Reconstruction refers to the period that followed the American Civil War. In this period of 1863-77, the federal government of America enacted three amendments to grant political and civil rights to the African-Americans. The Radical Republicans in Congress played a major role in fighting for the recognition and rights of African-Americans. Both the presidents of the period, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, expressed distinct views regarding civil rights to the freedmen which greatly impacted the equality achievement. While reconstruction came as an inspiration and a step toward equality for black people, many whites in South disregarded the government legislation and revolted against it.
Positive effects of reconstruction:
With reconstruction, America became a home to the African-Americans in a real sense.
End of slavery
Reconstruction legally abolished the slavery with the thirteenth amendment. The federal government restricted all territories from continuing slavery. This formal enactment provided relief to the African-American, who faced extreme harassment and long working hours with no fair bread.
The fifteenth amendment granted black men the right to vote. Also, the federal government made certain constitutional provision which allowed African-American to carry public offices. This period saw the entrance of colored men into the Congress. Also, civil rights act accorded African-American a citizenship and security of person and property. As per the act, any person violating the law will face trial in federal court. In this way, reconstruction era removed the racial discrimination in politics.
The civil rights gave freedmen the opportunity to own a land. A former slave received wages for the labor along with housing, food, and medical care against a contract signed to work for a year.
By enacting the fourteenth amendment, Constitution promised the African-American an equal protection under the law and stated every territory to comply with the act. The Freedman’s Bureau, established by Republicans, protected the legal rights of the freedmen including arranging labor contracts, instituting schools and churches, and assisting a thousand southerners uprooted by the civil war.
The voice of African-American in the Congress gave a welfare blow to the freedmen. Moving on the path of reconstruction, the state government established the first public school system in the South. They built hospitals and institutions for the orphans and mentally challenged ones in the region. In addition, several acts prohibited the racial discrimination in public transportation and settlements. For the southern economic expansion, the federal government aided railroads with a fair piece of the budget.
Prior to the reconstruction, the marriages of African-American stay unrecognized. But, later, the government allowed registration of the marriages which helped them in solidifying their family ties. The African-Americans could now create independent religious institutions, which became the nucleus of their community life.
Negative effects of reconstruction
Bringing back the south into the union was equally difficult, as removing the racial discrimination from the hearts of whites.
Ku Klux Klan origin
Many whites in the South distant themselves from acknowledging the freedmen civil rights and disapproved the new suffrage and public employment acts. This gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan, who aimed Republican leaders and blacks in the region. The period of 1867-69 saw murders and massacres of Republican and freedmen by the Klan hands.
The right of owning a land showed a minute positive effect on African-Americans, as they had no money to buy one. Also, war and ignorance damaged the plantations. In addition, poor transportation network in the South provided little travel luxury. Job opportunities meant insignificant to the freedmen, who had meagre education and learning accessibility.
Challenges to freedmen
The Democrat-controlled Southern states passed Black codes in 1865-66, with an intent of restricting African-Americans’ freedom. It compelled them to work for low wages. Also, the code aimed to prohibit freedmen from voting, holding offices, association, and learning. Many northern states banned former slaves to reside in the region. In many ways, the sole purpose of several state government was to preserve slavery and sustain whites’ supremacy. Though the freedmen were legal citizens as per federal government, they faced similar discrimination as slavery in the region.
Reconstruction sought to bring the south back to the union and civil rights for the former slaves but it failed to achieve its prime aim. The results could have been different if state governments would have supported the federal government’s vision of making a united nation. At the same time, this small step towards the racial equality gave the future successor an idea of integration which played a major role in making the Great America of today.