Chapter 16 presents an overview of the Reconstruction era focusing on the differences in Southern white and African-American expectations for the postwar South, federal programs for Reconstruction, the successes and failures of Republican state governments in the South during Reconstruction, and the circumstances and decisions which brought an end to the Reconstruction era.
White Southerners and the Ghosts of the Confederacy, 1865
While some white Southerners saw the destruction of the Confederacy as punishment, others came to view the war as the “Lost Cause” and would not allow the memory of the Civil War to die. The myth of the Lost Cause was a need to rationalize and justify the devastation and loss of life; the Reconstruction era became the Redemption and forged community in a time of uncertainty about the future. In this mythology, African-Americans were cast in the role of adversaries who challenged whites’ belief of their own racial superiority.
More than Freedom: African-American Aspirations in 1865
Former slaves wanted to be free of white supervision; they also desired land, voting and civil rights, and education. At the end of the Civil War, African-Americans had reason to hope their dreams might be achieved through such actions as the establishment of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The vast majority of former slaves was never able to realize their dreams of independent land ownership and continued to work as farm laborers; others migrated to cities. Their religious faith inspired them; they saw their emancipation in biblical terms and the church became the primary focus of the African-American community.
Federal Reconstruction, 1865–1870
The federal government had two great challenges following the Civil War; supporting the freedom of former slaves and rejoining the Confederacy to the Union. No blueprint for Reconstruction existed; the Constitution was silent on the issue and there was no agreement on policy. Presidential Reconstruction and Congressional Reconstruction brought mixed results. The Civil Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were key legislative acts during this period; however, by 1870, white Southerners were gradually regaining control of their states and using violence and intimidation to erode gains made by African-Americans.
While most of the nation was distracted by political scandals and a serious economic depression, white Southerners regained control of the South. Racial violence through groups like the Ku Klux Klan subverted the electoral process; the success of political violence reflected the erosion of Northern support for Congressional Reconstruction.
After more than fifteen years of Reconstruction, Republicans lost interest in policing their former enemies. By 1877 the Redeemers had triumphed, and all the former Confederate states had returned to the Union in the Compromise of 1877 following the disputed 1876 presidential election. Southern states now had all of their rights and many of their leaders restored to pre-Civil War conditions. Freed slaves remained in mostly subservient positions with few of the rights and privileges enjoyed by other Americans.
The Failed Promise of Reconstruction
The tacit agreement between Southern and Northern whites was that the South was now free to work out its own resolution to race relations. The price of sectional reconciliation was that the dream that former slaves held of economic independence and equality would not materialize. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were bright spots in the legacy of Reconstruction; the overwhelming majority of African-Americans had become landless agricultural workers, eking out a meager income that merchants and landlords often snatched to cover debts. For most, Reconstruction was a failed promise.
Chapter 16 Outline Reconstruction 1865-1877
I. White Southerners and the Ghosts of the Confederacy, 1865 (pp. 417-418)
II. More than Freedom: African-American Aspirations in 1865 (pp. 418-421)
C. The Election of 1876 and the Compromise of 1877
D. The Memory of Reconstruction
VI. The Failure of Reconstruction (pp. 431-432)
B. Modest Gains and Future Victories
Reconstruction, 1865-1877 Section 1: White Southerners and the Ghosts of the Confederacy, 1865 (pp. 417-418)
Section 2: More than Freedom: African-American Aspirations in 1865 (pp. 418-421)
Section 3: Federal Reconstruction (pp. 421-427)
Section 4: Counter-Reconstruction, 1870-1874 (pp. 427-429)
Section 5: Redemption, 1874-1877 (pp. 429-431)
Section 6: The Failure of Reconstruction (pp. 431-432)
1. Many Southerners refused to accept their defeat as divine judgment and believed that God had spared the South for a greater purpose; they came to view the war as
Page Ref.: 417
2. Which of the following statements about the Lost Cause is NOT true?
54. In the Slaughterhouse cases of 1873, the Supreme Court ruled that
Page Ref.: 432
55. Legacies of Reconstruction in the South included all of the following EXCEPT
Page Ref.: 432-433
Chronology 56. Which headline would have appeared in 1876?
a. “Hayes, Tilden Outcome Stalled in Contested Deadlock”
b. “Congress Passes Act in Effort to Stop Klan”
c. “Constitutional Amendment Gives Suffrage Rights to Ex-Slaves”
d. “Grant Steamrolls to Easy Second-Term Victory”
57. Which event happened last?
a. Field Order No. 15 is issued
b. Supreme Court nullifies the Enforcement Act
c. Southern blacks vote, in large numbers, for Ulysses S. Grant
d. Fourteenth Amendment is passed by Congress
58. What is the correct order of presidential succession?
a. Grant, Johnson, Hayes
b. Johnson, Hayes, Grant
c. Grant, Hayes, Johnson
d. Johnson, Grant, Hayes
59. In which year did “Liberal Republicans” in Congress have the most power?
60. Which event happened last?
a. Congress passes its second Civil Rights Act
b. Radical Republicans move to oust President Johnson from office
c. Republican civil rights advocate, Charles Sumner, dies
d. The Ku Klux Klan emerges as a force of terror in the South
Short Essays 61. What accomplishments did the Freedmen’s Bureau make during Reconstruction?
62. In what ways did southerners and northerners differ in expressing their memories of the Civil War?
63. Describe the characteristics that define the sharecropping system.
64. During Reconstruction, what factors made the Republican Party a powerful force in all national elections?
65. What laws and amendments were passed by Congress in its effort to extend the parameters of democracy during Reconstruction?
Extended Essays 66. Historians are divided in opinion regarding their interpretations of Reconstruction’s events and outcomes. What do you feel were the events that best express the Reconstruction period? Why do you feel Reconstruction reforms were ended in 1877?
67. What factors accounted for the rise of the Republican Party in the South, and then the reemergence of the Democratic Party as the dominant power in the South?
68. W.E.B. Dubois stated that Reconstruction was a time in which, “The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back toward slavery.” What historical evidence supports Dubois’s thesis?
69. Describe how powerful whites in the South regained their position as a political and economic elite.
70. Many historians feel that both the promise and disappointment of Reconstruction provided the foundation for the next 100 years of race relations in the South. In what ways is this idea true?