The Reconstruction Era and Freedom

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In the words of President Abraham Lincoln during his Gettysburg Address (Doc. A), the Civil War itself, gave to our Nation, “a new birth of freedom”. The Civil War had ended and the South was in rack and ruin. Bodies of Confederate soldiers lay lifeless on the grounds they fought so hard to protect. Entire plantations that once graced the South were merely smoldering ash. The end of the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery, stirred together issues and dilemmas that Americans, in the North and South, had to process, in hopes of finding the true meaning of freedom. Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States during the beginning era of Reconstruction, had plans to free slaves and grant them freedoms like never before. In 1863, before the war had ended, Lincoln had issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction for the areas of the South that the Union armies occupied. This proclamation was also called the 10 percent plan. It suggested that a state could reenter the Union when 10 percent of that state’s 1860 vote count had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States and pledge to abide by emancipation. Although this policy was put into place to help shorten the war, it also forced governments to further Lincoln’s emancipation policies and abolish slavery. Radical Republicans opposed this plan because they feared it was too lenient towards the South, fearing that his moderate plan would leave in place the political and economic structure that permitted slavery in the South. Many Congressmen believed that only until the South could be dismantled and rebuilt with more Northern philosophies, slaves would never be able to enjoy the benefits of freedom: social, political, and economic freedom. The meaning of ... ... middle of paper ... ... The cause was forfeited not by Republicans, who welcomed the African-American votes, but to the elite North who had concluded that the formal end of slavery was all the freed man needed and their unpreparedness for the ex-slaves to participate in the Southern commonwealth was evident. Racism, severe economic depression, an exhausted North and troubled South, and a campaign of organized violence toward the freed man, overturned Reconstruction. The North withdrew the last of the federal troops with the passing of The Compromise of 1877. The freed slaves continued to practice few voting rights until 1890, but they were soon stripped of all political, social and economic powers. Not until the civil rights movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s were the freedoms that were fought for by our Republican forefathers nearly 100 years before, finally seen through to fruition.

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