Reconstruction

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Evaluate the gains made by the blacks during Reconstruction

Reconstruction was during the period of 1865 to 1877, where attempts were made to solve the injustices of slavery and its political, social and economic legacy and solving the problems that would arise because of the readmission of the eleven states into the Union and has been long portrayed by many historians as a time when vindictive Radical Republicans fastened black supremacy upon the defeated confederacy. Some gains were made by the blacks during this time; slavery was abolished in the South, The Freedman’s Bureau was established which helped to gain small rights and privileges such as schools for the blacks, the blacks also gained the right to vote with the Fourteenth Amendment, there was some advancement in political office of the blacks, and they also gained wages and temporary land. The first thing gained by the blacks at the beginning of reconstruction was the abolition of slavery in the South. According to Maldwyn A. Jones in Limits to liberty, Lincoln began the process of Reconstruction during the Civil War. In December 1863, Lincoln issued a proclamation outlining a general Reconstruction plan. All confederates, except for high civil and military leaders, would be granted amnesty once they had taken an oath of loyalty to the Union. As soon as the ten per cent of the electorate of any state had taken the oath, and accepted the abolition of slavery, they might form a state government which the President would recognise. In other words, in order for state governments to be recognised they had to swear an oath to the Union and abolish slavery. News of emancipation left the blacks exultant and hopeful. Freedom meant many things. It meant reuniting separated families, the end of punishment by the lash, the ability to move around, the opportunity to establish school, churches, and social clubs, and not least, the chance to engage in politics. The abolition of slavery was the first gain for the blacks and the opening of the door for more gains. Another gain made by the blacks during reconstruction was the establishment of agencies such as the Freedman’s Bureau and the Union League. These two organisations were instrumental in creating schools for blacks as well as encouraging them into politics In March 1865 according to Maldwyn Jones, the federal government set up a temporary agency, the Freedman’s Bureau to provide the ex-slaves with food, shelter, medical aid, and education and settle them on abandoned or confiscated lands. In the book America Past and Present, it was noted that the first schools for ex-slaves were all black institutions established by the Freedman’s Bureau. According to Alan Brinkley in American History a survey, over the opposition of many southern whites, who feared that education would give blacks “false notions of equality,” the Freedman’s Bureau established a large network of schools for former slaves. There were 4000 schools by 1870, staffed by 9000 teachers of which half were black, teaching 200,000 students which were approximately twelve percent of the total school-age population of the freedmen. At the end of the war, according to Maldwyn, 95 percent of Southern blacks could not read or write; in 1870it was down to 81 percent, and in 1890 it was still at 64 percent. He also mentioned that many of those classified as literate possessed only the rudiments of learning. While Congress debated, African-American as best they could, acted on their own idea of freedom. In the cities, where free blacks took the lead, Union Leagues and Equal Rights Leagues worked to give the freedmen a political voice. According to James Henretta, David Brody and Lynn Dumenil in America a concise history, Under Republican Senator Lyman Trumbull, Congress voted to extend the Bureau’s life, gave it direct funding for the first time, and authorized its agents to step into cases where blacks were being denied the “civil rights belonging to white persons”...
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