Social Changes after the Civil War

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In the years following the Civil War, it was a tumultuous time for America and it's citizen's. In the southern states, people were dealing with not just the loss of their slaves, but also social upheaval, as well as the rebuilding of an economy that had largely been destroyed. In the north, we have the struggle of the common factory worker and the saga of the early industrial age, as well as the early beginnings of the labor union and the struggles that came with the formation of those organizations. In the west, those that chose to be beneficiaries of the Homestead Act were cultivating their 160 acres of land, as well as facing the challenges of unpredictable weather, lack of good soil and in the end, their own lack of skill. In southern states, such as Georgia and Tennessee, there was an entire bedrock of issues to be found. The most basic being the loss of approximately 4 million slaves by the time the 13th amendment was enacted. This introduced a new set of challenges for both white and black southerners, both socially and economically. Black's in the south were now faced with the challenges of freedom. They wanted political power, the ability to own land, to marry; essentially to have their own identity. They wanted economic freedom, the ability to buy and sell, and the ability to own their own businesses. White southerners on the other wanted economic restoration as opposed to newly freed slaves who wanted rudimentary financial freedoms; freedoms that they had never possessed. White southerners wanted the restoration of their labor force, restoration of their land which had largely been destroyed by the Civil War. White's also wanted political power, but it was more about the maintenance of... ... middle of paper ... ...on. It was a time in American history that one could describe as “one step forward, two steps back”. We won a huge political battle; the abolition of slavery. At the same time, we were faced with the growing labor issues in the North, as industrialization changed the face of labor. The Union won the war on a physical and practical level but failed to change its root cause. It failed to change the attitudes of common southern society. Reconstruction was done while ignoring extremely pervasive southern values and ideals, and that is why I believe that reconstruction was, as I said, an era of “one step forward, two steps back.” The era of Reconstruction was a time in American history where the idea of a government by and for the people was ignored in favor of what the government thought was best for the people, while ignoring what the people were asking for.

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