APUSH Period 3
10 January 2010
Reconstruction: Eric Foner
The Reconstruction time period, 1865 through 1877, was a complex time for America. The southern part of the nation was in need of governmental, economical, and social repair after losing the Civil War. Radical Republicans, Democrats, and newly freed African Americans all were influential in the age of Reconstruction. Historians have struggled to put into words exactly what Reconstruction incorporates and precisely what the motives of the different groups of people were. Renowned American historian, Eric Foner, is a professor at Columbia University. He has written many books concerning the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Eric Foner’s Reconstruction theory is correct in stating that, despite the northern Radical Republican's best efforts, the southern whites were more so focused on recreating the past society instead of renovating a new society.
It can be argued, however, that reconstruction was a success and the South made an attempt to change, but was burdened with the freedmen. The historian W.E.B. Du Bois states that Reconstruction was already complicated because of the war and was further complicated with the addition of freedmen, or the freed blacks. He states that, “the moral effect of an unsuccessful war with all its letting down of social standards and quickening of hatred and discouragement” was already, “a situation which would make it difficult under any circumstances to reconstruct a new government and a new civilization. Add to all this the presence of four million freedmen and the situation is further complicated” (Du Bois). The South who had to fix their broken society saw the freedmen as a burden they had to support. The North was forcing this burden upon them. Du Bois does not blame the South for open hatred against blacks and comprehends their reasons for brutality. In spite of that, Foner’s opinions are still correct because instead of supporting blacks when they found success, the southern whites only tried to prevent them from succeeding. If Du Bois was correct, the whites of the South would make it easy for the freedman to get an education or for them to gain political office. This was not so. In school systems, “white parents overwhelmingly refused to send their children to be educated alongside blacks” (Foner. Forever. 162). Also, the south had a, “campaign of criminal violence by whites determined to punish black leaders, [..] reestablish control over the black labor force, and restore white supremacy in every aspect of southern life” (Foner. Freedom. 171). The whites in the South made it impossible for the blacks to get ahead in any aspect of life. Whether it was political, educational, social, or economical, the whites did not want the blacks to attain any form of success. The goal of the southern whites was to stop Reconstruction and restore their society as it once was no matter how much more complicated it made their lives.
In the southern regions of America,The Ku Klux Klan and other white dominance associations were formed to take action against freedmen who had any form of power. Violence was an element of the past slave system in the South before and during the Civil War. Once the Emancipation Proclamation, written by President Abraham Lincoln, was put into action, January 1st, 1863, slavery was officially illegal in America. In the Proclamation Lincoln states, “I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free.” He also states that, “Executive government of the United States […] will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons” (Lincoln). This proclamation was written with high hopes that former slaves could be integrated into society during the age of Reconstruction. However, many whites in the South believed that, despite the illegality, blacks should always be inferior. Although there were new...