Reconstruction Memorial To what extent did former slaveholders aid and/or hinder Reconstruction Efforts?

The civil war had just come to an end, and Lincoln’s goal of rebuilding the Union seemed incredibly more tangible without his people firing at one another. Nonetheless, a reconciled nation was still just out of reach. Many people affected Reconstruction efforts in a myriad of ways, specifically slaveholders. To what extent did slaveholders aid and/ or hinder Reconstruction? Despite slight support through aiding in the construction of railroads, slaveholders largely hindered Reconstruction efforts through Black Codes and continued ideals of white supremacy.


W.E.B Dubois wrote out this list of all the Georgia Black Codes in order to show the calculated discrimination against African Americans during the time period of Reconstruction. By hand, he wrote out over three hundred pages of legal material in order to make a point. It is hard to imagine how strict the laws were solely on African Americans if they needed three hundred pages of laws just due to their skin color. Although they are now "free", their freedom is intangible. These Black Codes enforced largely by former slaveholders stopped former slaves from being able to purchase land, forced them into semi-bondage through work contracts as apprentices, and prohibited them from testifying in court. Codes like these of Georgia crippled Reconstruction efforts and basically continued slavery without directly owning individuals. If the South had tried to move on from the past and accept the present, Reconstruction would have been a lot more successful and brought about the equality and reconciliation the Civil War was fought for.


The South had yet to industrialize to the degree that the North had and so major changes were made during this era of Reconstruction in order to try and bring them up to speed. One of the efforts made was that of constructing of railroads to connect the slightly isolated South to the rest of the United States. This was largely beneficial to former slaveholders that now didn't have the workforce to be completely self-sufficient and would need resources and goods from other parts of the country and therefore they were rather adamant about getting these railroads built. Without their push to be connected with the rest of the country, the South would have stayed isolated and may have never begun to change their habits. This aspect of Reconstruction was a rather big success because it boasted the nation's economy and allowed the South to stray away from their old habits.


Views of white supremacy didn't solely affect the treatment of African Americans. Since the slaveholders had gone years mistreating those who they viewed as less than them due to their skin color, treating Native Americans poorly alongside African Americans was easy. However, as African Americans began to fight for their equalities, Native Americans began to work for theirs. This cartoon shows the deliberate exclusion based on race in a citizen's right of voting. Although Native Americans originally helped build the United States through teaching settlers how to live on their new land, Whites purposefully exclude them due to their pitiable views of white supremacy. However due to this mistreatment of people deemed inferior, in the future people like these mistreated Native Americans and others like women in whole would take a stand for their rights and fight for the equality they deserve.

Although some of the actions of previous slaveholders after the civil war benefitted Reconstruction efforts like industrialization of the South, the majority of them hampered the efforts of those in support of a reunited nation through Reconstruction through Black Codes and views of white supremacy. The use of Black Codes to force African Americans into signing work contracts that acted as a form of slavery is similar to how indentured servants were forced into slavery even though they initially only signed up to work for a limited period.

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