Black Reconstruction Essay Research Paper Black ReconstructionAn

Black Reconstruction Essay, Research Paper



An analysis of Black Identity, Politics, and Religion

DonnJ Settles

Black Identity

April 30, 1999

Prior to the Civil War and Reconstruction, the chief end of the African American population was to be granted freedom. African Americans had been enslaved since 1619 in America, when the first slaves were sold on the auction block. However, their constructs of freedom were highly romanticized and extremely unrealistic as a direct consequence of the atrociousnesss they witnessed and endured in the establishment of bondage. They visualized the abolishment of bondage to be comparable with the coming of Jesus Christ. Yet when political relations made that twenty-four hours go world on January 1, 1863, the freshly freed work forces and adult females were absolutely defeated and in confusion. After populating their lives under the establishment of bondage, the former slaves were literally left to last on their ain without the proper tools such as chances, commissariats, or instruction. This race of people, for whom it was illegal to larn to read or compose and even to congregate in groups of three or more, was now released into the same society that had enslaved them, and which was now supposed to open its weaponries and accept them as peers. Along with this freedom came a sudden alteration in individuality, a clinging to faith, and a supposed new arrangement within society.

? The Negro became in the first twelvemonth contraband of war ; that is, belongings belonging to the enemy and valuable to the encroacher. And in add-on to that, he became, as the South rapidly saw, the key to Southern opposition. Either these four million labourers remained softly at work to raise nutrient for their combatants, or the combatant starved. Simultaneously, when the dream of the North for man-power produced public violences, the lone extra military personnels that the North could depend on were 200,000 Negroes, for without them, as Lincoln said, the North could non hold won the war. ? ( DuBois, 80 )

In malice of this, the intervention of African Americans from bondage to freedom could merely be thought of as different harmonizing to the jurisprudence because conceptually the two individualities, slave and free, closely parallel each other even today.

Survival was a cardinal component for the lives of African Americans during bondage. Its steering rule was the ability to digest the subjugation to procure the continuance of the race. Slaves recognized that version to the new environment and civilization in the New World would be the chief factor for their ability to remain alive. They began this version procedure, called endurance religion, by making a sub-culture which merged traditional African patterns with those the slaves were forced to follow from their Masterss. The African slaves brought with them all of their African traditions but were suppressed from using them in their original manner. Therefore, they merged leftovers of African civilizations including? the great Bantu folk from Sierra Leone to South Africa ; the Sudanese, directly across the centre of the continent, from the Atlantic to the Valley of the Nile ; the Nilotic Negroes and the black and brown Hamites, allied with Egypt ; the folk of the great lakes ; the Pygmies and the Hottentots ; and in add-on to these, distinguishable hints of both Berber and Arab? ( DuBois, 3 ) with those leftovers of European and Native American civilizations. This new civilization was comprised of dance, rhythmic music, common people traditions and values, spiritual beliefs, nutrient and its readying, cultivation of harvests, herbal medical specialties, socialisation of kids, doctrine of regard for seniors, unwritten traditions, etc. Within each facet of the new African American civilization, endurance was someway intertwined either straight or indirectly.

Along with the impression of endurance religion came the belief that if the slaves were non to be free from subjugation in this life, they would surely be free from subjugation in the following life. This spiritual principle held a functional value and assisted the slaves in concentrating on the freedom in the following life, but with this belief the slaves were renegue oning any hope of equality in their lives on this Earth. This is the outlook behind the slave who compared the abolishment of bondage to the coming of Jesus Christ. He created in his head the thought that the lone clip he would see freedom was when the celestial spheres opened and the Son of God himself came down to present all of the slaves from their oppressors. Although this thought was effectual in leting the slaves to digest subjugation, it did non advance an terminal to the job but instead the endurance of it. Hence, on the twenty-four hours that Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, although this twenty-four hours was much anticipated, the slaves were badly unprepared. They identified with freedom merely in theory so their constructs of freedom tended to be exaggerated and excessive. Alternatively they needed to be fixing for freedom in an experiential sense such as being able to read, larning how the system operates outside of bondage, how to obtain land, etc. Some slaves had cognition of these existent post-slavery necessities but the mean slave believed that the Lord would supply and so He did supply but non without giving them world cheque.

The demands of the former slaves were an unfastened invitation for the American Missionary Association, Freedmen? s Aid Societies, school teachers, and other benevolent societies from the North to help in developing, exposing, and educating them in their new individuality and manner of life.

