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Reconstruction: Fail or Succeed Essay

Reconstruction failed due to Andrew Johnson, the Black Codes, and the Freedmen’s Bureau..Andrew Johnson’s, who was the father of the black codes, created policies and ideals that led to the black codes, KKK, sharecropping and the Compromise of 1877. Andrew Johnson supported white supremacy in the South and favored Southern political leaders who had aided the Confederacy once war had been declared. After the war, the Union needed to bring the South back into the country in order to revive their economy and rebuild their land. Lincoln first proposed the 10% plan and when Lincoln was assassinated, Andrew Johnson became president and created his own plan for Reconstruction.

The Black Codes and other laws restricting former slaves were not challenged in court or struck down by local military authorities, leaving African-Americans unprotected and subject once again to working for whites involuntarily.Under Johnson’s policies of Presidential Reconstruction, nearly all the southern states would enact their own black codes in 1865 and 1866. While the codes granted certain freedoms to African Americans their primary purpose was to restrict black’s labor and activity. Some states limited the type of property that blacks could own, while virtually all the former Confederate states passed strict vagrancy and labor contract laws, as well as antienticement laws which was designed to punish anyone who offered higher wages to a black laborer already under contract. Blacks who broke labor contracts were subject to arrest, beating and forced labor, and apprenticeship laws forced many minors into unpaid labor for white planters.

The Reconstruction Act of 1867 required southern states to ratify the 14th Amendment which granted equal protection of the Constitution to former slaves and enact male suffrage before they could rejoin the Union. The 15th Amendment guaranteed that a citizen’s right to vote would not be denied from race, color, or any condition. During this period of Reconstruction blacks won election to southern state governments. However, white southerners showed a fast commitment to ensuring their supremacy and the survival of agriculture.Support for Reconstruction policies waned after the early 1870s, undermined by the violence of white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. By 1877, blacks had seen little improvement in their economic and social status, and the vigorous efforts of white supremacist forces throughout the region had undone the political gains they had made.

The Freedmen Bureau addressed all matters concerning refugees and freedmen within the states that were under reconstruction. The Freedmen’s Bureau was headed by Commissioner General Howard who was appointed by President Andrew Johnson. In the beginning, the Freedmen’s Bureau did not suffer from lack of funding. The Bureau sold and rented lands in the South which had been confiscated during the war. However, Johnson undermined the Bureau’s funding by returning all lands to the pre-Civil War owners in 1866. After this point, freed slaves lost access to lands and the Bureau lost its primary source of funding. The majority believed that the Freedmen’s Bureau made a very small impact during reconstruction. The Freedmen’s Bureau helped black communities to establish schools and churches. Under slavery, blacks had been denied the right to education and religion.


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