A Tribute to Reconstruction How did radicalism shape the development of the Reconstruction Era?

An era characterized by the vanquished and not the victor proved to be trying times for civil rights equality for the newly freed slaves. Both radical democrats and republicans shaped society to form a slightly leaning liberal progression in the aftermath of the Civil War. Radicalism had a positive effect, pushing for legislation that opens possibilities for African Americans to assimilate. It had a negative effect, in that white supremacists suppressed the republican population, thus hindering progress. However, the legacy from the radicals in the North resulted in a slow, moderate shift toward a free society.

Thomas Nast's cartoon showing Nathan Bedford Forrest and other white supremacists' threat to rights of African Americans

Abolition was an act of reformation, and slavery was the previously accepted ideology. Humans do not like change, therefore the South was heavily characterized by the conservative view of slavery. The North tried to enact reform through policy, non-violent acts of rebellion, and influence of leaders, however the South's radical groups, such as the KKK, used violence, hate, and intimidation to influence the ideology of the South. This is a major failure of reconstruction because the root of the democratic ideology was sought to be preserved through the destruction of others. Blacks suffered and died because of this and severely hindered the progress of reconstruction. When people die and are abused, the images and stories stick with people because the horror is unbearable, thus shaping the representation of destruction that was the South.

Civil Rights Bill of 1866 vetoed by Johnson but pushed through by Congress

Although there were many failures of reconstruction, the opposition to radical democrats and white supremacist were radical republicans. They fought for complete civil equality and total abolition of slavery. Although much of reconstruction was characterized by the South, civil rights movements in the North had considerable success. Although Andrew Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Bill off 1866, Congress was still able to push the bill through and override the veto. This was a large success for African Americans as they attempted to assimilate as free men and women because it officially recognized them as citizens.

A school established by the Freedman's Bureau

The legacy of Reconstruction is depicted through the actions of the Freedman's Bureau, in specific relation to education. The Freedman's Bureau represents an effort to constantly progress towards a society that easier for blacks to assimilate with whites. It takes a radical ideology and makes it a moderate application. The Freedman's Bureau gave an opportunity for African Americans to get an education, and lasted long after reconstruction, as they continued to fight for civil rights. However, they represent the legacy of reconstruction because it shows the continued effort to compensate for the detriments of slavery.

Political ideology shaped by radicalism is a recent phenomenon as well. In the 2016 election, there was a stark division between democrats and republicans based on the candidates' platforms. This caused heated debate between the two sides, as radicalism that had previously been hidden was now spilling out. By both sides debating their beliefs, a more moderate point of view can be taken after the understanding of both sides. However, the republican candidate won, showing that a side had slightly more support than the other, much like the civil rights movement in the 1880s. Through the success of activists and legislation, to the failures of white supremacy, reconstruction has left a legacy of debt compensation to African Americans, as the US attempted to ease their freedom back into society.

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