Question: How did Reconstruction and resistance against Reconstruction leave a lasting impact on the South?

After the Civil War, the North and South together had the job of reconstructing the South after the war that had left it ravaged. The nation also needed to decide how to deal with the newly freed slaves, who didn’t have enough skills or money to be truly independent. Reconstructionist policies aimed to help these slaves gain a livelihood and support themselves. Across the South, white landowners resisted these policies claiming that they were unfair and a waste of resources. Eventually, Southern generals were pardoned and became prominent political figures who were able to redact enacted policies and block any future policies that would help freed African Americans. This resistance against Reconstructionist policies allowed the South to clear itself of any responsibility for the war, although it did succeed in the larger goal of uniting the North and South, all while leaving a lasting legacy of racism and segregation in the South.

The Proclamation of Amnesty issued by Abraham Lincoln on December 8, 1863 and granted amnesty to all the states who had split into the Confederacy and most everyone one had been involved in the war. It restored all property back to the owners and gave permission for the states to form their own government and deal with their freed slaves however they wanted, as long as the emancipated slaves were still technically free. This minimal punishment did not force the South to accept responsibility for its action and made it so Southerners could continue to hold on to their beliefs and traditions without questioning them. The South was also able to form the dominant historical narrative about the Civil War that framed them in the best light possible. Southern generals, who had technically committed treason against the United States, were revered as national heroes and reasoning behind the Civil War shifted to one of that concerned mostly with states’ rights instead of slavery. The North gave up historical truth in favor of unity between the two sides. The Reconstruction failed to accurately document the Civil War, and instead predominantly focused on the Southern point of view.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was an attempt to protect African Americans who were subjugated under Black Codes. It once again declared equality between all men and that basic rights promised in the Constitution could not be taken away under any circumstance. This act showed the struggle between keeping the Union together by pleasing the South but also the need to maintain the principles of the United States. The Union was kept together in part by the amnesty discussed in the previous paragraph, but also needed to have a solid moral ground that it maintained or the country would fall apart. This act was one of the first steps taken to maintain the integrity of the nation after the slaves were freed. In this way, the Civil Rights Act during Reconstruction succeeded in keeping together the North and the South, even though the South was opposed to the idea of equality among freed black slaves and white men.

The emancipation of the slaves led to the creation of the Black Codes in order to subjugate freed African Americans and keep them as close to slaves as possible. The Black Codes were extensions of rules for slaves in the antebellum period, which included restrictions on where they could be at what time, the carrying of weapons and which freed slaves could come into the state. The Black Codes kept emancipated African Americans in the class of second class citizens; barely citizens at all. Black Codes created a foundation for the later segregation in the South and Jim Crow laws. The reluctance of Southerners to accept freed slaves as equals ensured that there would be a lasting legacy of racism, segregation and discrimination and Black Codes were the first legislative actions that enabled this oppression of African Americans.

In conclusion, Reconstruction policies and efforts were met with little support in the South, but they did succeed in their goal in unifying the nation, even though the resistance led to the rewriting of essential elements of the Civil War by the South and a legacy of deep segregation and oppression of freed slaves. From an economic standpoint, Reconstruction also had a huge impact. Freed slaves were often still indebted to their masters and spent their whole life paying off impossible debts, keeping them in the same servitude as slavery did. They had little economic opportunity because they could not get a quality education in many places and had few chances to own their own land or work for their personal gain. This created a lasting cycle of poverty, of which traces can still be found today.

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