The Reconstruction era was put into effect by Congress in 1866 and lasted until 1877. Reconstruction was aimed at reorganizing the Southern states after the Civil War. The reconstruction plan granted the means for readmitting the southern states into the Union, and tried to come up with the methods by which whites and blacks could live together in a non-slave society. America’s position as a country was established on principles of freedom but those beliefs were weakened by slavery. At the end of the Civil War, many blacks felt that they were entitled to start collecting the benefits that had been denied for so many years.
Being able to vote, own land and have a voice in political affairs were all goals that they believed were reachable. The white, however, saw reconstruction as an embarrassing, revengeful annoyance and did not welcome it. Reconstruction was meant to give the blacks a chance for a new and better life. Many of the African Americans stayed with their old masters after being freed, while others left in search of opportunities through education and land ownership. The Southern white conservatives did not want blacks to own property, have political power, or have the right to vote in elections.
In addition, the whites strongly believed that they were superior, and they worked hard to make sure legal limitations were in place to prevent the blacks from gaining any type of equality or power. President Johnson’s reconstruction plan included the black codes, which stated that the African-Americans were required to have a curfew and carry identification on their persons at all time. These regulations also bound the ‘freedmen’ to their plantations. The freed slaves merely wanted the opportunity to continue the family-based shared work methods contrary to having to accept the individual piecework structure.
Former slaves wanted to be able to continue to live on the land their ancestors had farmed. African american’s lives were improved in many ways during the era of Reconstruction; one way their lives were enhanced was the establishment of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The Freedmen’s Bureau was an organization developed by Congress that assisted African-Americans to acquire an education and provided necessities of life such as food and clothing. It was important for African-Americans to become educated, because it would prevent them from being dominated by white supremacists and helped them obtain well-suited jobs.
During the years after the war, white teachers who were mostly from the North, missionary organizations, churches and schools worked hard to give the emancipated population the opportunity to learn. Former slaves of every age took advantage of the opportunity to become literate. Grandfathers and their grandchildren sat together in classrooms seeking to obtain the tools of k to gain their freedom. During Reconstruction, blacks were often seen not heard. It was usually the white man’s word over the black man’s word. Even if there was a crowd of people that saw what happened, unless they were black, the people sided with the white man.
However, when the situation involved a white man getting hurt or killed for supporting the black community, that’s when the government stepped in to put an end to it thus leading to the Civil R A of 1875. Many regulations were passed to help blacks during this period. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 prohibited segregation in public facilities and various government amendments, which gave African-Americans even more guaranteed rights. With government guidelines, the newly dubbed freedmen were still discriminated against by most people and were soon to be segregated once again under government decisions.
The Reconstruction, although short-lived, showed the first real attempts of inclusive freedom for African-Americans. Gains were taking place, for instance, in citizenship, voting, education and politics. Consequently, the failure of Johnson’s reconstruction caused the Congress to propose its own plan, the 14th Amendment. The Amendment was designed to prohibit state governments from restricting the rights of former slaves after the Civil War. However, it had been used to grant all the personal liberties and rights conveyed in the Bill of Rights.
Among other things, this prohibited ex-Confederate leaders from holding political office, and also gave the freedmen their citizenship. The rejection of the 14th Amendment paved the way for the Reconstruction Act of 1867; this dismantled all Southern governments and launched military control over the South. The Reconstruction Act guaranteed freedmen the right to vote under new state constitutions and required the Southern states to approve the 14th A With the addition of African American votes in the southern elections and the help of “Carpet Baggers” and “Scalawags,” the Republican Party gained almost complete control over the South.
Throughout this time, the ranking of freedman was significantly increased, and by 1868; many state legislatures had African American delegates. All of America, as well as the South, had to be rebuilt, and, despite the South’s hostile resistance, African-Americans were slowly and gradually becoming part of this nation. The long-awaited citizenship for Blacks was confirmed in 1868, by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
By 1870, the 15th Amendment had been added to the Constitution, which gave blacks the right to vote. The 15th Amendment forbids the states from denying the right to vote to any person on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Whites both wealthy and poverty-stricken were ruthlessly and completely against the emancipation. The poor people feared the competition in the labor force, and the rich encouraged an attitude to keeping a strong separation in the blacks and the whites. In the early years after the Reconstruction started, there was some violence towards blacks.
As the years went on the violence increased, and Terrorist groups were formed. One such group known as the Ku Klux Klan better known as the KKK, surfaced to torment and commit violent acts against blacks and strong white Republicans. Because of the ratification of the 13th Amendment ending slavery in the south, the KKK emerged with a cause that has yet to be put to rest…the rise of white power. The KKK was formed mostly to restore slavery to America and to reinstate the Caucasian race as the most superior race in the world.
A former Confederate general and Freemason, Nathan Bedford Forrest, founded the KKK in 1866 because Negroes were being allowed to enter the brotherhood of freemasonry. He held this office while he was simultaneously Sovereign Grand Commander of Scottish rite, Freemasons, and Southern Jurisdiction. Members of the KKK were very violent and used harsh actions to get their point across, but their actions were supported by their strong belief in their religion and the culture in which they were brought up in.
The KKK did things based on what they believed according to their culture and how they were raised; Which, at that period of time made them extremists. Although slavery was abolished, racism was not. Because the government started recognizing African-Americans as more than just slaves, the KKK decided they would have to take matters into their own hands. They began their protest by lynching, taring and feathering, whipping, beating, and killing African-Americans in the south. Since Blacks had been given rights, the KKK felt it was their duty to prevent the former slaves from using them.
Racist Groups such as the KKK operated mainly in the South; however, discrimination against the African Americans was also an issue of a smaller degree in northern cities. The KKK would destroy any black polling booth and shoot, intimidate, and kill any black person trying to vote; especially in Mississippi. KKK members went on “night rides. ” On “night rides,” the KKK members dressed in white robes and went to houses belonging to empowered blacks and used threats toward family and loved ones to instill fear into their hearts has a means of control.
The KKK would threaten these blacks with what would happen if they voted or took positions of power. At the end of the 19th century and the Reconstruction era, many of the whites used violent behavior to scare the African-Americans from white neighborhoods. The Whites organized protective associations, so homes in white neighborhoods could never be sold to a black man. This was also very noticeable in the makeup of many of the northern cities; these cities had well-known residential neighborhoods for African Americans.
In conclusion, during this time, a country that was so well-known for its freedom, opposed in large the very definition of the word. After the Civil War, America saw a great many changes regarding civil rights and black suffrage. Many laws were passed to give African Americans more rights. Since the Reconstruction era, we as a country have come a long way. With the utilization of great leadership like Lincoln, education and recognizing our shared humanity, we could decrease the gap of equality.
Courtney from Study Moose
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