Reconstruction By: soham joshi

Reconstruction was an era after the Civil War to get the South back to its feet. Congressman passed amendments and laws to ban slavery in the United States and made sure all citizens in the United States are allowed to vote regardless of race to ensure rights to former African American slaves. However, why did Congress not give economic aid to former slaves? Although Congress passed the Freedman's Bureau, the passage of Black Codes in the South limited any economic mobility for African Americans and resulted in the introduction to Jim Crow laws which solidified the legacy of Reconstruction.

After the Civil War, Congress passed the Freedman Bureau's Act to provide aid to former slaves. This act provided food, shelter, medical care, etc. to former slaves, however the greatest area of success was in education. The Freedman's Bureau created 3,000 schools across the South and taught an estimated 200,000 African Americans on how to read. Education can provide economic mobility for African Americans by being employed in higher skilled jobs rather than the lower skilled jobs that slaves were accustomed to. Also, the ability for the Freedman Bureau's Act to provide shelter to African Americans is a major economic benefit because it illustrates that African Americans can be economically independent by owing property rather than being property.

However, the disadvantages of Reconstruction outweigh the benefits through the passage of the Black Codes. After Lincoln was assassinated, Andrew Johnson took over the process of Reconstruction. Doing so, he pardoned many Confederate legislators and allowed them to have a seat in Congress. These Confederate legislatures began to pass Black Codes which restricted African American activity and ensure their availability as a labor force. For example, many states forced African Americans to sign yearly labor contracts to work for large landowners by growing crops. In turn the landowner provided shelter and gave African Americans a share of the crop. This process was called Sharecropping which limited any economic mobility because it provided African Americans a steady job.

The introduction of the Jim Crow Laws solidified the legacy of Reconstruction though the establishment of white supremacy . Although the 15th amendment gave African Americans the right to vote, white Southerners and members of the KKK forced African Americans to vote for Southern Democrats though bribes or whippings. Often time, these individual made sure African Americans do not get to vote though lynchings or burning of African American communities. Furthermore, the Panic of 1873, an economic depression in which many factories, businesses, and banks in the North closed, caused Northerners to care less about Reconstruction in the South and instead focusing on maintaining there own way of life. These few events exemplify the demoralization and discrimination of African Americans during Reconstruction which lead to the establishment of the Jim Crow Laws in order to establish a thought of white supremacy throughout the United States.

The effect of Reconstruction left a sour taste towards African Americans. Although free men, their lives were confined with many racist and discriminatory laws of not only local, state, and federal governments but also of social practices. For example, if a white person and an African American person walk on a side-walk, the African American would be expected to move out the way. However, years leading up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the issue of discrimination and equal rights for African Americans would again resurface American politics. Many iconic figures such as Martin Luther King would organize the African American community and protest on the streets, boycott or integrate buses, movie theaters, restaurants, etc. This time however, the African Americans would finally make their mark for equality.

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