Reconstruction exploratory essay

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Goals of African-Americans in the South, whites in the South, and white Northerners

Reconstruction was one of the turbulent and controversial eras in the American history. The efforts to reconstruct the South followed the Civil War in America and during which attempts were made to address the issue of inequality and slavery as well as political, social and economic problems. The involved parties were the African-American, white Southerners and the white Northerners. Each group had different goals of participating in the reconstruction activity. The aim of reconstruction in the south was not just to reform the social and political institutions but also to bring peace in that side (Nancy & Steven, 1865).

Hostile whites surrounded the African-Americans whether free or slaves thus they didn’t enjoy their freedom as the whites didn’t know how to have free cultured individuals while the blacks didn’t understand what it meant to be free. The blacks didn’t demand r privileges from the government, but instead, they demanded equality under the laws and justice (Allen, 1937).  During the war, African-American offered their services to the troops but was denied full citizenship hence it was their goals to be recognized as full citizens in American. Blacks formed the largest population in the South, but they could not enjoy the same equal rights as the whites. They, therefore, demanded equal suffrage as the whites in the state stating that the government derives its power from the governed and they were the majority. Additionally, they requested the whites never to try the black men, and neither through the custom or enactment should they be excluded from the jury box.  The blacks also protested the black law and instead suggested that the same rule should be applied to them. On the list of what they wanted to achieve was to solve the land issues and be granted full ownership. As a result of granting the black rights a negro-government was formed (Pike, 1874).

The whites in the south fought for universal suffrage together with the black especially gender equality (Stanton et al., 1887).  Some of the whites, nevertheless, rejected some the rights demanded by the blacks especially land distribution which was the responsibility of the Freedmen’s Bureau. President Johnson undermined the efforts by pardoning former Confederates and restoring the land to them limiting blacks land ownership. Some whites in the south had a different view of the black reconstruction as they termed it a recipe for corruption and immorality. In this case, the southern legislatures created a Black Code that would limit the rights of the black after the emancipation, and they aimed at subjecting them to slavery again. Also, the whites fought against properties’ ownership, and they intended to limit the black’s freedom, mobility, and economic opportunities.

The Northerners were split on the issue of reconstructing the South. Majority of them had the rights of the women and freedmen in their mind. However, there was not much of the reconstruction to be done in the north since the war was on the south. However, the white northerner’s involvement in the rebuilding of the south was not to incorporate the blacks in the national fabric. They were not happy with the millions of the blacks invading their northern job marketing jeopardizing their economy. They also expected the Southerners to accept the outcome of the war and reconcile themselves.

Why Reconstruction turned out the way it did

The main aim of reconstruction as discussed was to reconcile the south and the north. However, this agenda lacked the proper process and didn’t offer a solution on how white Americans dealt with black Americans.  The underlying issue in the unification was the colour line. Many individuals hoped that reconstruction would unite the nation in America, but it turned out to be ineffective. The rights of the freed people became violated. Politically the government didn’t make much effort to convince the Southerners to rejoin the union. All that the government did was to pass the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments which invested the Congress with the power to protect the civil and political rights of citizens (Dunbar-Nelson, 1914). Also, the civil rights were not stipulated.

Also, the Freedmen’s Bureau was underfunded. The Bureau was formed to counteract the Black Codes. This Bureau provided food, housing, medical services, education, legal assistance to the African-Americans. The small funds allocated left many of the slaves uneducated and still in the south. Land reforms didn’t exist meaning that slaves were forced to sharecropping systems and didn’t own any farms which would have made them more independent, and equal if it could have succeeded.

Furthermore, reconstruction failed due to the Black codes and other laws that restricted the slaves. The Black Codes were created by the southern legislature that limited the black’s freedom and returned them to a condition that was close to slavery. This code availed limited economic opportunities to the people of colour. The issue aroused since the laws were unconstitutional and no efforts were made to challenge the codes in court or to undermine them by the local militia authorities. This system left the African-Americans unprotected and once again working involuntarily for the whites demonstrating that rebuilding was a big failure. Reconstruction ended after 12 years, and after it was cut off, the southern economy was ruined and the majority of its population left in poverty. The denial to grant the blacks their rights also led to the blood revolution (McPherson, 1872).

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  1. Allen, J. S. (1937). Reconstruction: the battle for democracy (1865-1876). International publishers.
  2. Dunbar-Nelson, A. M. (Ed.). (1914). Masterpieces of Negro eloquence. The Bookery publishing company.
  3. McPherson, E. (1872). Handbook of Politics for… Philp & Solomons.
  4. Nancy A. Hewitt, & Steven F. Lawson. (1865). Exploring American Histories, Volume 2 A Survey with Sources (2018 ed.).
  5. Pike, J. S. (1874). The Prostrate State: South Carolina under Negro Government.
  6. Stanton, E. C., Anthony, S. B., & Gage, M. J. (Eds.). (1887). History of woman suffrage (Vol. 2). Susan B. Anthony.
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