? To the assistance of the authorities, and even before the authorities took definite organized clasp, came spiritual and benevolent organisations. The first was the American Missionary Association, which grew out of the organisation for the defence of the Negroes who rebelled and captured the slave ship Amistad and brought it into Connecticut in 1837? .They extended their work in 1862-1863, set uping missions down the Atlantic Coast, and in Missouri, and along the Mississippi. By 1864, they had reached the Negroes in about all the Southern States. ? ( DuBois, 77 )

These organisations brought with them fundss to open schools, provide shelter and other services, distribute nutrient, etc. The missionaries attempted to educate the grownups with cognition on how to obtain land by learning them to construe workss, the importance of directing their kids to school alternatively of working the Fieldss, etc. The authorities besides intervened during Reconstruction by supplying the resources of the Freedmen? s Bureau.

The Freedmen? s Bureau was designed by Congress to ease the passage of the former slaves to freedom. The Bureau took on many facets as a alleviation association? to help refugees and freedwoman by supplying supplies and medical services, set uping schools, oversing contracts between freedwomans and their employers, and pull offing confiscated or abandoned lands. ? ( Franklin, 37 ) The Bureau acted as a affair between the former slaves and their employers in respects to them seeking labour. Any labour differences between the former slaves and plantation owners was brought to the Bureau for probe and arbitration. The chief successes of the Bureau lied in its paces in helping the freedwomans and their kids receive instruction. Through this attempt, along with the aid of African American labour and fundss from spiritual and philanthropic bureaus, they founded many celebrated African American colleges such as Howard, Clark-Atlanta, and Hampton Institute.

The chief rule that the missionaries and organisations were trying to transfuse in the former slaves was that without land and instruction they would non be able to protect their freedom in this hostile society. However, their were many contradictions within the Reconstruction Era that exploited the former slaves alternatively of elating them. For illustration, the Federal Government conceived? The Grand Experiment? which was done under the Treasury Department headed by Salmon P. Chase. In order to turn out that African Americans were worthy of freedom they were to pick cotton and these net incomes would travel to the authorities while the labourers were paid, at most, a minimal pay, if any pay at all. Another case involved a supposed emancipationist and economic expert who was besides a major profiteer in an country of South Carolina called Port Royal. Port Royal was one of a major sea port and had a population of about 8,000 freshly freed work forces and adult females whose chief concern was to obtain land and feed their households. The economic expert, Philbert, decided he would utilize these factors to his advantage. He devised a? trade? with the freedwomans that would hold them subscribe a contract which they interpreted to intend that would be ain a piece of land. Alternatively, the contracts they signed meant that now they worked for Philbert and were increasing his wealth alternatively of their ain. Many Whites schemed and counted on the African Americans being na? ve in order to hike their lost net incomes. This is the beginning of neo-slavery with respects to sharecropping in the South. While the Reconstruction Era was meaning to do the state of affairs for African Americans easier, it ne’er dealt with the impression that the lone position White persons held for African Americans was that of servitude. Southerners wanted African Americans to stay in and return to their status of servitude so they contrived ways to guarantee they would ever stay in this place.

Contrary to popular belief, the ground that Abraham Lincoln emancipated the slaves was entirely for political intents. ? ( Lincoln ) merely could non imagine free Negroes in the United States? ( DuBois, 82 ) but he needed to breakdown the Southern economic system so that the North would win the Civil War and the southern provinces would be forced to give up and return to the Union. Thus the logical thinking that the Emancipation Proclamation was an edict that freed the slaves that were in provinces arising against the Union and non the slaves in the loyal boundary line provinces, in these instances the slaves merely walked off the plantations. Yet after his program unfolded Lincoln made certain that he offered support for the southern provinces, in order that their passage back to the Union be smooth.

? On December 8 he issued his Announcement of Amnesty and Reconstruction. In it he offered forgiveness to any former Confederates who would take the curse to back up? the Fundamental law of the United States and the Union of the provinces thereunder. ? ? He farther stipulated that when individuals equal in figure to tenth of the ballots cast in the presidential election of 1860 had taken curse and established a authorities. Lincoln? s program excluded all Negroes from engagement either in oath-taking, vote, or keeping office. Governments under presidential Reconstruction were to be authoritiess by white men. ? ( Franklin, 17 )

Therefore, Lincoln was surely moving in his ain presidential involvements and

in the best involvements of a White male dominated society non in the involvements of a better, more equal, society. Even when the former slaves thought they had Alliess, the motivations behind their Alliess? actions did non concern their best involvements at all.

