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Reconstructing the South
With the union preserved, the nation entered a period known as Reconstruction. The government attempted to rebuild (and sometimes) punish the South. Lincoln did not want to make the South suffer. He wanted healing for both the Union and Confederate states, sadly he did not live long enough to see his vision fulfilled.
On April 14, 1865, just five days after the surrender, a confederate sympathizer named John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln as he attended a play at the Ford’s theatre.
Johnson and The Radicals
Andrew Johnson. Taking office while congress was in recess,
Johnson pursued his own plan of reconstruction. It became known as Presidential Reconstruction.
Johnson’s plan was seen as far to lenient by many in the North. Conflict quickly arose between Johnson and the Radical Republicans. They wanted tougher actions taken against the former Confederate states. There stance became known as Radical
They were upset because Johnson’s approach failed to offer African Americans full citizenship rights.They also believed Congress should oversee Reconstruction. Republicans came to dominate southern government during Reconstruction and drafted new state Constitutions which reflected the party’s ideals. As a result, this shaped the direction of southern states in the years following the Civil War.
Prior to Lincoln's death, Congress passed the 13th Amendment to the constitution.The 13th amendment ended slavery throughout the U.S.In 1866, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, with the intent of giving citizens rights to freed slaves.
President Johnson opposed this measure, but congress was able to override his veto.Congress then passed the 14th amendment,which guaranteed that no person regardless of race would be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.It granted blacks the status of citizenship and was ratified in 1868.
The First Impeachment in History
The battle between Johnson and Congress came to a head in 1868. Johnson tried to fire Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who had been appointed by Lincoln, because he was closely tied to the Radical Republicans. This violated the Tenure in Office Act, which
limited the president’s power to hire or fire government officials.
Led by Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, Congress voted to impeach the president of
the U.S. On May 16, 1868, the Senate voted to spare Johnson’s presidency by just one vote
The last major piece of Reconstruction legislation was the 15th Amendment. Ratified in 1870, during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. It guaranteed no citizen may be denied the right to vote by the U.S. or any state on the account of race, color or servitude. The amendment had a great impact in the South by guaranteeing African Americans the right to vote in elections.
African Americans and Reconstruction
The 13th amendment freed the slaves, now the freedmen had to adjust to life after slavery. They had no land or money. In order to survive many turned to sharecropping. Many sharecroppers fell victim to dishonest
landowners. Some sharecroppers tried tenant farming. In 1865, Congress created the Freedmen’s Bureau. It served to provide clothing, medical attention, meals, education and even some land to freed blacks and some poorer whites.. It disbanded in 1869 from lack of support.
The desire for freedom led to the rise of African American churches following the civil
War. The first new building was constructed in Charleston, SC. Black churches became the centers for African American social and political life. Blacks also sought education. With the help of the Freedmen’s Bureau, churches, and the southern African American community established the first black schools. Teachers were often African American soldiers who had acquired some education while in the service. Students included both children and adults.
African Americans played an important role in southern politics during Reconstruction. Some 600 African Americans served in southern state legislatures, a few were elected to offices as high as lieutenant-governor. One even served as acting governor of Louisiana when the white governor was charged with corruption. A Few blacks represented southern states in Congress. Northern blacks and some elite blacks saw themselves superior to poorer, uneducated blacks who had recently
been emancipated. Southern blacks resented northern African Americans
who came south assumed positions of political influence that should have gone to southern blacks.
After Johnson took office and before Reconstruction, many states in the South passed black codes. These were laws meant to keep blacks subordinate to whites by restricting the rights of freed slaves. For instance, blacks could not meet together after sunset, own weapons, or rent property anywhere but in rural areas. Blacks convicted of vagrancy could be whipped or sold for a year’s labor. Black codes in effect continued the practice of slavery.
In response to Reconstruction, some whites advocated violence against freed blacks. The most notorious group was the Ku Klux Klan. They were a secretive organization who dressed in hooded robes. The Klan practiced lynching's and continues to exist today.
Compromising and an End
Because of the bad economy, and the many scandals surrounding President Grant, the Democrats were hopeful that their candidate could win the election of 1876. Because the election was contested because officials disputed the results in some states. The Compromise of 1877 settled the dispute, the Democrats agreed to Hayes being president and the Republicans agreed to end reconstruction.
In addition, southern states received federal money, more power to govern themselves, and a promise to withdraw federal troops. The compromise of 1877 brought Reconstruction to an end and began the era of the “Solid South”. For nearly a century, southerners remained distrustful of the
So What Happened After All This?
With the end of Reconstruction and the rise of groups like the KKK, African Americans soon lost whatever political position they had gained in the years following the emancipation. Southern states soon passed Jim Crow Laws that required blacks and whites to use separate public facilities.
Many states tried upholding the 15th Amendment by requiring citizens to pass
literacy test or pay poll taxes in order to vote. In order to keep these laws from hindering poor illiterate whites, some states instituted grandfather clauses.
Jim Crow Laws were laws that established racial segregation. In 1896, the supreme court upheld a segregation in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. The case involved a 30 year old man name Homer Plessy. Plessy, who was 1/8 African American was jailed for sitting in a “whites only” railway car. In Louisiana, he was guilty of a crime, jailed and he sued.
The Supreme Court ruled segregation was legal as long as the separate facilities and services were equal. In reality the facilities for whites were usually far superior to those of blacks.