Was Reconstruction a failure or a success

Document Type:Research Paper

Subject Area:History

Document 1

However, the period can be termed both a success and a failure because of the progress witnessed regarding passed legislation aiding the cause of blacks as well as failures encountered in implementing them. Though the reconstruction era began with leaders marshaling efforts to fix the crippled nation, the results did not turn out as hoped. There was disunity among the leaders on how to go about reconstructing the South and constant disagreements led to its failure. Therefore, it is evident that even though success was experienced during the Reconstruction, the shortcomings of the time still outweigh the accomplishments. The most significant accomplishment of the Reconstruction can undoubtedly be said to be the unification of the United States by restoring the 11 former Confederate states to the union (Foner, 2011).

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This newfound freedom allowed the African Americans to branch out and join Episcopal and Negro Baptist Churches with some migrating to the North to establish new communities (Foner, 2011). After the end of the Civil War, the white southerners were in denial and operated as if the war had achieved nothing other than proving the difficulty of secession and abolishing slavery though nominally (Finkelman & Williams, 2008). However, after the assassination of Lincoln and his succession by Andrew Johnson, a Tennessee Democrat, the southern states enacted the "Black Codes. " The codes prevented African Americans from buying or leasing real estate, serving on juries, refusing to sign annual labor contracts, voting and testifying against whites in court. Public schools were the preserve of whites with blacks being restricted.

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As a result, voters in the northern states reacted and gave the Republicans a landslide win making the Reconstruction more radical. Consequently, the temporary military rule was enforced in ten southern states forcing them to give voting rights to African American men and amend their constitutions. Readmission to the Congress was to be after they had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment and included civil liberties in their constitutions. Johnson persisted in his attempts to subvert anti-racist advances, and he was subsequently impeached and almost convicted for his actions. Even though intimidated by the presence of federal soldiers, impartial national voting rights, the Fifteenth Amendment and federal government jobs meant to reward supporters, the newly formed southern governments faced three difficult obstacles that proved difficult to overcome.

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However, after their emancipation, the blacks initially worked in "squads" that were headed by black contractors working independently before eventually convincing the white landowners to let them reside in small plots enabling them to enjoy a sense of freedom and privacy. The whites introduced a sharecropping system where the black workers received a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the crops (Willis, 2000). The system was instituted to share the risks associated with crop failure and prevent either party form violating the laid out agreements. The freed slaves used this right to bargain with their employers with about 20 percent of black operators being in possession of the farms they worked on by 1900. The United States was at the time the only country that gave freed slaves the chance to vote and the eagerness and skill with which they embraced was a surprise to many including their former masters who expected them to be docile and incompetent (Chin, 2003).

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