Aftershock: Beyond the Civil War

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AFTERSHOCK: Beyond the Civil War

According to history books, the Civil War officially ended in 1865 with the surrender of General Lee and his Confederate army. But on the streets of a newly reunited nation, another fierce battle was just beginning. In 1866, the year immediately following the end of the war, America was supposed to be reuniting, healing its wounds, and moving past years of civil unrest. However, a closer look into this historic time reveals a sinister snapshot of a discontented nation caught in the midst of race riots and angry conflict between civilians. In this compelling program, the History Channel examines the disturbing reality behind the murder, terrorism and chaos that marked the uncertain period of Reconstruction in America. While a new government struggled to gain control, the “free” black men and women continued in the former Confederate states to try to survive, and such terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan were formed and left hundreds of newly freed African Americans dead.


  1. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation promises freedom for the slaves. But this is 1866, one full year after the official end of America’s bloodiest war. This period after the War is known as RECONSTRUCTION and the word that defines this period is VIOLENCE.

  1. The Reconstruction period is marked by racial massacres, vigilante violence against all races and the rise of confederate paramilitary groups, like the Ku Klux Klan

SCENE 2: Post-War America

  1. After the Civil War, why was there still violence directed towards African Americans?

There is still extreme prejudice and discrimination—even in the North. The southerners are upset that the slaves were freed and that they were given voting rights. Many in the South are trying to prevent blacks from voting and participating in government because they do not want them to be equals with whites.

  1. On April 11, 1865, two days after Lee surrendered to Grant, Lincoln calls for a reconstruction of the country.

Just three days later, Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth, commits the first act of terror by the southern insurgency by assassinating Lincoln.

  1. What does it show about the South when they will not mourn for the dead president?

It shows very bitter feelings towards the North and the President for what happened.

  1. For southerners, what was the most difficult part of defeat?

The social and economic loss of slavery
Scene 3: Radical Republicans

  1. The slave trade had been a $2B industry. To maintain their wealth, many large plantation owners

Refused to free their slaves

  1. What were “Radical Republicans?”

Those in Congress who did not want leniency towards the South. They wanted the South punished for what had happened.

  1. Why were Radical Republicans targets in the South?

Because they wanted the South punished.

  1. Amidst the violence, the Radical Republicans create the Freedmen’s Bureau, America’s first major relief organization. They are responsible for the general welfare of the newly freed slaves. What did they do/what is their mission?

Set up schools, provided food/shelter/clothing/medical supplies, helped emancipated slaves adjust to life as a free man

  1. Which man did not support the Freedmen’s Bureau? Andrew Johnson

  1. For the 1864 election, Johnson was asked to be Lincoln’s running mate. While Johnson was anti-slavery, he was not in favor of granting rights to freed blacks. Johnson has no intention to see racial equality brought to America.

  1. What surprised many is Johnson’s leniency toward the ex-rebels. For a man who supposedly despises rich plantation owners, he makes it easy for southern states to return to the union. No punishments, no questions asked.

  2. As the southern states restore their pre-Civil War governments, almost immediately most former rebel states enact harsh laws known as black codes. What are they?

Laws aimed at controlling the freedmen. Example (blacks could not own or rent property)
Scene 4: Bitterly Divided

  1. Radical Republicans, like Thaddeus Stevens, want to help newly emancipated blacks transition from slavery to freedom. But only one year after the end of the Civil War, the American people are still bitterly divided about the fate of blacks. For much of 1866 the country is tottering on the edge of two competing theories about what to do about Reconstruction. President Johnson’s plan is to essentially restore the old south minus the plantation elite, while the Radicals in Congress want to give blacks the right to vote.

  2. The New Orleans Massacre happened because blacks wanted suffrage.

  3. Why did the Union army not show up at the New Orleans Massacre?

President Johnson told them to stand down

  1. The mob kills over 50 people and wound over 200.

  1. President Johnson favored the South over the North

  1. In the Congressional elections of 1866, the Republican Party wins the majority in both the Senate and the HOR. For the first time in American history one party has a 2/3 majority in both houses of congress. What that means is that if Republicans decided on a plan of Reconstruction they can pass it over Johnson’s veto.

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