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Slavery had been an issue in the United States even before the nation gained its independence, gradually, people realized that it was a serious issue, and the conflict between the Northern abolitionists and the Southern slave owners soon lead to the Civil War in 1861. After the end of the war in 1865, the period of Reconstruction followed its goals were to abolish slavery once and for all, guarantee equal rights to all citizens, and establish a strong federal government; however, the attempts to accomplish these goals all failed to some extent.
As WiEiB. Du Bois said, “The slave went free, stood a brief moment in the sun, then moved back again toward slavery” the extent to which the Reconstruction failed can be evaluated based on the political happenings during President Andrew Johnson’s term, the continued social discrimination against African Americans, and the economic problems that the sudden abolition of slavery caused, President Andrew Johnson’s actions contributed much to the failure of the Reconstruction.
President Johnson was Democrat from Tennessee, and although he did not leave the Union during the Civil War along with all the other Southern democrats, he was still a racist, to say in the least. He opposed equal rights for freedmen and the many of the laws pertaining to African American suffrage that Congress passed. One such law was the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Even though Johnson vetoed the bill, it was still ratified this is because Radical Republicans were in the majority in Congress, and they were determined to grant equal rights to all citizens, even if it means opposing the president; however, the Civil Rights Acts, along with the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments became basically useless as they were reinterpreted to fight against African Americans Such incidents included the 1873 Slaughterhouse Cases, the 1883 Civil Rights Cases, and the 1896 decision in Plessy v.
The continued social discrimination against freedmen in the South was another factor leading to the failure of the reconstruction. One such organization that opposed African American suffrage was the Ku Klux Klan, they wore frightening disguises to mask their identities and used intimidation, beatings, and lynching against freedmen. Their actions prevented freedmen from voting and exercising their rights and enjoying their freedoms, the Ku Klux Klan quickly rose in power in the South, and the federal and state governments did not do much to stop their actions. The economic issues that rose as a result of the abrupt end of slavery also played a part in the failure of the Reconstruction After the Civil War, many African Americans turned to sharecrop, which was a system in which the sharecropper rented land, tools, and seeds from the landlord and gave the landlord half of the crop in return.
This soon became a cycle of borrowing money for supplies and sharecroppers fell into more and more debt, and sharecropping became not much different from slavery. In addition, prices for cotton fell in the 18705, and there was shortage of money for investment, which limited the variety of grains and livestock able to be produced. Also, due to the four million African Americans that were freed, competition arose between the unskilled and inexperienced freedmen and Caucasian laborers, Based on the political, social, and economic effects of the Reconstruction, it can be said that it was a great failure. Although many people such as Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner strongly supported the abolition of slavery and equality among all citizens, the efforts they made to accomplish these goals were, in the end, overpowered by those who opposed these ideas. The reinterpretations of the amendments by Congress, the Ku Klux Klan, the competition for work between Caucasian and inexperienced African Americans are only a few examples of the Reconstruction’s failure, “Over a period ofjust 30 years, the opportunity for freedom opened up by the Civil War had been lost” (PBS’s Freedom: A History of US). Not until many, many years after the Civil War and the Reconstruction did African Americans truly gain the rights and freedoms that they deserved.
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