Reconstruction after the Civil War

Essay by mich171979College, UndergraduateA+, May 2005

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The Civil War ended in 1865 with the defeat of the notorious slave states of the South. For the next ten years, the reconstruction of the southern states took place. Reconstruction could have been a great era of American History, with strong bold presidents that secured everyone's freedom and all, despite of race or color could live in complete harmony. Yet in truth, the Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War proved to be highly unsuccessful, as Reconstruction returned the South to a similar, if not worse, status as before the war, and blacks, though with some civil rights now, were far from being able to live in equilibrium with whites.

No one can characterize Reconstruction as a success. The epidemic of terror and violence made it one of the bloodiest eras in American history. Thousands of black people had been beaten, raped, and murdered since 1865, simply because they had acted as free people.

Too many white people were determined that black people could not and would not have the same rights that white people enjoyed. White Southerners would not tolerate either the presence of black men in politics or white Republicans who accepted black political involvement. Gradually most white Northerners and even radical Republicans grew very weary of intervening in southern affairs and became convinced again that black men and women were their inferiors and were not prepared to participate in government. Reconstruction, they concluded, had been a mistake. Furthermore, black and white Republicans hurt themselves by indulging in fraud and corruption, and by engaging in angry and divisive factionalism. But even if Republicans had been honest and united, white southern Democrats would never have accepted black people as worthy to participate in the political system.

Despite its overthrow, Reconstruction left an important legacy: commitment to a...