The Civil War plagued the United States as it drove a wedge between the people of the north and south regarding the primary issue of slavery. It was a time of great struggles regarding personal morals and values, in addition to political and economic differences between the two geographic regions. However, as the North ultimately prevailed in defeating the south, tensions within the country persisted and the years following the war proved to be filled with additional internal struggles. This post-war period is known as Reconstruction which lasted from 1865 to 1877. Though Reconstruction sought to fix the internal social, political, and economic struggles, many problems continued and thus the legacy of Reconstruction remains unclear. Given the feelings of optimism mixed in with feelings of tension, what is the true legacy of Reconstruction? The legacy remains unclear mainly due to the varied emotions of hope for equality for African Americans accompanied by the persistent discrimination and lack of legal enforcement. However, ultimately, Reconstruction should be remembered as a period of progress and positivity; a step forward in the right direction for history to follow.
The legacy of Reconstruction is not purely negative as seen through the passing of the 14th amendment. Ratified on July 9, 1868, this amendment was a significant step toward resolving the social issues of the country. However, a big part of this time period's legacy is the poor enforcement of the laws and legislation designed to improve the lives of African Americans both socially and politically.
This cartoon above clearly demonstrates the lack of enforcement on Congress' part regarding the legislation passed to ensure rights for African Americans, specifically the 14th amendment which granted citizenship without the discrimination of race. This epitomizes what went on during Reconstruction as lack of strong law enforcement led to continued discrimination and persecution which is one of the main reason's why Reconstruction's legacy is partly negative despite legislation being passed. The author's purpose is to highlight this struggle for African Americans and show that Congress was "sleeping on law enforcement" essentially disregarding it. The lack of enforcement can warrant the opinion from someone that the legacy of Reconstruction is a negative one, due to the consistent discrimination against blacks, which was supposed to be the main goal along with the south's economic revival.
Furthermore, however, the legacy of Reconstruction does have some merit to it as clear progress was made in the direction of social, political, and economic equality for all.
This picture, illustrated by Thomas Nast, was created in 1865 immediately following the official emancipation of all slaves through the 13th amendment. It offers another view of the Reconstruction period; one of optimism and progress. Nast is clearly inspired and full of hope as blacks look to finally gain equality in the United States. Reconstruction served primarily as a transition period as blacks found their new way of life and this period thus prompted the Civil Rights movement which was later to come and additionally the women's suffrage movement. Nast seeks to highlight the hope he has for the United States following the end of the Civil War and passing of the 13th amendment. Thus, Reconstruction can also be remembered as a time of hope and as the base for further equality.
The legacy of Reconstruction may remain unclear due to the social tensions not being fully resolved however this time period should be remembered on a positive note, one that started the movement for change towards equality.
The image above truly represents what Reconstruction was about. Titled "the first vote", this epitomizes the true purpose of Reconstruction. It was the first stepping stone into gaining true equality for blacks in the United States. The "first vote" is the progress culminating into real legal action. The author, Alfred Rudolph, seeks to highlight the progress of Reconstruction regarding all the legislation passed especially the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments that helped start the change for equality. "The first vote" sets the precedence for African American equality and thus is highlights the positivity of Reconstruction, despite the discrimination and segregation that slowly emerged. The true legacy of this time period is shown through Rudolph's image; that is was an important phase in American history that ultimately paved the way for additional movements. It was amidst sectionalism and deep racism in the south, yet ultimately the legacy of this time period is positive, shown through the first vote being cast by a black man.
favorThe legacy of Reconstruction is debatable due to the continued tension and sectionalism paired with the push for equality for blacks. It may remain nebulous at times but the true legacy of this time period is clearly positive. The years following the Civil War proved to be vital in the movement for equality as seen through the passing of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. Though Congress did not enforce these amendments as strictly as they should have, the legislation undoubtedly helped the cause for African Americans and led to the development of the current day United States. Not only did African Americans gain social equality through Reconstruction, they also made steps regarding their political and economic status. Similar to the fight for social status, the economic and political status of African Americans greatly increased. This was seen through blacks starting their own businesses and holding seats in legislatures such as Congress. Overall, the legacy of Reconstruction is very encouraging and favorable, rather than filled with pessimism and looked at as a failure.