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The American Civil War Era of Reconstruction

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    The civil war was a time where our nation was forced todecide whether being “One nation” was truly best for our country. The issue ofslavery had since been a problem or issue for each president before Lincoln. Procrastinationsby congress such as the GAG rule, had put off the issue of slavery, but in 1864tensions had came to a boiling point to where governments were forced toaddress the issue. The south had taken their stance to succeed from America ifAbraham Lincoln was elected, while the northern states watched to see if thesouth would act on their words. As president Lincoln was signed into office,southern states saw their fate become sealed. The pro slavery democratsaccepted their defeat in the civil war yet under estimated the Republican plansfor reconstruction. Abraham Lincolns principal for reconstruction was to hopefully bring this nation under one governing, while Andrew Johnson was often trying to put into play that the south shouldn’t have ever succeeded in the first place although himself was a south erner and on top of that he was also aracist who felt that blacks should have no role in reconstruction. 1865-1867was at that time called presidential reconstruction and Andrew Johnson appointed provisional governors to establish new and all white governors in southern states.

    These governments barely had changed from prior to the civil war, infact the resembled the confederate governments they had “Replaced”. As for formerslaves life changed for them, schools like Howard university and Fisch were established and also some primary and secondary schools thanks to the Freedmen Bureau which also gathered former confederate land for slaves. The 10% plan was conceived by Abraham Lincoln during the civil war to start of his plan of reconstruction of the south. Lincoln’s plan for Reconstruction had involved the Ten-Percent Plan, which stated that a southern state could be admitted into the Union once 10 percent of their voters pledged an oath of allegiance to the Union. Voters could then elect representatives to get new state constitutions and create new governments. Lincoln wanted the war to end as quickly as possible. He was afraid that a lengthy war would lose the support of many citizens and that the North and South would never come to be a full union if the fighting did not come to an end soon and his fears came true. By 1863, many Democrats were asking for a truce and peaceful end to the war. Lincoln’s Ten-Percent Plan was fairly easy on the South as an effort to get the South to surrender. Unlike his other cabinet members in Congress, Lincoln did not want to punish southerners or change their society.

    In all like other presidents this plan was not fully successful, instead the south countered this plan with the Wade Bill which was practically the same thing but instead of 10% of the southerners pledging allegiance they increased it to 50%. It is okay to say that this bill plan did not work out but it was only the beginning of a long reconstruction that Lincoln and his party had planned, other plans would soon come into play. The Freedman’s Bureau also known as the “Bureau of refugees” was established in the in 1865 by president Abraham Lincoln to undertake the relief effort and the unprecedented social reconstruction that would bring people who had been freed to the full advantages of citizenship like other people. It issued food and clothing, hospitals and camps, help people find family members, promoted education, helped in getting marriage licenses, provided employment, gave jobs, provided legal representation from lawyers. A big problem about this organization was that post war confederates and even Andrew Johnson felt threatened that former slaves were going to be given their land and this is something that they didn’t want to happen so of course they opposed them. As the Civil War was coming to an end in 1865, African Americans in the South rejoiced the end of slavery. The colonization of the emancipated slaves had been one of the fixes for the difficulties created by the presence of freedmen in the slave conditions. They immediately began to act to improve their own way of life with what had long been taken away from them.

    The cons of this Bureau was that it gave no job training and it forced most freed slaves to become what they call “sharecroppers” which was a form of agriculture in which a land owner allows a tenant to use their land for farming in exchange for a portion for their crops. Although this was created by Lincoln shortly after his assassination Johnson had had plans of watering down the bill out of existence, thus became Andrew Johnson’s plans for reconstruction. Andrew had the similar ideas for the new south as Lincoln, but there were a few big differences, Andrew Johnson felt African Americans shouldn’t have a role in reconstruction. Southerners waited for days wondering what had to be done for him to let the south back into the union, then on may 9th 1865 he then announced his plans for what he called “Presidential Reconstruction”. A lot of white southerners and even leaders of the confederacy would’ve accepted any harsh demands and policies at that moment considering that the south was in ruins and in need of a lot of help after the war.

