What is known today as the American Reconstruction Era took place just after the Civil War, between 1865 and 1877. The goal of the reconstruction was to rebuild the South, for the former rebel states to join the Union again and to give former slaves equal rights.
Challenges of the Reconstruction
- America had to be reunited, but tensions between the Northerners and Southerners were still running high. Northerners who moved down South were called “carpetbaggers” and accused from corruption and trying to profit from the Reconstruction. Southerners were called “scalywags.” The Ku Klux Clan movement also started in this time, resulting in a lot of violence against blacks.
- Decisions had to be made about the new status of slaves – were they to receive the same rights as whites? And what labor system was supposed to replace slavery?
- Congress was divided – President Andrew Johnson followed a very lenient reconstruction policy, in which Southerners were mostly pardoned. He wanted to allow the Southern states to decide on the treatment of the African Americans, as was the case before the war. The Radical Republicans in Congress were very much against it and passed many radical laws that gave blacks equal rights, that were vetoed by the president time and again.
- The freedom of slaves had to be enforced by military – To ensure that Southerners abide by the new laws regarding the treatment of African Americans, military presence was needed. The South was thus divided into five military districts with the Military Reconstruction Acts in 1867, and under military enforcement, blacks had the right to hold political offices, vote and fill government jobs.
Why did The American Reconstruction Fail?
After stories about widespread corruption and state spending in the South by Carpetbaggers, public opinion started to sway with regards to the Reconstruction policies. In both the North and the South, Democrat party, which was very against the Reconstruction, gained a lot of power, and in 1876 almost won the presidential electoral vote. In a bargain to elect Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, as president, Congress removed the Union troops from the South in 1877. This basically restored white supremacy in the South.
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