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In 1861, years of tensions between the Southern and Northern states over issues such as slavery, westward expansion, and federal authority versus states’ rights culminated into the American Civil War which was fought between 1861 and 1865. When Abraham Lincoln, an anti-slavery Republican, was elected the President in 1860, 11 states in the South seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. This would later lead to 4 years of a brutal civil war which would end with a victory for the Union and a devastating loss for the Confederacy. The Civil War had a profound impact on the social, economic, and political structures of the United States. Socially, the Emancipation Proclamation marked a significant step in the abolition of slavery. This would culminate in the passage of the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery and African Americans became free people. However, according to Wheelan (2015), after Reconstruction, the whites in the South started regaining control of the Southern states and started passing laws which segregated and restricted freedoms that former slaves had attained.
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Politically, the Republican Party dominated the country’s politics as it pursued its Reconstruction plan. Many African –American also ended up being supporters of the Republican Party since it helped them through the abolition of slavery and the guarantee of rights and freedoms. The Democratic Party during this period was also redefined as the party of the angry white Southerners, or the anti-Reconstruction voter. Economically, the South suffered greatly as it depended mainly on an agrarian economy which was slave-based. However, with Reconstruction, the economy was diversified and more industries were built, and this would propel the United States into a banking and industrial giant.
The Election of Barrack Obama
On the 4th of November 2008, Barack Hussein Obama was overwhelmingly elected as the 44th President of the United States of America on a Democratic Party ticket, defeating Republican Party’s John McCain. His win was special as he became the first African American to be the country’s chief executive, or rather the country’s first black president. His election was symbolic as it capped the remarkable development in the nation’s troubled racial history. It was unthinkable that an African American would rise to be at the helm of the United States. Obama would go on to serve as president for two terms following his reelection in 2012. The election of Barrack Obama as US President and the American Civil War have a similarity in that they marked significant chapters in race relations in the United States. What had started out as the abolition of slavery after the Civil War, had resulted in freedoms and rights for African Americans and would culminate in the election of the country’s first black president. According to Coates (2013), the Obama presidency was a consequence of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln decades before, with the Democratic candidate benefiting greatly from a record turnout among the black community.
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However, the two events had a number of differences. While the Civil War was characterized by bloodshed, loss of life and destruction, Obama’s election was a democratic process. It is also important to note that political allegiances had shifted post 2000. While African Americans belonged to the Republican Party post Civil War as they deemed it to have ensured their freedom, 2008 was a show of shift of the African Americans who were now mostly in the Democratic Party. In conclusion, the American Civil War is a stark reminder that racial relations have been an issue that has characterized American society for centuries, but which has greatly improved despite challenges.
- Wheelan, Joseph. “How the Civil War Changed America Forever”. The Daily Beast. https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-the-civil-war-changed-america-forever
- Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Emancipation of Barack Obama”. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/03/the-emancipation-of-barack-obama/309237/