Reconstruction After the Civil War

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Each of the four articles portrayed a different explanation for why Reconstruction did not work out as planned by the United States Government. Thomas W. Wilson’s article reveals that the government preyed upon the South. Carter Woodson asserts that former slaves were not given a fair chance to make Reconstruction work, while Thomas Bailey blames the Radicals for pushing it on clueless, former slaves. Finally, Mary Beth Norton takes issue with the resistance of Reconstruction that the South held from the beginning. While each tells a varied story of their interpretation of why it failed, all agree that indeed, Reconstruction failed. Thus, former slaves were not given a fair chance to reconstruct their lives and the Southern states could not fairly restart their participation as part of the United States.

The perceived heroes and villains of Reconstruction varied between the four articles. Wilson claimed heroism to the Southern white men who were forced to take the law into their own hands, since the government had burdened them with issues such as increased taxes. The secret club called the Ku Klux Klan formed “to protect the southern country from some of the ugliest hazards of a time of revolution…”(11) Woodson however did not see the KKK as heroes but more as villains who as a group “could not tolerate the blacks as citizens.”(13) They established themselves merely to terrorize with lawlessness and violence. Yet another perspective resides with Bailey, who did not take the antics of the KKK seriously enough to consider them heroes or villains. He does not mention the frequent lynchings made famous by the KKK, but calls their actions mere “tomfoolery”. (15) Finally, Norton breaks it down by stating that leaders “allowed factionalism along racial and class lines to undermine party unity.” (19) She goes on to list the KKK’s main purpose for existing, which was to scare and kill former slaves. Thus, accurately calling the KKK terrorists, which...
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