26 November 2012
Document Analysis: “Reconstruction: Clashing
Dreams and Realities, 1865-1868”
The Civil War brought with it destruction in the South, over 600,000 fatalities, economic devastation, and a nation hanging together by the thread of the hopes of those who believed that the nation of Washington would not “perish from the earth.” Those living in the losing side had to face the harsh realities that their lives would never be the same, both for the white slave owners and for the black, newly-liberated, former slaves. As the introduction of Archive 12 in the anthology of primary historical sources American History Firsthand puts it best, “The end of the Civil War initiated a conflict between revised goals for the defeated southern Confederates dedicated to the old slave South and fresh dreams of freedom for the newly freed black men and women” (introduction). While it is true that the emancipation proclamation of 1964 freed more than 4 million slaves in theory, the reality is that it was not until after the end of the war that many of these new citizens did not even become aware of their status until after the war was over. This analysis will discuss in more detail a number of primary sources from the Reconstruction era (approximately 1865-1868). More specifically it will focus on the efforts of the white segregationists to keep the African Americans as separated from white society as possible through and the counter efforts of the African Americans and supporters to live out the rights granted to them by the founding fathers in the Constitution. In the states of the former Confederacy, despite all the calls for a South free of racial discrimination in the years after Reconstruction, tensions continued to center upon the relations between blacks and whites. The overwhelming majority of African-Americans were tied to the land as sharecroppers or tenant farmers. Rather than slaves in chains, they would simply become landless...