    Andrew Johnson made it clear that he wanted a quick, Lenient restoration with little alteration to the constitution and also as little creative of black civil rights as possible. The Northerners were surprised on how lenient Andrew Johnson was on circumstances of letting the south back into the union while the south was relieved. The circumstances were that the south admit they lost the war and it is over and also come to a conclusion that slavery and secession is no longer and other than that there were no requirements. Andrew Johnson had no sympathy for wealthy white farmers, considering that he was raised from poverty and his parents were poor white southerners, which is why he was very anxious to help them, he also blamed them for the succession from the union. Poor white farmers seen the abolishment of slavery as a new threat in their society especially those whose lively hood was farming. He encouraged confederate leaders and big farmers to write him and beg for forgiveness. That alone sent a message to a lot of upper class farmers, practically saying if you are not pardoned you cannot vote nor hold office in U.S. government. Andrew John shared white southerners concerns of growing black independence in the south, Johnson believed that they should go back to the plantations and be under white order.

    Andrews plan was just to reunite the white north and the white south even if it meant African Americans go back to a plantation and work so be it. In fall of 1965 he pardoned so many rich farmers he had to hire special clerks so help control the amount of paper work. Johnson felt that plantations under the care of wealthy farmers was the only place African Americans can be under control, and soon enough the people that he grew up despising he was helping the most. During this period over 20,000 wealthy farmers had been pardoned. When pardoned it means that they are allowed to reclaim any land that belonged to them even if anyone was occupying it.

    During this time the seized lands were occupied by former slaves and poor white farmers, and if they wanted to keep occupying the land they had no other choice but to sign labor contracts and work there. African Americans understood at this point that they still would have to work and the “American Dream” of acres of land and a mule seemed farfetched. With these labor contracts came negotiating from African Americans which seemed very unfathomable to wealthy farmers and former slave owners, they seen it as a sense of equality between them. Considering that some of the farmers had very little to pay them with, these demands were often met by violence. In Louisiana alone over 2,000 black men and women were reported dead due to violent hate crimes. In some southern states, like Texas and South Carolina, they passed laws that state that a black man could not do any work but only use his field hands and these laws were called black codes.

    These states tried to go as close as they could to slavery without breaking the law. These black codes often stopped black men from buying land, purchasing weapons and even their children could be taken away and auctioned off. Johnson efforts towards the freedmen made many in Washington furious especially angering a individual named Thaddeus Stevens who was a congressman in Pennsylvania and a long time abolitionist. Thaddeus led a small and very vocal group called the “Radicals”. The radicals were a group of men in the republican party whose years before the war opposed the expansion of slavery and during the civil war they called for the arming of black troops, people often didn’t understand why they supported the slaves even before there was even any political gain, but they still did it. The radicals felt like they could work with Andrew Johnson through reconstruction thinking he was more reasonable than Lincoln but soon they would be dead wrong.



    December 1865, the 39th congress came together, over 60 confederates prepared to take a seat in the chairs. Former Confederates were denied seat because they felt they shouldn’t be helping a union they helped destroy. Thaddeus wanted to keep the south out of the union for as long as he could. Giving southern states un checked power was madness to them. Republicans tried to persuade Andrew Johnson to provide even the smallest of amount of protection of blacks in the south. In 1866 both houses of congress passed a land mark civil rights bill that protected the rights of Americans regardless of race and Andrew was warned not to veto it if he hoped for any more co-operation from them, then two weeks later he vetoed it. The Moderate Republicans were outraged about this and were forced to join the radical republicans to oppose Andrew Johnson.

    The united republican party overrode the veto and became Americans 1st civil rights Act. Many in congress felt it was not enough, safeguarding civil rights required changes to the constitution. The 14th amendment was added to the constitution and made African Americans full citizens of the United states and these rights could not be taken away from them. Congress passed the 14th amendment, but it had to be ratified by three quarters of the states. Andrew Johnson accused the republicans of treason when announcing the 14th amendment and at this point the line was drawn. They later won the three-fourths vote and the Radicals went from a minority to republican leadership. Thaddeus made his final plea for intervention in the south and in march 1867, congress rejected a veto by Andrew Johnson and they passed the “radical reconstruction plan”. Radicals were at an advantage because they had huge majorities which meant that they could override all vetoes president Andrew Johnson attempted. Under the reconstruction act they started out by throwing away all state governments who refused to ratify the 14th amendment and then they divided the south into five military districts, the only southern state that this did not apply to was Tennessee because they were already readmitted before the military construction took place. Army commanders were put into these districts in order to enforce reconstruction.

    The first military district was Virginia and its commander was Brigadier General John Schofield, the second military district consisted of North and South Carolina and their commander was Major General Daniel Sickles, the third district contained Georgia, Alabama and Florida and it was governed by John Pope, the fourth district consisted of Arkansas and Mississippi and the commander was Edward Ord, and finally the fifth district that had Louisiana and Texas was commanded by Philip Sheridan. They instituted what they call Marshall law in the south, so commanders acted as governors and they were also soldiers sent in the districts to uphold order and laws. In order to rejoin the union under the radical reconstruction act, they had to write a new constitution ratifying the 13th and 14th amendment and they also had to allow blacks to vote. All former confederate officials were barred from voting an republicans quickly gained full control of southern state governments also many white southerners refused to vote out of protest which is another reason why republicans gained control fast.

