American Reconstruction: a Revolution or a Failure?

Topics: Reconstruction era of the United States, American Civil War, Southern United States Pages: 4 (1127 words) Published: December 2, 2012
American Reconstruction: A Revolution or a Failure?

Historians Eric Foner and C. Vann Woodward, provide a Tyson Vs Ali fight in the debate over whether the American Reconstruction period was in fact a revolution or a failure. Each provides an in-depth analysis supporting his argument. Foner takes the approach that the Reconstruction was a Revolution, explaining, that “Reconstruction allowed scope for a remarkable political and social mobilization of black, community, opening doors of opportunity that could never again be completely closed.” Woodward takes a much more pessimistic approach arguing, “The other (failure) is the ruins of Reconstruction, the North’s failure to solve the problem of the black peoples place in American life. “

Foner’s argument is based on the immediate political and civil rights that the freedmen were given after the emancipation through the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, and how the mindset of the south was altered forever. New adjustments such as the Homestead Act of 1862 and many other social and political changes were grounds to label the Reconstruction Era a revolution. Foner believed although nearly every authority and right that the freedmen were given were eventually taken back after the Reconstruction finally ended in 1867, the mindset and the drastic changes that took place would stay with America throughout its history, and therefore was revolutionary.

Woodward’s pessimistic response to America’s optimistic take on the Reconstruction being revolutionary was based on the idea that in the long run what actually was accomplished was not very influential. With the exception of the amendments that were established after the Civil War, the hope of the freedmen sharing equality with the whites was taken away after the Reconstruction, and therefore was a total failure. The South’s resistance against the freedmen gaining any sort of political or social power was stronger than the will of the North to help bring equality to the...
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