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The union victory in the Civil War gave four million slaves their freedom, but reuniting the South with the North introduced a new set of significant challenges. The Congress’ Reconstruction were the efforts to establish and protect citizens’ rights of freedom. Democrats led to the failure of the Congress’ Reconstruction by forgiving those who participated in the Civil War who were still in favor of slavery and inequality. This act of Amnesty led to three major obstacles for reconstruction: the emergence of the Ku Kux Klan, the development of black codes, and the Compromise f 1877.
The emergence of the Ku Kux Klan was one of the main contributors to the failure of the Congress’ Reconstruction, leaving open spots for other major events that brought completely down the reconstruction. On November 23, 1868, in Tennessee, General George Thomas explained that the purpose of the Ku Kux Klan was to allow the Southern people that participated in the Civil War to come in union with those who had abandoned the thought of inequality.
This gave them the advantage to bring back inequality and kill black men. (Document 2). By forgiving these Southern people, illing freedmen became easy.
These people that were being forgiven had the same mentality from before the war, which was involved with the approval of slavery and the inequality there should be because black men weren’t like white men. Kenneth Stampp, a history professor form the University of California at Berkeley, expressed himself in The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877 about how in May 1872, the Congress developed an Amnesty act to reestablish the right to vote for the majority of those Southerners that had been forgiven.
(Document 3). Giving the right to vote to these eople, put the reconstruction in danger.
The right of voting allowed Southerners to vote for someone that would still want slavery. Voting for someone with a mentality like that would Just allow slavery back, and that’s why The Congress’ Reconstruction started to fail. Even though the black codes were created with the purpose of giving freedmen equal rights like white men, the codes werent followed correctly and black men were still being discriminated. The black codes were supposed to follow the 13, 14, and 15th amendment, but they weren’t quite followed the way it was supposed to.
Both black and white men were given the same rights, but everything was separated between races, one was for black men and one for white men, showing discrimination. When the black codes were established, black men became freedmen, but even though these men could start living as freedmen, many decided to stay as slaves. In a compilation of these interviews published by Benjamin Botkin in 1945, John McCoy is quoted as saying, “… l works for Marse John… he says one morning”John, you can go… the government say you is free… ” … l didn’t know nothing what money was, nohow, but
I knows I’ll git plenty victuals to eat, so I stays… “(Document 7). The majority of slaves had been slaves through their entire life. These people didn’t know how to live themselves. Black men were ignorants on how to live without being a slave, so many, just like McCoy, decided to stay where they were working so their owners would provide them an easier way of surviving even though they were still working as slaves. In 1935, an African-American historian, Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, published a book of the history of Reconstruction where he wrote, “… Negros who wanted to work must not dabble in politics.
Negroes who wanted to increase their income must not agitate the Negro problem… in order to earn living, the American Negro was compelled to give up his political power… “(Document 6). This excerpt of the book shows how black men where not only being discriminated, but being left out politically too. If black men wanted work being freedmen, then they would have to stay out of the political power. White men were powerful and this is why giving up political power wasn’t an option, but a forceful act from the white. Black codes were not being followed, white men always managed to find a way to obtain what they wanted.
The reconstruction was failing because nobody was respecting laws anymore, and black men couldn’t do anything about it besides remaining quiet and following white men’s instructions, which became their only real guarantee of surviving. The Compromise of 1877 was created to decide which candidate should be taken as a winner, either Hayes or Tilden, leading towards a decision that helped the Congress’ Reconstruction fail. As can be seen in the electoral distribution map from the election of 1876, Hayes won by only one electoral vote and lost the popular vote by 254,235. Document 8).
The 1877 Compromise was an agreement to take away Northern troops from the South. This agreement was made due to Tilden’s request so he would let Hayes win. The removal of Northern troops left freedmen without protection, and became easy targets for Southerners to attack. If Hayes wanted to win, he had to accept the request, so he took away the troops because if not, Tilden would have stayed in the power and done worse acts. In November 4 and 5, 1874, the front-page of New York Times published two headlines that announced how Democrats entered he House of Representatives and convert the Congress to be Democratic as well. (Document 5).
These Democratic victories helped undermine Congress’ efforts to help freedmen by creating laws and acts that followed racism ideas. There was no more hope for the reconstruction at this point. Democrats were taking all the power and black men could not do anything anymore. Being free was not an option anymore, but a far away dream instead. Even though black people were given the opportunity to have some rights and equality, the Congress’ Reconstruction failed because events such as the creation of he Ku Kux Klan, the construction of the black codes, and the Compromise of 1877, kept their old beliefs of slavery and inequality.
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