After Reconstruction Essay, Research Paper
After the Reconstruction
There were several factors that lead to the Northern Republicans abandoning Reconstruction. Some of the factors were due to an increase of racial violence, an economic depression, and the corruption of the Republican government. Racial violence was a key factor due to Southern Democrats resorting in trying to intimidate by abuse of the African Americans and also poor whites. It started because of military occupation in the South. A big part of the violence was because of lynching and the Ku Klux Klan. Lynching was not at all rare in the South and an example is of the grocery competitors in the story Anti-Lynching Campaign in Tennessee. Even the judge of Memphis said to the sheriff to “take a hundred men, go out to the Curve at once, and shoot down on sight any Negro who appears to be making trouble” just because they wanted to vent their feelings amongst themselves with no evidence portrayed whatsoever.(AF 57) As if lynchings were not bad enough a group known as the KKK began to strike. They were terrorists who were dedicated to winning back the South for the Democrats. In the story of The Murder of Jim Williams, an innocent black man was killed because he was thought to be part of a militia and have guns.(AF 2-12) It is sad to think that his wife even had to watch him being taken away and not able to do or call upon for help from anyone. The government then attacked such groups as the KKK with acts passed by congress in 1872, that gave the okay to prosecute against those who prevented blacks from voting. The economic depression was in the North do to tons of business failures and such a high unemployment rate at the time. Each cycle of economic depression was caused by the railroads in someway. And lastly, the reason of the corruption of Republican government. The Republicans believed that congress was infested with corruption within the senate and legislature. Some of which even allowed for such things as the black codes, and not allowing African Americans to vote because the were illiterate.
Reconstruction came across as a failure for the most part, but had nothing but good intentions in mind. Along with some of the failures were the black codes. Black codes were laws that restricted freed slaves from exercising their Constitutional rights. This had the effect of making blacks second-class citizens. If you believe that all people are equal, then you would have to agree that the black codes were a bad thing. Black codes kept blacks from gathering together, set curfews on when they could be out, restricted their travel, and many other things. The black codes alone did not make Reconstruction a failure. The primary reason Reconstruction failed was that the Federal government simply lost interest in it by the mid-1770s and allowed the South to go back to almost the way it was before the Civil War, with the exception that slavery was no longer legal.
It was also a very corrupt and difficult time in our nation’s history. When the Civil War ended many of the policies that Lincoln had started were continued by President Johnson. Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation that went into effect on January 1, 1863. This only freed the slaves in those states in rebellion against the United States. With this initiated and the South losing the war, it was only natural for these ideas to continue. In 1865 was the Thirteenth Amendment which freed all slaves and caused a major invasion of people trying to earn a living for themselves. The only way most of them could support themselves and their families was to continue in the jobs they held as slaves. This meant many of them needed land for crops, creating a perfect opportunity for many whites and some blacks to make huge profits selling land or having the former slaves sharecrop. In many cases even though free men, the former slaves were not much better off than before. President Johnson felt obligated to continue Lincoln’s views and policies on freeing the slaves. He went against strong opposition from Congress in passing the various Reconstruction laws, causing more problems.
Reconstruction, however, did carry some accomplishments such as Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation served as the groundwork for the real freeing of the slaves. The Thirteenth Amendment, this is what eventually freed the slaves from their masters in the South. The creation of jobs was very important for a country who had starving people. It was achieved through the railroads and within government holdings such as the army. Reconstruction also helped to stimulate the economy after such a hard depression. And lastly, the Reconstruction made the United States singular in meaning because the states were finally united as one nation.
There were both good and bad effects for the African Americans after Reconstruction. Even though the African Americans were now free, even though they weren’t exactly free. They were scared into sharecropping because of the Ku Klux Klan. The Ku Klux Klan would threaten, whip, and murder blacks and white republicans to prevent them from voting. Disenfranchisement also was a factor in the South. Disenfranchisement was meant to keep not just many African Americans from voting, but many poor whites as well. It said that if you were illiterate you couldn’t vote, and also kept them from owning property. There were also other ways in which African Americans couldn’t vote, such as if your grandfather could vote in 1860, if not then you couldn’t vote and was there forth perpetuated. Another way was by taxing poll booths so that the poor couldn’t vote because they didn’t have the money to vote.
Freedom meant greater uncertainty and risk for the African Americans, but the majority of African Americans were willing to take their chances with groups like the KKK. Such men went on to actually gain real representation. At one point, there were eight African American members of the House of Representatives. There were even two black men from Mississippi serving in the senate.