Reconstruction Memorial Project Eyobed Sitota

Reconstruction was a period in U.S. history during and after the Civil War in which the political, social, and economic problems that arose from the readmission of the 11 Confederate states were to be addressed. After the Civil War, Lincoln laid out steps to reestablish governments in ex-confederate states in which at least 10% of the voting population had taken an oath of allegiance. This presidential plan omitted any provision for social or economic reconstruction. While Reconstruction did make significant achievements for black rights, it was ultimately a failure due sectionalism which flourished from sociopolitical differences and inflamed with post war sentiments. Although abolitionists and pro-freedmen supported the freedoms and well being of blacks to be established under the reconstruction of America, the majority of citizens weren’t keen on integrating freed slaves into political and daily life. Because some believed blacks were naturally inferior to whites, levels of segregation were implemented since the freedom of slaves. These ‘black codes’ are proof that while the country was successfully unified, civil liberties were not protected in the integration of African Americans into society.

Letter from President Abraham Lincoln to Horace Greeley

While the Reconstruction was a success in that colored men and women were freed from the shackles of slavery able to live as Americans, the sociopolitical debates of the time were given priority over the integration of freed slaves into society . During and after the civil war, Lincoln put heavy emphasis on the need for unity in america, believing that he would value the reintegration of the southern states over all else. Including the the exodus of slaves from captivity. While Lincoln beliefs are held with the understanding of the sectionalism prevalent in the time period and the impracticality of further radicalizing themselves from their opponents in the short run they, in the long run, hindered reconstruction by devaluing the mortality associated with freeing the oppressed (Lincoln).

The Black Code of the District of Columbia in Force September 1st, 1848 (excerpt)

When slavery was abolished at the end of the Civil War, southern states created laws aimed to keep white supremacy in place. These 'black codes' attempted to economically disable freed slaves because southerners feared that there society would degrade with the addition of black Americans. Some laws would debt freed men and women forcing them to pay with months or years of unpaid labor. Some, including the excerpt would openly discriminate and target African Americans in order to ensure they were excluded from society. Therefore by forcing African Americans to continue to work on plantations and to remain prisoner to racial hierarchy in the southern societies southerners were able to greatly restrict reconstruction. Black codes gave rise to a new wave of radical Republicanism in Congress so while the reconstruction was hindered by the prejudice of the south it created the framework for the civil rights movement which would oppose the black codes which set the precedent for Jim Crow laws (Corporations of Washington).

Andrew Johnson's Civil Rights Bill Veto

Reconstruction, the attempt to unify the nation again and integrate newly freed slaves into society, was largely a failure due to racism, sectionalism, and the negligence of those in power. While it did establish important fundamental rights for blacks and establish a place for them in society, they were not assimilated and instead segregated due to overall prejudices and the establishment of black codes. These and other establishments restricted the rights of blacks and helped create more sectional tensions due to the regional use of these codes. Because of a lack of centralization in the legislation of these codes, restrictions of liberty could differ from place to place based on the politics of that area. These sectional tensions were manifested themselves in the struggle between political parties, the Republicans represented the African Americans and Northern views, as opposed to the more traditional and racist views held by Democrats representing the South. While politicians feared federal policy regarding race would further divide the country by neglecting the rights of an oppressed group they allowed for regional prejudice to dictate conversation, increasing sectionalism (Johnson).

In conclusion, Reconstruction did little of what it was intended to do, and is more of a failure than a success due to the rise of racist beliefs against blacks and the lack of centralization of opposition to these beliefs. Such sectional tensions and mistreatment are only rivaled by the Jackson presidency and the lack of unity in the Democratic Republican party during the election of Andrew Jackson. In that time period similar prejudices and contrasting opinions were evident, and the social order of many was called into question during that time and Reconstruction. During the reconstruction many Northerners supported the end of slavery and were pro-freedmen, there were however still an overall prejudice based on race which hindered true national unity. The Democratic Republicans divided for exactly the same reasons.

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