THESIS: Although the Reconstruction efforts succeeded in reintegrating the southern Unites States economically, it failed to provide social equality for African Americans and hence left a legacy built by southerners and was seen as failure, plagued with hate and violence which has repercussion to this day.
African American Segregation was an effect of policies enacted during Reconstruction by the South.
Attitudes towards African Americans were negative, not just in the South but in the entire US.
Violence from the KKK and white supremacist contributed to the social tensions between African African Americans and Southern Whites.
At the end of the civil war the victorious Union army had already created plans in order to restore the south; the period after the War is known as Reconstruction. The Civil War had divided the country in numerous way. The north still had its industry, retained their way of life, and was relatively tolerant on the country's social change. The south on the other hand had substantially more damage as a result of the war, had to adapt to social changes, and needed to develop a completely new economic system. These changes meant that the south would have a substantially harder time reintegrating into the Union. Although some radical republicans wished to impose harsh penalties on former confederates, the government ultimately favored more gradual and reconciliatory efforts to reintegrate the south. In order to understand the the south’s ability to dictate the legacy of Reconstruction and the Civil War it is crucial to see how the south able to justify actions and laws put in place after reconstruction, what effect did they have on social attitudes towards African Americans and how was the legacy shaped by these policies. Although the Reconstruction efforts succeeded in reintegrating the southern Unites States economically, it failed to provide social equality for African Americans and hence left a legacy built by southerners and was seen as failure, plagued with hate and violence.
Proclamation Of Amnesty [December 8, 1863]
One of the successes of Reconstruction was political and economic reintegration of the south into the Union. One of the United States primary objectives was to revert relations of the former Confederate State and the Federal government. One of the main pieces of legislation which successfully accomplished political reintegration were the Restoration Of Tennessee/ Joint Resolution and the Proclamation Of Amnesty [December 8, 1863]. The Restoration Of Tennessee/ Joint Resolution was an example of how Federal powers were reaffirmed as supreme. In addition to this the state of Tennessee was able to send their representatives to congress, again displaying the political integration the Federal government was advocating for. Similarly, the Proclamation Of Amnesty [December 8, 1863] would require insignificant actions in order of be readmitted into the United States, such as requiring a mere 10% of the population to pledge allegiance to the US. This document essentially tried to make Northern and Southerns relations go back to as “before the rebellion”, as it was made very easy for the south to rejoin. This was a success for the Reconstruction effort because it would overlook the political struggle over reintegration that would have ensued if the south was unable to rejoin the Union. It is also important to consider that the easy political reintegration didn’t help social relations between African Americans and White Southerners as these policies mainly tried to restore the political structure before the war. This neglected many of the African Americans who just been freed, and in turn allowed the south to dictate the events after Reconstruction and shape it’s legacy.
Although Reconstruction was successful in political reintegration of the south into the US, Federal policies failed to recognize and respond to social stratification based on race, which some argue is still a problem to this day. The south took advantage of the north’s inability to enact meaningful reform in the north by implementing their own legislation, such as Black Codes. These laws would eventually be grouped together and collectively be known as “Jim Crow Laws”. Black Codes contained laws which specifically targeted African Americans and were enacted to restrict many of the freedoms of the newly freed slaves. One example of such a law was that if a black man wanted to purchase something of more than 10 dollars or be part of any contract it had to be “witnessed by a white person who can read and write” (Sec 7, Black codes, 1866). This law and many others just like it were designed specifically for it to be harder for African Americans to have the same opportunities that whites enjoyed. This type of social stratification was made easier as the North turned it’s back on the south, when the Federal Government removed all of it’s troops in 1877. This allowed the south to enact these laws with little justification as many whites in the region agreed with these ideals, because they saw African Americans as inferior. Not only that, but these laws reinforced the ideals which terrorist groups like the KKK preached allowing for groups like that to rise to power. The use of intimidation by these groups as a result deterred African Americans to run for office or even vote. This led to more and more laws being passed which resembled the original Black Codes and had the same purpose of restricting African American rights. The effect of these laws in the long run was a continuation and deep embedment of social tension which last to today. The Reconstruction effort failed to address this very crucial aspect of social integration and change, if the north was able to enforce true “equality” and gradually embed these ideals into former confederates, then we may have a country which isn’t so divided along social boundaries today.
Martin Luther King Jr. Speech at the Lincoln Memorial
The legacy of Reconstruction can be seen even a hundred days after the end of the Civil War, and even until today according to some. One of the best examples of this is the civil rights movements in the 1960’s. One of the most influential speeches in American History by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was a perfect example of the legacy of reconstruction. Mr, King explained that ”Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free” (I had a Dream, King). This perfectly embodies how the struggles of the war was overshadowed by Reconstruction which had casted a shadow on the hope of equality for all African Americans. The laws implemented in the south were aimed to restrict black freedoms and Mr. King explains how these laws have hindered him from granting his freedom an astonishing 100 years later. It is clear that this was the most powerful legacy of Reconstruction, however it is also important to consider how the south was able to dictate such a legacy. This comes down to the North’s inability to maintain and expand civil rights for African Americans after the election Hayes and Tilden, as no troops were able to enforce any laws. Additionally, this gave way to the south being able to enact laws such as the Black Codes and eventually Jim Crow Laws, which had a lasting impact on Black rights. All of these also gave rise to the KKK which enhanced the already increasing social tensions. The legacy therefor is dependent on all these factors combined which make it such an influential part of society even today.
In Conclusion, Reconstruction efforts succeeded in reintegrating the southern Unites States economically, however it failed to provide social equality for African Americans and hence left a legacy built by southerners and was seen as failure, plagued with hate and violence. In addition to this, the south was able to dictate the legacy of Reconstruction due to the North’s inability to enact and enforce civil rights for African Americans, the rise of Terrorist groups to raise social tension, and ability of southern whites to gain political power over African Americans and in turn enact laws which hurt black. The social attitudes towards African Americans can be seen 150 years later as social tension still exists between whites and blacks due to the intensification of social stratification by southern whites in the south. All in all, such indefensible actions were able to pursue throughout an entire century deepening the divide which existed post civil war and leaving it’s mark on society to this day.