Reconstruction of the American South Following the Civil War
The end of the Civil War marked the beginning of a new era in American freedom, but even though the restructuring process was to be fast and with little impediments, it turned out to be more complex than everyone expected it to. African-Americans were enthusiastic about the government granting them citizenship, but the authorities advised that they should return to work on the plantations, initiating the controversy regarding Reconstruction. Most of the general public in the U.S. saw reconstruction as a process that would reform the Southern society and that would assist former slaves in integrating society as individuals with equal rights. In spite of the fact that it did indeed take place, reform was far less effective than expected, with black people continuing to be discriminated throughout the former Confederate states.
One of the first mistakes the Union government made during the Reconstruction was that it allowed numerous Confederates to come in charge of the governments in southern states. Considering their dedication to stand against the Union and against its attempt to abolish slavery during the Civil War, it was only natural for the former Confederates to be reluctant to grant equal rights to the individuals that previously belonged to them (Tryon Palace Historic Sites & Gardens.)
The measures taken by southern governments concerning the African-American situation destroyed the hopes of black people in the South. Southern leaders were determined to making as little changes as possible and thus enacted the “Black Codes” on September 21, 1865, a series of laws meant to undermine African-American influence in the territory. In the year following the ratifying of the “Black Codes” Southern governments went further and officially declared that they were unwilling to accept the Fourteenth Amendment, which stated that African-Americans will be awarded with citizenship (Tryon Palace Historic Sites & Gardens.). This was obviously a major blow for those who thought that reform was going to occur without any significant obstructions.
A large number of white people in the South felt that it was absolutely necessary for them to prevent African-Americans from gaining access to education, since this was thought to be an essential part of the emancipation process, meaning that black individuals would have more chances of becoming equals. African-Americans were also aware of this, as one can see through Kelly Miller’s words: “The first great need of the Negro is that the choice youth of the race should assimilate the principles of culture and hand them down to the masses below” (Miller).
African-American individuals were more than devoted to claiming their rights consequent to the war. Thus, they saw no difficulties in trying to make it in areas where resources were scarce and where there were little chances for a community to thrive. The Nicodemus district was established in 1877 in Graham County, Kansas. In spite of the fact that the community never achieved notable success because of the limited resources in the area, it nonetheless surprised through the fact that it was the only all-black community in the state of Kansas (Reconstruction and Its Aftermath).
Reform was particularly difficult because former slaves and masters alike were unable to connect in such a way that they would accept each-other as equal. African-Americans in the South were afraid that any kind of relationship they would form with their former masters would lead to something resembling their enslavement (United States. Congress. Joint Committee on Reconstruction, William Pitt Fessenden, Thaddeus Stevens, United States. Congress). It was clear that it would take long before African-Americans would actually come to become equal citizens.
While the North was initially actively engaged in helping the African-American community in the South as they claimed their right, matters gradually changed and the government abandoned its passion regarding the condition. Racial segregation thrived in the South, especially because white individuals were unwilling to accept black people into politics for the supposed reason that the latter installed a corrupt system that worked against the country’s well-being (America’s Reconstruction — People and Politics After the Civil War).
The Federal government lost interest in supervising the Reconstruction process consequent to seeing that conditions would stall and no one achieved any success in fighting for their cause. Reconstruction efforts mainly lead to increased oppression of the African-American public in the South (Civil War and Reconstruction).
The wave of racism observed throughout the South as a result of the Reconstruction was unprecedented, given that whites were ardently devoted to impose their power over blacks. Movements such as the Ku Klux Klan only added to the situation, highlighting its gravity (V: Slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction).
Even though most government officials trusted that slavery and racism would be efficiently combated by the Reconstruction, they realized that it would take more than just a series of laws for them to achieve success (Moore Cullom, Shelby). Differences of opinion lasted long after the Civil War ended, given that people in the South did not lose their convictions regarding African-Americans (Civil War and Post-War Reconstruction). The Reconstruction influenced white supremacists in the South in beginning a terrorist movement that was meant to counterattack equal rights for African-Americans (An Outline of the Reconstruction Era).
1. Miller, Kelly. “The Primary Needs of the Negro Race”
2. Tryon Palace Historic Sites & Gardens. “African-Americans get the vote in eastern North Carolina.” Retrieved October 24, 2010, from the Learn NC Website: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-civilwar/4820
3. United States. Congress. Joint Committee on Reconstruction, William Pitt Fessenden, Thaddeus Stevens, United States. Congress. (1866). “Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, at the first session, Thirty-ninth Congress.” Govt. Print. Off.
4. “America’s Reconstruction, People and Politics After the Civil War.” Retrieved October 24, 2010, from the Digital History Website: http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/reconstruction/introduction.html
5. “An Outline of the Reconstruction Era.” Retrieved October 24, 2010, from the Children for History and New Media Website: http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/122/recon/reconframe.html
6. “Civil War and Reconstruction.” Retrieved October 24, 2010, from the National Museum of American History Website: http://americanhistory.si.edu/presidency/timeline/pres_era/3_656.html
7. “Civil War and Post-War Reconstruction.” Retrieved October 24, 2010, from the America.gov Website: http://www.america.gov/st/educ-english/2008/June/20080610221935eaifas0.7083688.html
8. “Reconstruction and Its Aftermath.” Retrieved October 24, 2010, from The Library Of Congress Website: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/exhibit/aopart5.html
9. “V: Slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction.” Retrieved October 24, 2010, from the James Madison Seminar of Teaching American History Website: http://madison.schoolahead.org/node/7
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