    During this time Blacks seen this as their first opportunity to actually exercise their rights and these events also brought up the first black politicians in the south. Andrew Johnson developed more of a bad relationship with congress by vetoing every bill that came to him and he also tried to limit the amount of power congress had over reconstruction and he also took it upon himself to personally fire military officers. This was the breaking point, Radical republicans got fed up to the point that they made the decision to try and remove him from office. They developed a two-step process which consisted of impeachment then removal.

    February 1868 the house of representatives voted to impeachment him and brought formal charges against him, but he was one vote shy of being removed in the senate. Andrew was not guilty of any impeachable crimes such as treason and bribery, but they accused him of breaking a law that was passed that stated that he could not fire any cabinet officials without congresses approval. Radical republicans admitted that the charges were political in character. Andrew Johnson made history as being the first president to be impeached, but he was not removed, and this made the Andrew Johnson era come to an end. Ulysess S. Grant which was the next elected president, who was also a Radical republican, so having that abided in him continued along the strict path of reconstruction that the south was already on.

    These two eras of reconstruction had a common goal, but where the difference lies is they way they chose to go about it. Presidential reconstructions started off with Lincoln and his lenient ways to get the south back into the union and as he was assassinated Andrew Johnson had his other ways. It is mot safe to say that if Lincolns hadn’t been assassinated that presidential reconstruction would’ve have worked because it took the ignorance of Andrew Johnson towards the freedmen to enrage the Radical Republicans to take action the way they did. Radical reconstruction was the more assertive procedure to get the south back on track. From banning white confederate leaders from congress to successfully impeaching Andrew Johnson, it took many feats to finally get rid of presidential reconstruction, but once Andrew Johnson was out of office reconstruction became inevitable.

    Jim Crow

    There are many significant meanings behind jim crow, but they all come to negative connotation to slaves. The term ‘Jim Crow’ was linked to a black character in an old song, and was the name of a popular dance in the 1820s. Thomas ‘Daddy’ Rice constructed an act in which he painted his face brown to imitate black peoples skin, dressed in tattered clothes, and sang and danced to and old song. The segregation laws known as “jim crow” represented a system of racial apartheid. The laws had effected almost every aspect of daily life, administering segregation of schools, local parks, libraries, water fountains, restrooms, community transportation, and restaurants. Signs like ‘Whites Only’ and ‘Colored’ were reminders of the racial order that had been put in. Blacks had received separate but equal treatment under law, but facilities were always inferior to those that could be only used by whites. This system was upheld by the local government. During the 1950s a white man was to never stand on a bus ride if a black man had a seat, blacks were forced to stand up in the back even if there were seats available in the white section of the bus.

    These circumstances applied to other facilities, black children were not allowed in all white schools under any circumstances, African Americans were not allowed to use all white restrooms nor drink from their water fountains. During the 1960s a lot of civil rights protest erupted, mainly in the south. A non-violent protest occurred February 1, 1960 in an eatery in Greensboro, North Carolina, 4 African American college students from North Carolina A&T college wanted to be served at the diners lunch counter and the manager refused, the men remained seated until it was closing time. The next day 15 other students came and joined them and the third day over 300 students came and joined this protest.

    This event cause the up rise of “Freedom Riders” who were a volunteer group of black and white men and women, but mainly made up of college students. This group challenged racial inequalities through protest and in court. These civil rights demonstrations pushed the then president John F. Kennedy to send congress a civil rights bill that offered federal protection to any African Americans that wanted to vote, learn and eat out on equal grounds as white people. There was a growing support for the civil rights movement which pressured congress to take in a civil rights legislation. Eventually Acts like the “Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act voided racial inequality and segregation and made it illegal.

    In Conclusion the era of Reconstruction and Jim Crow were vital parts of Americas foundation. Presidential Reconstruction started of with brilliant ideas, but was later tarnished when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and Andrew Johnson was put in control. Andrew failed in making the south a better place for the freedmen and was later removed from power by the Radical Republicans. The Radicals managed to put the south in check and made sure everyone had equal rights. The era of Jim Crow and “Separate but equal” arises from southerners which led to many civil rights protest and movements such as the “Montgomery bus boycott” and many sit-in protest across the country.


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