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rotating gif.gifFor more information on Reconstruction, see U.S. History Standards, US1.41

President Obama viewing the Emancipation Proclamation
President Obama viewing the Emancipation Proclamation

primary_sources.PNGDocuments from Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867 from the Freedman and Southern Society Project

The Civil War and Reconstruction

  • The Civil War was on of the most momentous occasions in US History.
  • It ended with a Northern Victory and the United States held intact.
  • That was just the end of one chapter and the beginning of another: Reconstruction.
    • It lasted from 1865-1877.
  • The beginning was simply reintroducing the Southern States back into the Union, and it was one of the most controversial in American History.
  • There was also the necessary steps of integrating nearly 4 million freed slaves into society.

The national debate over Reconstruction centered on three main issues:
1.What were the terms under which the defeated Confederate states should be allowed to reenter the Union? What demands should be made upon them before they reentered? Should Congress or the president establish the terms?

President Abraham Lincoln wanted four things from the Southern states to be readmitted into the Union:
  • Free the slaves
  • Disband Confederate governments
  • Form new state governments, as long as 10% of the voters supported the Union
  • No former leaders of the Confederate or any high ranking officials were to be part of the new governments

Many Northerners thought that Lincoln's plan was not harsh enough on the Southerners. They wanted to see more punishment. Congress wanted the Southerners to take pledges of loyalty to the Union before being readmitted.

President Andrew Johnson also had a plan for the Southern States:
  • Pardon every Southern white male, not including Confederate leaders and their rich supporters
  • Each state would hold a convention to form their new government
  • The new state governments had to abolish slavery and pledge loyalty

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.31.08 AM.pngWhy Was the Radical Republican Plan for Reconstruction Considered "Radical?" from Stanford History Education Group.

2. Who should be punished the rebellion and to what extent?

Many felt that Lincoln and Johnson's plans were not harsh enough on the South. As a result, the Radical Republicans formed.

The Congressional Elections of 1866
Thaddeus Stevens, between 1860 & 1875
Thaddeus Stevens, between 1860 & 1875

These elections brought Radical Republicans to power. This was a group of people who felt very strongly that the South needed to pay for the war. They also wanted to prevent the Confederate leaders from being in power.

The Radical Republicans passed the Military Reconstruction Acts of 1867. This divided the South into 5 districts. It also gave blacks the right to vote, hold political office, and become officials, such as police officers and judges, positions that previously were held by Southern Democrats. Johnson attempted to veto these Acts, but was overrode by the Congress. The Radical Republicans attempted to impeach Johnson in 1868, but failed by a single vote.

Many Southern whites were appalled by these Acts. As a result, the Ku Klux Klan was formed. The KKK sought to prevent blacks who were attempting to vote and exercise their rights to office. The KKK commonly lynched, beat, and killed black citizens and their supporters.

primary_sources.PNG Click here to read the Military Reconstruction Acts of 1867.

3. To what degree should the national government assist the newly freed slaves (often referred to as freedmen) in participating in the political and social life of the South?

The Black Codes

After the end of the Civil War, the white southerners passed a series of laws that were supposed to restrict African Americans and their activities.
  • Many of these laws were to keep the blacks available to use as a labor force now that slavery had ended.
  • The Black Codes prevented any African American from voting, testifying against whites, serve on juries, and getting a job without recommendations from previous employers.
    • These codes were repealed at the start of Reconstruction.

Freedman Bureau Political Cartoon, 1868
Freedman Bureau Political Cartoon, 1868

The Freedman Bureau
This was created to help assist the freed slaves in 1865. It was given "the supervision and management of all abandoned lands, and the control of all subjects relating to refugees and freedmen, under such rules and regulations as may be presented by the head of the Bureau and approved by the President."
  • It was controlled by the War Department. They were in charge of opening schools, creating a work force, finding employment, settling disputes, and enforcing contracts between white land owners and their black labor force.
  • The Bureau lacked the military support to enforce its work.
  • It was renewed by Congress in 1866, but President Johnson vetoed it because he believed it was unconstitutional for the federal government to help secure black rights.

The Bureau ultimately failed to achieve long term success and peace between the African Americans and whites in the South. However, it was able to open a number of schools for the newly freed slaves, including Howard University and Hampton Institute.

