During Reconstruction (1865 - 1877), America faced several challenges with its new citizens and returning states. Although Lincoln had progressive goals after the Civil War, his death left Andrew Johnson as President, who emphasized state rights and favored pre-war leadership. President Johnson's actions prevented many progressive actions in ensuring the complete loyalty of Southern states to the Union, as well as enforcements for newly emancipated African Americans. A lot of progress was stunted through divides in government as well, because there were radical Republicans and Democrats who disagreed as to how rebuild the Union. However, significant progress was achieved as well, such as the establishment of public school systems in the South, increased taxation, and the passing of the 14th and 15th amendment. One prominent question that stems from this period is: how did Reconstruction politically and socially affect African Americans? These were two aspects of African American life which were highly disputed by white government officials, as they were unsure as to how much power to provide African Americans. Reconstruction had an immense effect on the political and social status of African Americans in years to come because African Americans gained the right to vote, but continued to be socially oppressed through Black Codes.
The 15th amendment had profound effects on African Americans, most of which were positive. At the time this source was passed in Congress, the other Reconstruction amendments had been passed, and this was a continuation to the great increase in Constitutional rights for African Americans. This amendment granted all African American men the right to vote, and prohibited states from preventing any man to vote on the basis of their race, or previous social status. This was huge progress for African Americans at the time, because participating in American democracy solidified their positions as American citizens, and African American men were enthusiastic about voting when they could do so without restrictions. The 15th amendment also propelled the beginning of African Americans taking important positions in government, due to their increased interest in politics because they had power for the first time. The source itself is very concise, and simply states the amendment and allows the Congress to enforce it at any time. However, there were some discrepancies in this amendment due to lack of effective enforcement by Congress, leaving way for Southern state governments to prohibit African Americans from voting through literacy tests and poll taxes, creating more hurdles to political equality for African Americans. Overall, the 15th amendment was a positive effect of Reconstruction on the African American community.
Despite achievements in political status, African Americans faced many social discrimination during Reconstruction and on, especially in the South. One of the heinous acts towards African Americans were Black Codes, which developed during Reconstruction and were used predominantly in the South throughout Reconstruction and alongside Jim Crow laws. According to the source, an article published by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, the several functions of Black Codes in the South included restricting the rights of African Americans, defining their labor role, which included a contract stating they were servant s working for their white masters. Black Codes also bound the children of former slaves in labor contracts, and restricted equality in the court room as well. Due to the harsh nature of the first Black Codes, state governments were forced to rewrite them, but many unfair conditions existed, such as binding African Americans as a means of a labor source. The Black Codes reflected on the status of the South during Reconstruction, as white Southerners were determined to maintain dominance over African Americans despite them being free. This caused problems with Congress as well, who were attempting to rid the nation of racial dominance and provide African Americans equal rights.
The uncertainty of the position of African Americans left a lasting mark on the African American community, and the battles many are facing in society and media today. Reconstruction left African Americans with an abundance of opportunities, yet a grave restriction to them as well. The deep divide, as a result of the Civil War, which would continue to affect the country for several decades to come, was greatly reflected through the varying degree of rights African Americans were granted in society. According to this source, which is an article from ABC-CLIO Databases, political clashes within the government and between states were the main cause of difference in treatment African Americans experienced throughout the country. Within government, Congress attempted to provide African Americans with as many rights as possible through several new amendments and bills, such as the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, and the Reconstruction acts. However, Congress struggled a lot as well, primarily due to Andrew Jackson's unwavering support for Southern democratic policies, which prevented the passing of many new influential laws. African Americans also continued to face varying degrees of discrimination throughout the country, which differed experiences within the African American community, and propelled different movements throughout the decades.
Reconstruction had a large impact on the political and social positions of African Americans because African American males gained the right to vote, but socially, continued to be oppressed through Black Codes. The Reconstruction Era and the Civil Rights Era hold many parallels because during both time periods, African Americans faced political and social turmoil and improvement. During both time periods, African Americans were determined to gain rights and banish their oppressed positions in society. Poor living conditions were one common struggle African Americans faced during both time periods, and revolts often broke out as well. There were several influential leaders as well. During the Reconstruction Era, Frederick Douglass was a highly influential abolitionist who worked with President Lincoln during the Civil War to construct a way to provide equal rights to African Americans. During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most influential leaders who helped spark and spread the Civil Rights Movement and worked with President Lyndon Johnson to brainstorm efficient ways to implement progressive policies for African Americans.