Reconstruction
took place after the Civil war during the years 1865-1877. This era was full of
many questions without clear answers, and therefore I do not believe it was a
radical break from the past. This era was exceptionally revolutionary, but not
a break from past occurrences or thoughts. Using what we knew as a country to
understand where we were at that point in time, there was little understanding
of what to do next. Would the confederacy be allowed back into the Union
without any consequences? Would black men and women be of the same social
status as white men and women? Would racism and violence be put to rest? There
was a break in the initial violence, but now there is a form of political
violence to be had when answering these harder questions. I do not think that
the Reconstruction was a radical break from the past.

Firstly,
we can see that the country was in shambles right after the Civil war. There
were four years of war that impacted the country’s resources as well as their
people. Thousands upon thousands died during this war on the home-front for the
abolition of slavery. But after the fighting had ceased and the Union had
officially won, there were multiple other issues that needed to be resolved.  The administration of Andrew Johnson, after
Lincoln’s assassination, worked to ensure the rights of slaves, while also
allowing them to work.  Under Johnson, a
series of “black codes” here released to better detail black people’s activity.
These codes are defining freedom that very much resembled slavery. According to
an article titled “Mississippi Black Code, November 1865” from our textbook,
“every civil officer shall, and every person many arrest and carry back to his
or her legal employer any freedman, free negro or mulatto.” This definitely has
hints of slave-management tones, although they added the word “free.” This was
in no way a break from the past. If anything, it was moving towards the
limitation of black people once again. To be considered a “radical break from
the past” I believe there had to have been some forward momentum off the bat.
This era seemed to begin with many struggles and doubt.

Slavery
is the big question posed here after the war. Those who had fought for the
abolition of slavery were outraged to see political figures move towards a
limited form of treatment when it came to black people. Republicans in congress
began to take control of the Reconstruction that was going on in the South. The
Reconstruction act was passed in 1867, which organized suffrage and split the
south into military districts. This poses a big question for me, are these
states ready to be committed to the Union now? Considering they were the enemy
for four years, why would they feel the need to organize the south in such a
way now? According to an article titled “Reconstruction” written for the
History Channel, “By 1870, all of the former Confederate states had been
admitted to the Union, and the state constitutions during the years of Radical
Reconstruction were the most progressive in the region’s history.” Whether they
felt as though the South was perfectly acceptable in the Union or not, they
admitted them to attempt to move forward after the war. It wasn’t until 1877
that all of the northern troops were removed from the south, the end of
reconstruction. I do not think that this era was a radical break whatsoever.
The changes that took place had to have been changed a few times before they
were actually what the white abolitionists wanted as well as free black former
slaves.

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Secondly,
“African-American participation in southern public life after 1867 would be by
far the most radical development of Reconstruction” states the History Channel.
The rights of those who had earned freedom were slim towards the beginning, but
eventually moved towards a greater equality as time wore on alongside new laws.
The three most important laws during reconstruction were the three amendments
that were passed dealing with slavery as a thing of the past. The 13th
amendment, which abolished slavery, came first. Second was the 14th
amendment, giving black people birthright citizenship in the United States, and
third was the 15th amendment, giving black men the right to vote.
This part of the reconstruction was definitely the most influential and long
lasting, but it seemed to definitely take some arguing and some protesting to
get to this point. There were also those who opposed black integration
altogether, such as the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) who organized themselves in 1866. Many
accounts of violence and discrimination after the initial emancipation has been
recorded. According to another article from the textbook titled “Klan Violence
Against Blacks,” we can see a large amount of reported violence and racial
discrimination towards people who made themselves known to the KKK community. “At
last they came up to my brother’s door, which is in the same yard, and broke
open the door and attacked his wife, I heard her screaming and mourning” (Elias
Hill).

When
asking the big questions during this time period, we can see that there was no
immediate action towards helping black people become 100% independent after the
war. They were free, slavery had been abolished. But those like Johnson who
attempted to still limit their rights were still there. There is a reason that
giving the right for black men to vote wasn’t one of the earliest amendments.
There will still be segregation or decades afterwards as well as racism and
discrimination. Therefore, I believe that this era was not a point of radical
breakthroughs, it was a buildup of hundreds of years that had finally succumb
to the weight of its problems. I believe that there was no ultimate tipping
point after the Civil war. I do not think that the Reconstruction was a radical
break from the past. (988)

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