African American Reconstruction

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Prior to the Civil War, African Americans were treated as second class individuals. They lacked the freedom and equality they sought for. To the African Americans, the Civil War was a war of liberation. Contrary to what African Americans perceived, Southerners viewed the war as an episode of their journey to salvation. Southern lands may have been destroyed and depleted, but the South was persistent that their racial order would not be disrupted. To most, the goals of the Reconstruction era were to fully restore the Union, and to some, grant emancipation and liberty to former slaves. Although the newly freedmen gained various rights and liberties, their naïve dreams of complete equality and liberation collapsed due to the immense resistance of the South. Once freed, African Americans believed that the rights of a citizen were granted to them. They truthfully believed this because after a brutally fought war, basic rights such as education, land, and employment were so modest, they were undeniable. Even though they were proclaimed as free, their place is society remained unaffected. The Freedmen's Bureau became one of the earlier agencies to provide support for newly freedmen. The agency offered education, advice and protection to its members. The most significant asset of the bureau was education. The literacy rate of African Americans rose about twenty percent due to the organization. Some freedmen even attended colleges to earn degrees. Many white Southerners viewed the African American attempt at education as a waste of time. They condemned the efforts of their social improvement. With much criticism by racist whites and inadequate funds, the Freedmen's Bureau concluded by 1872 injuring African American hopes of social equality. Another goal of African Americans was the ownership of land. To the freedmen, land ownership was equivalent to economic independency. However, they were mistaken. Economic independency was an unrealistic goal in the southern environment. As former slaves, African Americans were very familiar to the agricultural life style. As a result of Sherman's raids across the south, large plots of land were left uninhabited. Vast amounts of freedmen took the opportunity to occupy these lands. In 1866, Congress also passed the Southern Homestead Act giving African Americans access to public lands in five southern states. Contrary to what the freedmen believed, land ownership did not ensure financial success. Most land owned by African Americans was small and had an inferior value compared to white farms.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that the civil war was a war of liberation for african americans, who were treated as second-class individuals and lacked freedom and equality.
  • Explains that the freedmen's bureau provided education, advice, and protection to its members. the literacy rate of african americans rose about twenty percent due to the organization.
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