On April 15, 1865 President Lincoln was assassinated and Andrew Johnson was sworn in hours after his decease. This alteration in leading could be seen as a bend for the worst every bit far as support for the freedwomans was concerned. Although Johnson to the full supported the Union and its rules he was in no manner against Southerners. In fact, it was under his disposal that the Rebel provinces were readmitted? into constitutional dealingss with the federal authorities when? that part of the people? who are loyal? had written a fundamental law and established a authorities under it. ? ( Franklin, 31 ) For this ground entirely, Johnson was considered really indulgent toward those provinces in the Union which had rebelled. These provinces did non have the penalty that should hold been handed down to them for perpetrating the high lese majesty that the Republicans accused them of. However, the larger image was purely political. The North merely wanted to reconstruct the Union to its original position. This became a great chance for the Southern provinces to exert the most control over their ain authoritiess and Fundamental laws without intervention on a federal degree. This would be the cardinal factor in how the phase was set to return African Americans to their proper topographic point, at the underside.

Although history Tells us that Reconstruction was a joyous epoch where enormous alteration occurred, the world was that a alteration occurred and it was non for the better but instead it was from blazing racism to covert racism. In other words, the racism that we experience today held its roots during the Reconstruction Era. While W.E.B. DuBois was right when he stated that Reconstruction was the lone clip in history that America practiced a true democracy, this epoch is and has been slightly overdone as a period when African Americans were considered peers. It is in my sentiment that the lone ground that the likes of Blanche Bruce, P.B.S. Pinchback, Reverend James Lynch, Oscar J. Dunn, Hiram Revels, and C.C. Antoine were allowed to take part in this? true democracy? was because the White authorities had non been sophisticated adequate to discourage this type of activity from happening. It didn? Ts take them long to calculate out how to set an terminal to this? Ethiopian minstrelsy ( and ) Ham radicalism in its glorification? ( Franklin, 105 ) . Reconstruction should be regarded as a clip of confusion for the White authorities because they had non planned for the freedom of African Americans in an experiential manner but instead merely under the Thirteenth Amendment. Thus, when the Black Codes were established during the period of 1865-1867, although they were frowned upon by the North, ? legislative assemblies repealed the more obnoxious characteristics of ( them ) ? . ( Franklin, 141 )

? While historiographers have given light attending to the work of the Southern legislatures in 1865-1867 in the general country of attending to the passage of Torahs impacting Negroes. This is apprehensible, for the? black codifications? enacted within a twelvemonth following the Civil War were the greatest concern of the Southern legislative assemblies. They forecast, to a singular grade, the future attitude of former Confederates toward the topographic point of the Negro in the South and in American life. While there were fluctuations from province to province, they embodied some common characteristics. They recognized the right of Negroes to keep belongings, to action and be sued, and to hold legal matrimonies and offspring. There were of import makings, nevertheless: Blacks were competent informants merely in instances where one or both parties were Negroes ; Negroes who intermarried with Whites were guilty of a felony, punishable by a long prison term? . ( Franklin, 48 )

? Other province Torahs and town regulations were designed to keep what the legislators considered due subordination of the freedwomans. They were to manage no pieces or other arms, and they were to possess no alcoholic drinks. In Opelousas, Louisiana, no Negro was allowed to come within the bounds of the town wthout particular permssion of his employer. Many communities required Negroes to be off the streets by a specified hr, while others had Torahs against Negroes utilizing? dissing gestures? or? exerting the map of a curate of the Gospel? without a licence. Most of the Torahs employed such footings as? maestro? and? retainer? and clearly implied a differentiation that consigned the Negro to a hopelessly inferior position? ? ( Franklin, 49 )

The Northern provinces fundamentally supported the actions of the South leting this occur and therefore became a cardinal component in set uping this newer signifier of racism. These Black codifications were among one of their worst frights when readmitting the Southern provinces into the Union. Their concern with the Black codifications dealt was politically motivated. They were threatened by this imitation of bondage because they viewed it as the Southern provinces seeking to restore the Democratic Party of the South and non as a reinstitution of a system of lower status. They felt that excessively much power excessively shortly after the War may rekindle the feelings of rebellion amongst the Southern Democrats which was something they did non desire to reiterate. However, they did non recognize that the reverberations of leting these codifications to be would be the actual slaughter of 1000s of guiltless African Americans all in the name of White Supremacy.

