Was Reconstruction a success or failure

Subject: American History
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 810
Topics: Constitution, Government, Reconstruction, Slavery


The reconstruction era started after the end of the Civil War in 1865-1877. The main focus of the Reconstruction period was to bring the Southern state that had seceded from the Northern part back into full political platform in the Union. Furthermore, the era aimed at giving rights to the former slaves and develops new relationships between African Americans and whites. The reconstruction era achieved some success but failed in some critical areas.

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The Rights of Former Slaves

After the Southern states seceded from the Union, they withdrew their membership from the Congress. This left the congress with Northern members. Some whites felt that the slaves were not ready to be integrated as part of the American society. However, the majority of the whites were sympathetic with the plight of the slaves. Therefore, they felt that the right thing was to enhance their welfare. The republicans supported the motion to give African Americans the right to vote. The reason is that they believed the African Americans would support their agendas at the polls, an aspect that would enable them to achieve their objectives (Guelzo, 2018). To achieve this objective, the republicans were in strong support towards the amendment of the US Constitution. This required the approval of two thirds of each chamber of the congress. Moreover, it needed to be ratified by three out of four states. The republicans rushed the decisions because they felt that it would be hard to achieve this objective after the Southern states rejoin the Union. As a result, the Congress was able to pass and approve the 13th Amendment of the constitution which prohibited slavery (Foner, 2001). In 1868, the Congress passed and ratified the 14th Amendment which granted slaves equal protection from the law. The Northern States that supported free slaves also ensured that after the Southern rejoin the Union, they would not be able to reverse the decisions made. This was a huge win for the slaves. The reason is that they were given the powers to vote for their representatives, an aspect that improved their welfare.

Although the 13th and 14th amendments played a significant role in enhancing the political and social welfare of the former slaves, the changes did not have a huge impact on the economic welfare of the African Americans. After their release from slavery, the government did very little to offer economic support to this marginalized group (Ourselves, 2015). Most of the former slaves were illiterate. As a result, they could not secure well-paying jobs, an aspect that would have enabled them to pay their bills and take their children to school. Therefore, most of them were forced to be homeless while others became workers in their former masters’ farms. They offered their labor in return for very low salaries (Kissane, 2015). Most of their children were frustrated for lack of opportunities. As a result, they ended up abusing drugs and engaging in criminal activities. This led to an increase in racial profiling by the law enforcers. Since then, poverty has been transferred from one generation to the other.

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Although systematic racism has denied African Americans the opportunity to achieve economic progress, there were a number of successes that were achieved in the Reconstruction Era. For instance, the African Americans were previously denied an opportunity to join American school. However, the reforms saw African Americans given the green light to join the schools (Egerton, 2014). This played a significant role in enabling the black community to have representatives in different positions. For example, black lawyers led protests to agitate for better rights. This played a critical role in addressing some of the challenges that were affecting the black community.

Unification of the North and South

The Reconstruction Era was able to achieve the unification objective. Initially, the South and North had separated based on the ideological differences. However, for America to achieve any remarkable progress there was a need to reunite both sides. To achieve this objective, President Andrew Johnson pardoned all Southern whites. Their political and property rights were restored except for the slaves. By 1870s, all the former Southern states had been readmitted as part of the union (Blackmon, 2012). The unification enabled America to progress as a single unit. The reason is that the Southern was able to support the industry workers in the North through the production of food. Furthermore, cotton and other related crops were used as raw materials for the industries in the North. This played a significant role in stimulating economic growth in the country.


The Reconstruction era was able to achieve remarkable success in relations to the rights of the African Americans. However, it failed to address the economic aspect. This subjected the black population to abject poverty which was transferred from one generation to the other. Nevertheless, during this period, the South and Northern parts were reunited, thereby stimulating economic growth in the country.

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  1. Blackmon, D. A. (2012). Slavery by another name: The re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War Two. Icon Books.
  2. Egerton, D. R. (2014). The wars of reconstruction: The brief, violent history of America’s most progressive era. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
  3. Foner, E. (2001). Reconstruction: America’s unfinished revolution, 1863-1877. Peter Smith Pub.
  4. Guelzo, A. C. (2018). Reconstruction: A concise history. Oxford University Press.
  5. Kissane, B. (2015). After Civil War: Division, reconstruction, and reconciliation in contemporary Europe. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  6. Ourselves, F. H. (2015). The reconstruction era and the fragility of democracy. Facing History & Ourselves National Foundation.
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