Reconstruction after the Civil War
The Reconstruction era refers to a time just after the Union victory in the Civil War when America was asking some of the most important questions that would help determine a course of action for the future. One of these extremely significant questions was: How should America and the Nation rebuild itself after the rough times throughout the Civil War? During the war, around six million soldiers died from a multitude of problems including diseases, starvation, by accident, and most commonly by combat. Debt, racism, and slavery were also very prominent problems that came upon America in the time of dismay and terror of the war (Newton Gresham Library, 2018). Considering these obstacles and dilemmas, the Nation had to think of a quick, but efficient, plan to get America back on track after the brutal circumstances the world had gone through. The Reconstruction era that lasted from 1865-1877 began with America in a triumphant state due to the recent victory by the Union in the Civil War. A realization of tragedy came when political views clashed and violence erupted between Northerners and Southerners due to African American rights in the southern states, which surfaced significant challenges such as racism and slavery, that needed to be addressed.
Planning for Reconstruction began in 1863 before the era even started. Abraham Lincoln made an executive decision that abolishing slavery would be the best solution to help the country move forward after the war. Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation which ended up freeing millions of slaves (Howard University, 2009). Slavery had been a significant problem that needed to be stopped because people in a society should be treated equally, and not unfairly. The Congress came to an agreement on how to fulfill Abraham Lincoln’s request in January, 1865. The thirteenth amendment was passed on December 18, 1865 officially aboslishing slavery. The Civil War ended April 9, 1865 and shortly after, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Andrew Johnson took over the presidency from 1865-1869 and then Ulysses S. Grant became president for most of the remainder of the Reconstruction era till 1877 (Howard University, 2009). “Black codes” began to form due to the newly freed African American slaves now traveling around the Nation. “Black codes” were a sort of law that controlled and limited labor, behavior, and rights of slaves.
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In the North, citizens started to outrage because the codes were limiting slaves rights to freedom. The outrage led to the beginning of what is the Presidential Reconstruction. During this time, President Johnson decided to let Southern states, who owned the most slaves, to make decisions that resulted in getting freedom back that had been taken away during war. The states abused the power given to authorities and citizens by Andrew Johnson and led America into the next phase of Reconstruction called the Radical Reconstruction. The Radical Reconstruction resulted in marches, Amendments, and Reconstruction Acts that forever shaped America into the world today (History.com, AE Television Network, 2018).
The Reconstruction era started in a triumphant state due to the Union victory in the Civil War. American citizens were glad that a long four years of fighting was over. African American were also glad because the 13th Amendment declared freedom to all slaves. A few days before Lincoln was assassinated, he finally thought of a plan on how to welcome the South back into the Union, although his vice president was to carry on his plan of allowing all blacks, including those who had enlisted in the military, the right to vote. Besides the 13th Amendment, two other Amendments were established during the Reconstruction era. Equal protection to all former slaves was granted by the 14th Amendment (History.com, AE Television Network, 2018).
The United States Constitution states that the 15th Amendment, “guaranteed that a citizen’s right to vote would not be denied “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Due to the Amendments, the Radical Reconstruction mostly focused on the broad topic of how African American freed slaves lived and were represented in the world. Black representation in the world increased through elections to Southern state governments and the U.S. Congress. The Reconstruction era also brought more accomplishments and achievements including more fair taxation legislation, public school systems, and racial discrimination laws were constructed (History.com, AE Television Network, 2018).
Tragedy was always around during the Reconstruction Era. “Black codes” were one of the first signs that America was on the wrong track just after war. The Union offered the South money to pay off debt and freedom to rebuild the states after the war in an attempt to restore trust. The South abused the rights given by the Union and with the power created the “black codes” (Howard University, 2009). Enraged northerners were extremely confused and upset with the decision to restrict rights after the return of freedom by the 13th Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation. Members of Congress usually refused to accept seats next to people who had been elected in the South due to the codes. The Civil Rights Bill and the Freedmen’s Bureau were passed by Congress to help fight for the equality of slaves and sent for approval to President Johnson. Andrew Johnson vetoed the two Acts and the Congress did not agree with the decision made. This event caused President Johnson to be impeached as president.
A march over Johnson’s veto sparked the beginning of the Reconstruction Act of 1867 that divided the South and discussed how the government should be organized. When African American representation and participation increased across the world, many white supremacist organizations, including the Ku Klux Klan, targeted black and white leaders and African Americans that challenged white authority (History.com, AE Television Network, 2018).
In conclusion, the Reconstruction era encountered both triumph and tragedy from 1865-1877. Racism and slavery are problems that influenced decisions made by Congress during the era. Learning about the Reconstruction is important because racial problems are still occuring today. The Civil Rights Movement that occured from 1954-1968, a whole century later than the Reconstruction, shows how African Americans are still fighting for rights (‘Historical South Carolina Newspapers, 2015) . If it was not for a suggested solution from racism and slavery in the 16th century then the world would not be able to live in peace as people do today.