Reconstruction and the Post-War South

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"African-Americans as a matter of our highest law were in fact no more citizens than cattle. " -- Ira Glasser, Legacy of Racial Subjugation, 2014 The end of the Civil War left many questions for both the North and the South. The federal government was faced with the responsibility of rebuilding the South and reuniting the country politically, economically, and culturally. At the war’s end, the country was left to grapple with 200,000 deaths and over a million casualties, more than any other war for the United States, either past or since[1]. The turbulence of the era left the countryside and the economy of the South in ruins. Plantation owners, the antebellum economic lords who ruled with an iron fist, were financially devastated by the war. Confederate currency was worthless, free slave labor was outlawed, and the federal government confiscated many acres of plantation land. In addition to rebuilding the Southern economy and its infrastructure, the federal government had to address the situation of newly freed blacks. Though Southern blacks had gained their freedom in the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, they still faced great economic and social hardship as they struggled to make a living and find their niche in Southern society. While the Radical Republicans pushed for the full equality of blacks, they faced staunch opposition from Southern Democrats and more moderate Republicans. While the period of Reconstruction figured as a time of increased freedom and equality for southern blacks, it was ultimately only a temporary condition, as the power of the Southern Redeemers and the waning support of northern Republicans resulted in the reinstitution of white domination. With the end of slavery, Southern whites eventual... ... middle of paper ... ...ial, and economic communities combated numerous challenges and overcame many, but the tone of the South remained one of political power for the radicals and economic and social prominence for the whites. A different, yet not altogether better, system of societal rules emerged from the Reconstruction era, and new and terrible conditions arose that would not be dealt with until the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. Works Cited [1] Andrew Cayton, America: Pathways to the Present (Needham: Prentice Hall) 2000. [2] John Hope Franklin, Reconstruction After the Civil War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994) 174. [3] Ibid, 183. [4] Ibid, 183. Glasser, Ira. "Legacy of Racial Subjugation" The Huffington Post. 28 Nov. 2014. Web 17 April 2015.
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