fury. When the Northern soldiers were not positioned in the south to enforce Reconstruction laws, blacks had to live under the unpleasant, cruel, and unfair conditions caused by the black code laws. Johnson allowed the black codes to be passed which imposed heavy restrictions on freed African American slaves. Johnson was against the passage of a renewal of a new Freeman's Bureau, which served as a positive organization for African Americans,

Reconstruction 5 which would have allowed the black war veteran's the right to vote. In 1867, Congress passed a new Reconstruction Act, that threw out the state governments of states that refused to ratify the 14th amendment. The 15th amendment was ratified in 1870, providing a constitutional guarantee of voting rights for African American males. By 1870, the Northerner lost interest in reconstructing the south. The north tried to reconstruct the south and change southerners attitudes about black people.

Although they failed at this because many southerners were still racists and believed that the white race was superior to others, blacks were not as good as southern white men. To add to that, the Northerners lost interest in the reconstruction, which gave southerners a chance to gain control of their state governments again. The main complaints against the Presidential Reconstruction were the Radical Republicans of Congress. New political forces in the South gave way for new changes. During reconstruction, African Americans made huge political gains.

They voted in large numbers and were also elected to political office. African Americans were elected as sheriffs, mayors, legislators, Congressmen, and Senators. Even thought their participation was significant, it was exaggerated by white southerners angry at the Black Republicans governments. Reconstruction governments built public schools for both black and white children. They also rebuilt and added more railroads, telegraph lines, bridges, and railroads. These costly efforts led to tax increases that made the southern whites more angry, which was why the Ku Klux Klan was created.

By the mid 1870's, the Republicans were losing power, and the Northerners were tired of trying to reform the south. In 1872, Congress passed the Amnesty Act, which reinstated voting rights to almost all white southerners. By 1876, almost all southern s Reconstruction 6 states were back under the control of the Democrats. When Rutherford B. Hayes was elected president in 1877, the reconstruction came to an end. He removed the remaining federal troops from the south. With no one left to enforce the reconstruction reforms, the Reconstruction was over. White Democrats remained in control of southern governments.

Southern states denied African Americans from voting through voting restrictions such as the poll tax, grandfather clause, and the literacy test. Jim Crow Laws separated blacks and whites in restaurants, schools, theaters, railroads, hospitals, and all other public places. The Jim Crow Laws were clearly passed to ensure that black people could not dot eh same things as white people. Such laws encouraged and promoted racial segregation and varied from district to district. Some required black people to drink at separate fountains and use separate bathrooms than white people.

Others required black people to give up seats on public buses if a white person wanted their sear, and still others prohibited black people from attending the same schools as white people African Americans continued to be looked at as “bad”or not “equal” as the white Americans. They were still victims of violence and intimidation. In the 1960's, with the Civil Rights movement, the African Americans were granted full protection of the 14th and 15th amendments. The period of the Reconstruction was one of great promise for the United States and for African Americans.

During this period, African Americans continued to struggle for freedom and worked to improve their communities. Institutions of the African American community like the churches and schools were strengthened over time. Though there were long term consequences of Reconstruction failures, the Reconstruction era provided a Constitutional basis for later attempts to end discrimination. Reconstruction 7 Although the Reconstruction era was a difficult time for the African Americans', with several failed attempts, in the end, the African Americans did finally get freedom and were allowed the same rights as the white Americans.

References Carter, Hodding. (1959). The Angry Scar: The Story of Reconstruction. New York: Doubleday. Davidson, J. , Delay, B. , Heyrman, C. , Lytle, M. , ; Stoff, M. (2008). Nation of Nations. (vol. 2, 6th ed. ) New York: McGraw-Hill. Dubowski, C. (1991). Andrew Johnson: Rebuilding the Union. New Jersey: Silver Burdett. Foner, Eric. (1988). Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877. New York: Harper & Row. Litwack, L. , (1979). Been in the Storm so Long. New York: Random House.

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