Reconstruction

From 1865-1877, the federal government attempted to reintegrate the southern states into the united States following their secession and subsequent Civil War. There were several aspects of southern existence that the government needed to address. First was the basic re-formation of the state governments to purge them of Confederate influence. Second was the question of integrating former slaves into the social, political, and economic life of the southern states.

The process was long and difficult. Southern states, when presented with the relatively lenient requirements of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, changed as little as possible. Former Confederate officials remained in powering state legislatures and delegations to the US Congress. Former slaves found themselves subject to many of the same restrictions as they had under slavery, often working for their former masters. After 1866, the “radical” Republican faction in Congress took control of Reconstruction and placed much of the south under military rule until states adopted new constitutions and ratified the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.

Reconstruction also saw the rise of political violence toward African-Americans who exercised their civil rights and against whites who supported the federal reconstruction agenda. Groups such as the Ku Klux Klan used terror to maintain white, Democratic control of the region.

Reconstruction ended in 1877, following a deal made in the wake of the disputed hayes-Tilden election of 1876. Though Reconstruction succeeded in politically reintegrating the United States, full political, social, and economic integration of the former African-American slaves in the south (and, indeed, throughout the United States) would take much longer.

Race and Gender
An Attack on African American Voting Rights