Reconstruction Memorial What impact did reconstruction have on the rights of African Americans?

Introduction: Reconstruction was a time period of the physical and metaphorical rebuilding of the union. With the primary goal of reuniting the union, it also made efforts to establish rights and for freed slaves. Some may argue that reconstruction had only a positive effect on African American rights because of the 14th amendment. However, reconstruction influenced the creation of black codes and the rise of white supremacy. Therefore, there were significant negative consequences despite the initial good intentions of the era.

Success: 14th Amendment- https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=43

The 14th amendment increased the rights of African Americans. Post civil war, southern states did everything in their power to oppose emancipation brought on by reconstruction. To counteract this the 14th amendment was passed which reads from above "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." This granted anyone born on American soil citizenship regardless of their ethnicity. Therefore, freedmen were considered citizens and had unalienable rights under the law. In theroy this was the final nesascary steps towards equality for African Americans. However, in practice, when northern troops stopped protecting these laws in the south they were largely ignored.

Failure: Black codes- https://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/flatview?cuecard=454

Black codes were an example of a failure of reconstruction. Black codes were laws that formed in the south post civil war. They were ways to get around the rights of African Americans such as those implemented by 14th amendment. An example of black codes are labor contracts. Freedmen were forced to sign up for low priced labor or face fines that make them debt slaves. This largely preserved the southern society pre civil war with the only sufferance being they were restricted in some ways as demonstrated in the image above. A man is trying to whip an African Amercian man and a union solider stands between them, but without really watching. This perfectly symbolizes how the North tuned a blind eye to Freemen at the end of the civil war.

Legacy:white supremacy- http://understandingsociety.blogspot.com/2013_11_01_archive.html

The legacy left behind by reconstruction was one of white supremacy. Reconstruction had led to the formation of many racist and hateful groups in the south such as the Klu Klux Klan. They are considered, by today's standards, a social and political terroist group. However, they were thought to be an honorable society by those in the south post civil war. Their ideals are perfectly represented in the newspaper article pictured above. There is an African American man portrayed as an ape and it is criticizing the president's support of the Freedmens Bureau because they believe black rights take away from those of white men. This of course is a support of white supremacy, a movement that takes root in reconstruction and proceeds when reconstruction dies.

Conclusion:

Some may argue that reconstruction had only a positive effect on African American rights because of the 14th amendment. However, reconstruction influenced the creation of black codes and the rise of white supremacy. Therefore, there were significant negative consequences despite the initial good intentions of the era. This is similar to the revolutionary war. The colonists break free from Britain the way the slaves break free from their masters. However, Britain continues to impede the USA economically, such as through embargos, much like the slave owners impede freemen through labor contracts.

Created By
Rebecca Pierce
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