The Compromise of 1877
Election of 1876
Election of 1876

The Southern states of Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana were crucial to deciding the election of 1876.
  • Those three states still had Republican governments from Reconstruction. A bipartisan congressional committee debated over the election in 1877.
  • While this was happening, Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes and his allies met with Southern Democrats.
    • During their meeting, they came to an agreement: the Democrats would not block the election of Hayes in exchange for the removal of federal troops from the South.
    • This gave the Democrats control over the South. Hayes was elected and the troops were removed. This marks the end of Reconstruction.

Moderate v. 'Radical' Plans for Reintegrating the South

The Legacy of Slavery after the Civil War

  • Physical and economic destruction

  • The increased role of the federal government

  • The greatest loss of life on a per capita basis of any US war before or since.

The two most major effects of the Civil War (1861-1865) were:

Jim Crow Laws in the 1940s
Jim Crow Laws in the 1940s

Slavery was officially over in the United States with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, freeing slaves in areas of rebellion, and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, ending slavery for the whole nation (except those convicted of crimes) in 1865. Still, its legacy continues. Here is a short list of examples of slavery’s legacy in the U.S.:
  • formation of the Klu Klux Klan in 1865;
  • ongoing second-class status of African Americans in the U.S., leading in part to a back-to-Africa movement in the 1920s and the founding of Liberia, in West Africa
  • segregation in the South codified in the ‘Jim Crow’ laws
  • a segregated military until the 1950s
  • prevention of full voting rights for African Americans until mid-1960s
  • underrepresentation in elected offices; for example: in the 140 years since Reconstruction, only three African-Americans have been state governors; the third is N.Y. Governor David Patterson, who took office after the resignation of Gov. Eliot Spitzer in March 2008 (the first was L. Douglas Wilder, Governor of Virginia 1990-1994 , the second is Deval Patrick, elected as Governor of Massachusetts in 2006).

This list could go on much longer; however, it is also important to note the achievements of many African-Americans despite great obstacles and impediments, including advances in politics, science, education, social services, and the arts, by individuals such as Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Harriet Tubman, Sonia Sanchez, Leontyne Price, Condoleeza Rice, Shirley Chisholm, Oprah Winfrey, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence Griffith Joyner, Clara McBride "Mother" Hale, Sojourner Truth, Zora Neale Hurston, Bessie Smith, Ida B. Wells, Ella Fitzgerald, and hundreds of others.

Multimedia.pngClick here and here to watch videos about the effects of the American Civil War and here for a short presentation.

Other effects of the Civil War also include these developments:
  • policies of Reconstruction;
  • continued resentment in the South towards the North;
  • mantra ‘states rights’; although started with the anti-federalists during the ratification debates of the U.S. Constitution, southern states took up the cause as the main reason for secession, and after the war, as the region’s main complaint against the national government: that states should have more autonomy;
  • electoral voting patterns that show the South often (but not always) voting as a bloc and shifting results of presidential elections through the latter half of the 19th and entire 20th centuries (see map and discussion below);
  • the assassination of President Lincoln.

Test_hq3x.pngWhich of the following statements best describes a major consequence of the withdrawal federal troops from the South in 1877?

a) It enabled Southern landowners to restore the plantation system of the antebellum period.
b) It initiated a prolonged struggle for power between the Democratic and Republican parties across the South.
c) It undermined northern-financed initiatives to restore the southern economy.
d) It largely nullified efforts to enforce the civil and political rights of free blacks and emancipated slaves in the South.


lessonplan.jpgInformation, primary sources, and a teacher's guide on Reconstruction from pbs.org.

Click here to read about the reconstruction after the Civil War.

1. Reconstruction. Retrieved 11 May 2013. Available at http://www.ushistory.org/us/35.asp.
2. Reconstruction, Projects for Students, by Students. Retrieved 11 May 2013. Available at http://library.thinkquest.org/J0112391/reconstruction.htm.
3. Black Codes and Pig Laws. Retrieved 11 May 2013. Available at http://www.pbs.org/tpt/slavery-by-another-name/themes/black-codes/
4. Black Codes. Retrieved 11 May 2013. Available at http://www.history.com/topics/black-codes.
5. The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. Retrieved 11 May 2013. Available at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_events_freed.html.
6. Compromise of 1877. Retrieved 11 May 2013. Available at http://www.history.com/topics/compromise-of-1877.