Reconstruction After the Civil War

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The period of Reconstruction began during the Civil War and ended in 1877. This era is known for the advancements made in favor of racial equality. These improvements included the fourteenth amendment (citizenship and equal protection under the law to blacks) and the fifteenth amendment (voting rights for blacks) of the Constitution. Yet, with the end of Reconstruction in 1877, the Republican Party lost control of the southern governments and the Democratic Party took over. This shift in power was supposed to mark the beginning of the "New South" in which the virtues of thrift, industry, and progress would become the model characteristics of the South. However, the changes in the South from 1877-1900 reflected traditional attitudes and policies, such as power in the hands of a conservative oligarchy, the maintaining of agriculture over industry as the primary source of economics, and the return of white supremacy, rather than the vision of the New South. With the change in political power from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party in 1877, the South again was back to mainly all white governments which eliminated any political gains blacks had made during Reconstruction. Another change caused by the new Democratic Party was a return to a powerful, conservative oligarchy, which had been the case before the Civil War. They called themselves the "Redeemers" but many people called them the "Bourbons" because they were aristocrats. This ruling class consisted of both the old planter elite and new leaders that were merchants, industrialists, railroad developers, and financiers. Despite their promise to economic development, they decreased spending, lowered taxes, and lessened state services. Many people formed groups and movements (the Readjuster movement) in protest of these choices by the "Redeemers," yet all of these movements failed and the "Bourbons" remained in control. Although the return of control to a powerful oligarchy was supposed to help the progress...
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