To what extent did Reconstruction affect the social,political, and economic status of African Americans in society? Reconstruction ERA (1865-1877)

The Union Victory in the Civil war resulted in the emancipation of millions of slaves, however the process of reconstruction (1865-1877) introduced a new set of significant challenges, many of which induced chaos and disorder in the States. The newly elected president Johnson advocated for states rights and favored pre-war leadership, which ultimately prevented any progressive post reconstruction actions from occurring. As a result of Johnson’s lenient policies, many southern states in 1865 and 1866 successfully enacted a series of laws known as the “black codes,” which were designed to restrict the African Americans from attaining equality. The Northerners were enraged by these actions and thus came the formation of the radial republican party which completely differed in its ideals as with those of the Democratic party. Despite several attempts at reconstruction, Legislature was divided as to how the Union was to be rebuilt and unified.The main issue, which provoked the greatest controversy concerned the rights and status of African Americans. Thus my question of concern is -To what extent did Reconstruction affect the social, political, and economic status/rights of African Americans in society? Reconstruction affected the social, political,and economic status of African Americans to a large extent in that it brought upon progressive political change, specifically basic political rights through the ratification of the 15th amendment, but also brought upon forms of social, political and economic oppression and discrimination thorough Black codes/Jim Crow laws and white supremacist groups.

Reconstruction for African Americans in society

One major success of the Reconstruction era was the ratification of the 15 amendment of the United States ratified on February 3, 1780. It was so important in that it granted African American men the right to vote and heightened their political status by declaring that the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." The Black community now held some form of political power in their hands which instilled a sense of hope in their eyes for a better future presumably possessing political, social, and economic equality with the white Americans. My primary source was Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish’s proclamation certifying the ratification of the 15th Amendment by the states.(March 30, 1870) In this document he declared the Amendment quoted above, and that “The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation” The main points of the document were that the Fifteenth amendment was to be be ratified by twenty-nine states and “further , that the states whose legislatures have so ratified the said proposed amendment constitutes three fourths of the whole number of states in the United States.” This is representative of the fact that a majority of the states did indeed ratify the amendments, meaning that widespread change was taking place all over the nation, bringing about political equality with it.

The primary source of conflict in this whole issue was the ideal of “white supremacy” which threatened the rise of Blacks in terms of reaching complete equality and basic human rights.The 15th amendment served as the first step of many in attaining this political power that they so desired. Along with granting political rights, the amendment solidified their positions as Americans, led to an increased sense of nationalism, and helped to define their respective identities, as American citizens of the United States.The widespread effects of this success included the spread of Africans in public offices in which they would serve as representatives in government and in other forms of Legislature. Thus, the voices of the oppressed and underrepresented African American community could finally be heard! The 15th amendment truly served as the first major push towards equality, bringing positive change in the political power and status of African Americans. Despite its success, several op positional forces and failures served as obstacles for the Black community. As my primary source mentioned, “the state of New York has since passed resolutions claiming to withdraw the said ratification of the said amendment…” This is representative of the acts of withdrawal by some states, and their desires to neglect the amendment as a whole. Additionally, the amendment was not properly enforced my congress, and if so, certainly not to its fullest extent. Rebellious Southern state governments found loopholes in granting the Blacks political power. They enforced the usage of literacy tests and poll taxes to prohibit Africans from voting.Despite the obstacles they faced, the African Americans did attain some form of political power in their journey towards complete political equality, which occurred as a result of the 15th amendment's ratification.With the amendment came change, a great step for the Africans in reaching social, political, and economic equality with their white counterparts.

15th Amendment

There were several failures of Reconstruction, including the obstacles in place to deny the social, political, and economic rights of the newly emancipated African Americans. The Africans were socially, politically, and economically oppressed through Southern Black Codes,Jim Crow Laws, as well as white supremacist groups. The ways in which they were tortured were inhumane and unjust to say the least. The Africans were constantly subject to bribery, forms of violence and hostility, threats, and murder by white supremacists groups such as the KKK. They tried to oppress the political rights which had previously been granted in the 15th amendment, and snatch and or manipulate and political power attained by the Blacks. Primary in the south, black codes and Jim crow laws were enforced to segregate the Black community and suppress them socially, politically, and economically. They were still looked upon as socially in equivalent and inferior to the white race, denied basic political rights, and were not given jobs or equal payment, meaning the Africans attained no economic/financial status. My primary source was a form of social oppression and discrimination, a Jim Crow Law denying the right of “Negroes riding in the city passenger railway cars.” This was just example of the many unjustified Black codes which prohibited Blacks from receiving the status in society that they so deserved. Racism was said to be the source of all chaos as many white males such as Daniel M. Fox “declared himself in opposition to all such privileges…. In which he declares against all social and political equality with the Negro race, and in favor of cars exclusively for themselves” The poster explicitly represented the bias and great racism directed towards the innocent Black community. Post emancipation, the Africans were already illiterate and financially broke, but forms of oppression such as the Black codes heightened the severity of their condition to a much larger extent, and that is why it was a major failure of the Reconstruction period. Blacks continued to be socially, politically, and economically oppressed in society.

Black's face Social oppression/Discrimination in riding city passenger railway cars

Various civil rights movements can be viewed as a legacy resulting from the reconstruction era. Till today, civil rights movements are in place such as the Black lives matter campaign and many more. The social, political, and economic status and rights are still a topic of substance in modern day society. The civil war left the nation deeply divided as to how much social, political, and economic power was to be granted to the African Americans.The issue continued for decades to come, as the process of achieving complete equality was lengthy and difficult for the Black community. My primary source addressed one aspect of the legacy, a political clash known as the Compromise of 1876. It talked about how president Grant refused to send federal troops when the Democrats waged acts of violence to take control of Mississippi. Grants decision would end the federal support for Reconstruction policies and governments. Eventually a compromise was reached and Democratic control of the entire south was established in exchange of Hayes election.The Compromise of 1876 marked the end of Reconstruction as a distinct period, but the struggle to deal with the revolution brought by slavery continued long afterwards. A century later, the legacy of Reconstruction would be revived during the civil rights movement of the 1960's, as African Americans fought for the political, economic and social equality that had been denied from them for so long.

The Reconstruction period brought upon change in the social, political,and economic rights of African Americans to a large and influential extent. The 15th amendment served as a major rise in the political power of African Americans, and boosted morale in the hopeful eyes of many oppressed Africans. It gave them a social identity as that of an American citizen, raising their social and economic status in society. Accompanying these successful factors, negative influential such as white supremacist group and Black codes oppressed the African Americans, restricting and denying their rights to social, political, and economic equality. Nonetheless, the Reconstruction period brought upon change, in whichever form it may be, and eventually led to the social, political, and economic equality of African Americans, which exists till this day.

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