Failure of Reconstruction
After the Civil war ended in 1865, the south was in complete shambles, the economy was down, there were political struggles, and newly freed slaves needed to be included in society. All these problems called for “The Reconstruction Act of 1867”, which was instituted by the Republican Party. The goal of reconstruction was meant to reunite the nation and rebuild a southern society that was not based on slavery. Historians Kenneth M. Stampp and Eric Foner have opposite views on the success of reconstruction.
Stampp believes that the steps and reforms from reconstruction had long term effect which made it successful while Foner argues that reconstruction was a waste of time and that it has not produced one useful result. Both historians debated on the success of reconstruction, however in my opinion, stronger evidence points to its failure following Foner’s argument. The effort of reconstruction did not help improve the economy and the life of African Americans in general did not change much overall. Freed slaves post civil war were still uneducated and more importantly, they were still in the south.
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They had no place to go and no place to call home until Union General Sherman proposed the “Forty Acres and a Mule” bill. This bill essentially stated to give African American families forty acres of land along with a mule. This bill bought so much hope and relief to those with nothing only to close the bill a year later. Because the blacks did not get their promised land, they continued to be poor and resorted to sharecropping with rich southern farmers. Sharecropping is a system in which a landowner allows a tenant to use his/her land in return for a share of the crop produced on the land.
In other terms, sharecropping was basically another form of slavery. African Americans were put into debt and had to work it off in an endless cycle. This system was very ineffective as it failed to help blacks economically. As mentioned in Foner’s argument, early rejection for land reform left African Americans in a position that was worse than before the war. According to W. E. B. Dubois, “the slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery. ” Aside from sharecropping being similar to slavery, Dubious is clearly pointing out a true statement in describing what happened to freed slaves.
Freedom did not last long, since segregation between whites and blacks increased and they were forced into a lifestyle similar to their previous one. In 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation was passed, all slaves in the Confederacy were permanently freed. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment goals were to give African Americans and other minorities a chance to strive in their communities and stop discrimination against races. However, these amendments were controversial as they did not fully protect the “minorities”.
In the 14th amendment, blacks were deemed separate but equal. In U. S v. Cruickshank (1876), blacks were attacked by white supremacists, but the conviction was overturned by the federal government because it was not the state that discriminated against civil rights rather it was individuals. This is rather unfair and unjust as African Americans are being looked down upon as an inferior race and they are not receiving equal treatment. Following reconstruction, southern states imposed segregation upon African Americans and prevented them from voting.
Jim Crow laws were passed in which its purpose was to keep blacks servile to whites. Black codes became a part of southern law, limiting the rights of blacks. The laws required freedmen to work as sharecroppers, and if they were found vagrant, they would be heavily fined. Southerners even prevented blacks from voting by using clever tactics that put blacks in constant fear. In 1865, a private militia called the Ku Klux Klan was established with a task of forcing free slaves to follow Black codes and those who opposed would be severely punished.
This was how southerners attempted to reinstitute white supremacy. The main goal of reconstruction was to ensure the same rights of white citizens for newly freed slaves. However the goal was a complete failure as African Americans did not have equal but limited rights. As an opposing argument made by Kenneth M. Stampp, in the long run, the 14th and 15th amendment are now included in the federal constitution. African Americans now have freedom to vote and are no longer deprived of civil rights.
The amendments were adopted from the reconstruction era and after a few years of radical reconstruction; African Americans received their rightful civil and political rights. The purpose of reconstruction has failed as the lives of African Americans did not change much after the civil war. The government made empty promises and instituted laws that only partially protected freedmen. The overall success of reconstruction was a failure as the south and African Americans did not have an improvement in economy.