Blacks and Reconstruction

Topics: Ku Klux Klan, Reconstruction era of the United States, Black people Pages: 7 (2503 words) Published: November 8, 2011
The twelve-year era after the Civil War was called the Reconstruction Period. Reconstruction was a federal policy established immediately after the South surrendered; it was an attempt to create a new Southern society and heal the terrible wounds between the North and South. The three main goals of the Reconstruction were to "protect the rights of the freed slaves, rebuild the South's devastated economy, and enforce the loyalty of the ex-confederates . In spite of tremendous efforts, the Reconstruction Period failed to completely accomplish any of the three goals, but it was especially lacking in its attempts to make Blacks and whites equal and was a time of intense discrimination toward Blacks. In 1865, at the end of the Civil War, the South was destroyed. Plantations were demolished, the economy was ruined, the labor system was shattered, and several million slaves were now free laborers. South Carolina looked like a "broad black streak of ruin and desolation" (Unger 414). In the Shenandoah Valley hardly any farm animals were left alive. Many cities had almost nothing left of their business districts (Unger 414). People in both the North and South were angry. The North was upset at the losses suffered in putting down an illegal insurrection and the South was angry at not being able to break away from what they felt was the oppressive government in Washington (Baldwin and Kelley 206). Some of the more serious problems from the white viewpoint were the social difficulties created by emancipation. Where did the Blacks fit in? Most Southerners certainly did not want them as neighbors or social acquaintances. Southerners felt strongly about their prejudices and were unwilling to make the changes in their society or value system to raise the social standing of Blacks. Although the Southerners reluctantly accepted the end of slavery, they seemed determined to "find some legal device to put in the place of slavery" (Williams, History 5). In their minds, Blacks would never be their equals. Great difficulties became evident, as four million slaves were free for the first time in their lives. After generations of being dependent, it was no surprise that many Blacks were terribly unprepared for freedom. In fact, some were literally incapable of understanding the legal concept of freedom and what would be expected from them. Many Blacks thought "emancipation" meant they could travel and go where they wanted while President Lincoln's soldiers furnished them with the necessities of life (Baldwin and Kelley 206). As a result, many Blacks were taken advantage of by unscrupulous whites and Blacks. One of the first attempts to help Blacks was in the establishment of the Freedman's Bureau. It was the only official agency created to deal with the economic matters of the Reconstruction and was established to help the slaves, or "freedmen" make the transition from slavery to freedom (Coulter 50). This bureau assisted former slaves in the way of food, clothing or medical attention, and established schools to teach Blacks to read and write (Coulter 80). The bureau's agents attempted to help the freedmen advance in their new freedom and helped protect them from people who tried to take advantage of them. Unfortunately, the powers of the Freedman's Bureau were weak (Todd and Curti 400). Two of the main challenges the Freedmen's Bureau had to deal with were: first, the cruelty of the white employer, and second, the shirking by the Blacks (Foner 157). As previously described, during the slavery period Blacks had been supplied with all the necessities of life and most expected this support to continue without having to work for it (Coulter 51). As the Blacks did not receive all the material goods they felt they should, stealing began to be a significant problem (Foner 156). In response to the increase in crime, the head of the Freedmen's Bureau in Florida ordered the arrests of vagrant Blacks who "lacked written evidence of employment" (Foner 157)....

Bibliography: Baldwin, Leland D. and Robert Kelley. Survey of American History. New York: American Book Company, 1967.
Coulter, Merton. The South During Reconstruction 1865-1877. Texas: Louisiana State University Press, 1962.
Foner, Eric. Reconstruction, America 's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1988.
Garraty, John A. A Short History of the American Nation. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1985.
Mannetti, Lisa. Equality. New York: Franklin Watts Publishing, 1985.
Mckissack, Patricia and Fredrick. The Civil Rights Movement in America from 1865 to the Present. Chicago: Children 's Press, 1987.
Meltzer, Milton. The Truth About the Ku Klux Klan. New York: Franklin Watts, 1982.
"Reconstruction 's Last Gasp," Scholastic Update. 22 Sept. 1997, v130, 14-16.
Todd, Lewis Paul and Merle Curti
Unger, Irwin. These United States. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1989.
Williams, T. Harry. "Reconstruction," World Book Encyclopedia. Volume 15. Chicago: Field Enterprises Educational Corporation., 1960.
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