Looking Back at Reconstruction

A time from 1865 to 1877

Reconstruction was a confusing era.

Putting an entire nation back together isn't an easy task. For one, you have to resolve issues never looked upon before, such as who gets what back, and how. But not everyone agreed on everything - so... it caused a bit of an issue. Let's get started.

The Freedmen's Bureau

The Freedmen's Bureau was an organization with the goal of giving the new freedmen (Former slaves) back their lives. They provided food, clothing, shelter, and perhaps most importantly, education to these men. Education was one of the physically lasting effects (Even though everything really helped a ton). Many Universities and schools in general that still stand today come from the Bureau's actions, including (But not limited to) Atlanta University, Clark College, Moorehouse College, and the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. In fact, many heroes and stars come from Moorehouse College alone, including: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee (A movie director), Samuel L. Jackson, and Maynard Jackson (First mayor of Atlanta). Over all, the Freedmen's Bureau couldn't solve nearly all of the segregation problems, but it certainly helped a lot.

We're JUST Getting Started.

Sharecropping and Tenant Farming

Two relatively similar systems of work that many freedmen called their jobs were sharecropping and tenant farming. Okay, let's get the similarities out of the way first.

If all you knew about someone's work was that he/she worked as a farmer growing crops on land that wasn't theirs, and that they slept in households of that land, then you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Now, there were many very different things between the two: In the work of sharecropping, the freedman would usually provide labor on farms in return for a roof above his/her head, tools, food, and medicine. However, in tenant farming, the freedman would basically 'rent' land and a place to stay, and pay in cash made from using that land.

Reconstruction Plans

There were 5 major plans to welcome the CSA to the USA. Let's start off with good ol' Abe! Lincoln's Ten-Percent plan was the most forgiving. Basically, the southerners had to take an oath to the United States of America. After more than 10% of a state had taken this oath, that state was admitted into the US. Not only that, but all private property of southerners was retained as private property. Too bad Lincoln was shot. Andrew Johnson then took over the White House, and made conditions harsher: any property over $20K was subject to confiscation. However, he too was lenient, and wanted to join the south to the north speedily. Another major point was that the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, had to be accepted. Johnson, at that point, called the whole Reconstruction gig off... but we weren't done. Now we find Congress changing things up a bit (For good). They sought after and established the 14th and 15th amendments, which basically meant that every man was entitled to equal rights. Now the radical republicans step in. Basically, confederates could hold no government positions, and southern states had to write new constitutions. Now, we have southerners bending the rules with disfranchisement - which basically meant that the southerners tried to confuse and stop freedmen from voting.

Legislation and the Impact on Georgia

Let's move on to the Amendments. The 13th Amendment basically abolished slavery. The 14th Amendment guaranteed the right to citizenship for everyone born in the USA. The 15th Amendment made it clear that you couldn't stop anyone [male] from voting because of his color or position in society. Now, because of the general public refusing the new amendments, and the Ku Klux Klan, Georgians got 'special treatment': In 1869, military rule was reestablished in Georgia. Sadly, this didn't cease organizations like the KKK; it only suppressed them. The KKK continued to oppress and torment the former slaves and their children. It continues today. http://www.kkk.com/

Voting for Freedmen

The votes of Freedmen were motivated and encouraged by many different groups and facilities. Let's start off with the Union League. The Union League encouraged freedmen to vote, and to vote Republican. However, they also did lots of good by educating and supporting freedmen on political issues, and even helped them vote. Henry McNeal Turner was a very active African-American "proponent". He was active in many fields, ranging from the Freedmen's Bureau to emigrating blacks to Africa. He settled in Macon, Georgia. Aaron A. Bradley was basically a lawyer active in Georgia - sometimes illegally. He practiced law in Georgia without license until 1875, when he moved away. He was a significant lawyer, and was admitted to the "bar" before the Civil War. Tunis G. Campbell, Jr., was the most important African American politician of his time. He preached against slavery and established schools. He was VP of the Republican party of Georgia. He urged officials like Sumner and Lincoln to aid in Reconstruction.

Was It All Worth It?

So many people died because of a couple simple issues.

I honestly can't make the call on that. Issues made by people with bad ideas were backed up by other people with bad ideas; while problems like this aren't to the same scale, they certainly do still exist. Not only that, but many people lost their lives. Bloodshed and disease during the Civil War didn't heal until decades later. It's your call, really. But history can be a bit depressing at times.