How Important Was the Reconstruction Period of 1865-1877 in the Development of African American Civil Rights

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The end of the civil war should’ve marked a major turning point for the position of African Americans. The north’s victory marked the end of slavery and in addition, the fourteenth and fifteenth amendment guaranteed African Americans full civil and political equality. However, the end of the civil war and the beginning of the reconstruction era was seen a ‘false dawn for the slaves in the former confederacy and border states.

1865 saw the creation of the freedman bureau to provide food, shelter and medical aid and land to ex- slaves. The passing of the 1866 freedman bureau act over President Johnson’s veto meant an extension of work of the bureau. It also included the right of military courts in the south to hear racial discrimination cases. Despite the fact the freedman’s bureau was poorly resourced with limited financing, it played a fundamental role in the creation of African American schools and was aided by charity workers in the north and with African Americans. In 1965 95% of black slaves were illiterate, but this number had fallen by 14% by 1870. Furthermore, there were increased opportunities for Black Americans to continue with higher education due to the development of higher education institutions0 such as Howard University and Fisk University 1866-7.

During the reconstruction period, African Americans benefited from the civil rights act of March 1866 and the 13th, 14th and 15th amendment. However, for African Americans in the former confederacy, opportunities were limited as in1865 and 1866 the former confederacy states passed black codes’ a replacement of the former slave codes, which once again forcibly cemented the second-class status of African Americans. The most oppressive of the codes was against vagrancy, which meant that all homeless African Americans would be fined and imprisoned. Nevertheless, the civil rights act did aim to counter the black codes. Furthermore, the reconstruction period also saw the rise of the Ku Klux Klan from...
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