The organisation of the Ku Klux Klan began in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1865 and their reign of panic exists even today. They used the impression of White Supremacy to assail the African American community and to put themselves on an even higher graduated table than they already thought themselves to be. Former slave owners fell into a deep injury and fiscal depression after the Civil War. Many of these slave owners were unable to accept the world that their primary beginning of income was now to be regarded as a portion of the free labour force to be paid for their labour and that they would besides necessitate to happen employment themselves. This group began sing additions in alcohol addiction and drug usage. The former slave owners became acrimonious, defeated, and angry that they had lost their control over others. Many of them did non to the full survive the passage from bondage to freedom, merely as many African Americans did non retrieve from this period. Reconstruction was a awful epoch for the full American population.

This section of the population was rather receptive to the Ku Klux Klan and its rules of White Supremacy. There were besides other types of Klan members instinctively interested in the ideals of White Supremacy. The first type were the former slave owners, and Confederate functionaries that had fought hard in the Civil War to keep the Southern manner of life. The 2nd type were the common felons. They were the members that could utilize the Klan garb, goon and gown, to conceal behind while they committed Acts of the Apostless of colza, slaying, incendiarism, and lynching. The concluding group were the hapless white population of the South who feared the economic competition of African American workers. They needed to protect their occupations from the extremely skilled craftsmans and former slaves who would be willing to accept less wage to get down their new lives. With these groups at the helm of the organisation rank grew at an astronomical rate and the organisation was highly successful during its origin. W.W. Holden, Governor of North Carolina during this period describes the Ku Klux Klan in his province:

? These combinations were at first strictly political in their character, and many good citizens were induced to fall in them. But bit by bit under the leading of ambitious and discontented politicians and under the stalking-horse that society needed to be regulated by some authorization outside or above the jurisprudence, their character was changed, and those secret Klans began to perpetrate slaying, to rob, whip, flagellum, and mangle unoffending citizens? They met in secret, in camouflage, and weaponries, in a frock of a certain sort intended to hide their individuals and their Equus caballuss, and to terrorize those whom they menaced or assaulted. They held their cantonments, and under leaders they decreed judgement against their peace-loving fellow-citizens from mere bullyings to scourgings, mutilations, the combustion of churches, schoolhouses, Millss, and in many instances to slay. This organisation, under different names but cemented by a common intent, is believed to hold embraced non less than 40,000 electors in North Carolina. ? ( DuBois, 533-534 )

By 1871, their rank grew to 550,000 and their flagitious and corrupt activities began. It has been documented that they lynched 34 African American adult females for being? sassy? during this period but this is merely the written grounds. The existent grounds of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan is in the diminution in the paces for equality that African Americans made during this epoch. The KKK, as they are called, is considered the unseeable authorities of the South which coexisted with the developments of legal methods of segregation and disenfranchisement to maintain African Americans in a racially low-level position. This was the primary end for the KKK and this intent would hold been defeated had it non hold been for support from the Federal authorities. After legal segregation was placed into jurisprudence in the South, the KKK experienced a high diminution in rank chiefly because many of its members felt that the end of the organisation had been fulfilled. The staying members made certain that the ends of the KKK stayed in topographic point for every bit long as possible.

The phase was set during Reconstruction to maintain African Americans in a low-level place in American society. No affair how many achievements we seem to bring forth, there is ever something established by the White power construction to countervail or counter our accomplishments. I believe that no affair what we say or do to lend to this society, they will non be satisfied until we return to our original places as slaves because that is the primary ground we were brought to this dogged land. Yet, as Maya Angelou so articulately stated, ? still we lift? . There must be something distinguished about a race to hold endured what we have and still have survived when the odds were against us. We have already won the war here in America but it is up to them to abandon denial of this fact so we can all uplift society under a new Reconstruction called true equality.


DuBois, William Edward Burghardt. Black Reconstruction

in America. Russell and Russell: New York, 1963.

Franklin, John Hope. Reconstruction after the Civil War. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1961.

Franklin, V.P. Black Self-Determination. Lawrence Hill and

Company: Connecticut, 1984.

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