There were few different aspects to Reconstruction after the Civil War in the United States. First, we have Presidential Reconstruction, and this has to do with what the President has control over.
So, Presidential Reconstruction was largely driven by President Andrew Jackson’s policies. Lincoln had not gotten to do too much with Reconstruction before his assassination.
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So, the primary policies for Presidential Reconstruction came from Andrew Jackson. And he was leaning it on the South and allowed continued discrimination and control over blacks. So, Presidential Reconstruction really wasn’t helping to reconstruct. President Andrew Jackson just quickly wanted to say, “Okay, everything’s reconstructed, we can be one union again. Everything’s over, everything’s good.” But that wasn’t really the case.
Next, we have Congressional Reconstruction, and this has to do with how Congress handled reconstruction. Congress was controlled mainly by Radical Republicans during this period, and they provided more civil rights for blacks, and wanted more control over the Southern government. Basically, the Congress wasn’t ready to forgive and let the Southern governments go back to doing just what they’ve been doing before. They were worried that the South would try to reinforce slavery, or still keep African Americans in a lower condition or lower position than they were in. And they were right, in a sense, because that did continue for a long time.
The Radical Republicans were just ones who were very seriously pro-African Americans and anti-South. They wanted the South to be punished, they wanted to hold more control over the South to make sure they could be trusted before they were left on their own. So, this was marked by military control of former Confederate State governments. So, again, the Congress that was made up of these Radical Republicans were still worried about what the South might do if they were given pre-reign, and could have their governments functioning however they wanted. So, they have military control of these former Confederate State governments.
And Congress was responsible for the Reconstruction Amendments, which we were adopted from 1865 to 1870. Those were the years, the five years, directly following the Civil War. And so, they worked to get these amendments passed.
The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery. So, the Emancipation Proclamation had granted freedom to slaves in the Confederate States that were rebelling against the Union, but it didn’t free all slaves. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and freed all slaves.
The 14th Amendment included the privileges and immunities, due process, and equal protection clauses. So, it was giving them more civil rights, more rights as US citizens. And the 15th Amendment granted voting rights regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. So, again, more civil rights, but specifically voting rights to all men regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. This didn’t give voting rights to women, only to men, and it could be for black and white men. And the promises of these amendments were worn away by state laws in the South, and Federal Court decisions that upheld the state’s laws, and went against what these constitutional amendments were giving the new black citizens. So, states passed what
So, states passed what were known as the Jim Crow Laws, which limited the rights of African-Americans. And so, it made it hard for them to be able to vote. It made it hard for them to have the same rights and privileges as white men did at that time. Now, they were free, but they were still pushed into a lower position than white people. They weren’t treated the same way, they weren’t given the equal treatment that they should’ve been given under these Reconstruction Amendments.
And then, finally, the last part of Reconstruction is known as Redemption, which presumes that the South was redeemed and had lived up to any conditions it needed to live up to, and could now be accepted back into the Union. So, the Confederate States were gradually readmitted to the Union. And white Democrats took over most Southern governments. And the last troops left the South in 1877. So, this is considered the last year of Reconstruction because it was when Redemption was achieved, the last Union troops that had military control over those former Confederate States, they left, they retreated, and went back to their homes up North.
So, no more troops were there to control the governments. White Democrats swept across and took over most of the Southern governments, and continued to oppress new black citizens, and the Confederate States were gradually readmitted to the Union. So, they were considered redeemed, allowed back in with all the rights that they had previously as states in the Union. Now, black citizens were still going to be discriminated against for the years to come, until the 1960s when they actually were given their full rights, and people were forced to acknowledge those instead of just ignoring them. The Jim Crow laws were overturned and considered unconstitutional themselves during the 1960s.
But during Reconstruction, the Reconstruction Amendments were passed, giving the new black citizens more rights in name, they just didn’t get them in act yet. And the Southern governments were slowly rebuilt until they were allowed to function on their own, and that was known as Redemption, which ended the period known as Reconstruction.
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