Reconstruction Era

By: Jace Fountain

Lincoln's Assassination

On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor and Confederate sympathizer, fatally shot President Abraham Lincoln at a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

The Black Codes

Black Codes were the laws passed by southerners that severely limited the rights of African-Americans without going against the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.

Passage of the Black Codes Even as former slaves fought to assert their independence and gain economic autonomy during the earliest years of Reconstruction, white landowners acted to control the labor force through a system similar to the one that had existed during slavery.

Passed by a political system in which blacks effectively had no voice, the black codes were enforced by all-white police and state militia forces (often made up of Confederate veterans of the Civil War) across the South.

Some states limited the type of property that blacks could own, while virtually all the former Confederate states passed strict vagrancy and labor contract laws, as well as so-called “antienticement” measures designed to punish anyone who offered higher wages to a black laborer already under contract.

By 1877, when the last federal soldiers left the South and Reconstruction drew to a close, blacks had seen little improvement in their economic and social status, and the vigorous efforts of white supremacist forces throughout the region had undone the political gains they had made. Under Johnson’s policies of Presidential Reconstruction, nearly all the southern states would enact their own black codes in 1865 and 1866.

Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Johnsons Impeachment

In 1868,Sworn in as president after Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, President Johnson enacted a lenient Reconstruction policy for the defeated South, including almost total amnesty to ex-Confederates, a program of rapid restoration of U.S.-state status for the seceded states, and the approval of new, local Southern governments, which were able to legislate “Black Codes” that preserved the system of slavery in all but its name.

Stanton refused to yield, barricading himself in his office, and the House of Representatives, which had already discussed impeachment after Johnson’s first dismissal of Stanton, initiated formal impeachment proceedings against the president.

The U.S. House of Representatives votes 11 articles of impeachment against President Andrew Johnson, nine of which cite Johnson’s removal of Secretary of War Edwin M.

The rise of The Ku Klux Klan (KKK)

For its part, the Ku Klux Klan dedicated itself to an underground campaign of violence against Republican leaders and voters (both black and white) in an effort to reverse the policies of Radical Reconstruction and restore white supremacy in the South.

The civil rights movement of the 1960s also saw a surge of Ku Klux Klan activity, including bombings of black schools and churches and violence against black and white activists in the South.

Ku Klux Klan Violence in the South From 1867 onward, African-American participation in public life in the South became one of the most radical aspects of Reconstruction, as blacks won election to southern state governments and even to the U.S. Congress.

Revival of the Ku Klux Klan In 1915, white Protestant nativists organized a revival of the Ku Klux Klan near Atlanta, Georgia, inspired by their romantic view of the Old South as well as Thomas Dixon’s 1905 book “The Clansman” and D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film “Birth of a Nation.” This second generation of the Klan was not only anti-black but also took a stand against Roman Catholics, Jews, foreigners and organized labor.

The civil rights movement of the 1960s saw a surge of local Klan activity across the South, including the bombings, beatings and shootings of black and white activists.

Local Klan members–often wearing masks and dressed in the organization’s signature long white robes and hoods–usually carried out their attacks at night, acting on their own but in support of the common goals of defeating Radical Reconstruction and restoring white supremacy in the South.

Founded in 1866, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) extended into almost every southern state by 1870 and became a vehicle for white southern resistance to the Republican Party’s Reconstruction-era policies aimed at establishing political and economic equality for blacks.

Though Congress passed legislation designed to curb Klan terrorism, the organization saw its primary goal–the reestablishment of white supremacy–fulfilled through Democratic victories in state legislatures across the South in the 1870s.

After 1870, Republican state governments in the South turned to Congress for help, resulting in the passage of three Enforcement Acts, the strongest of which was the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

The Ku Klux Klan and the End of Reconstruction Though Democratic leaders would later attribute Ku Klux Klan violence to poorer southern whites, the organization’s membership crossed class lines, from small farmers and laborers to planters, lawyers, merchants, physicians and ministers.