Posted: February 9th, 2023

The Era of Reconstruction 1865-1877

The Era of Reconstruction 1865-1877
The Era of Reconstruction refers to the period after the American Civil War, from 1865 to 1877, during which the federal government sought to rebuild the nation and integrate formerly enslaved African Americans into the political, social, and economic fabric of the country. This period was marked by significant conflict, as different groups struggled to define the terms of the post-war order and the role of African Americans in the new nation.
After the Civil War ended in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln and the Republican-controlled Congress set about the task of reconstructing the nation. Lincoln’s plan for Reconstruction, known as the 10% Plan, called for the readmission of Southern states to the Union once 10% of their voting population had taken an oath of loyalty to the United States and pledged to abide by the emancipation of slaves. This plan was seen as lenient by many Republicans, who believed that the Southern states should be required to meet stricter conditions before being readmitted to the Union.
Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865 and the subsequent rise to power of President Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, changed the course of Reconstruction. Johnson’s lenient policies towards the South, which included pardoning many former Confederates and allowing them to hold office, angered Republicans in Congress, who believed that Johnson was too easy on the former rebels. In response, Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, which imposed stricter conditions on the South and provided for the military occupation of the region.
One of the key achievements of Reconstruction was the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States. The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States and extended the protections of the Bill of Rights to the states. The 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, granted African American men the right to vote. These amendments marked a significant shift in the legal status of African Americans, who had previously been treated as property and denied the right to vote.
Despite these constitutional changes, African Americans continued to face significant barriers to political and economic equality during the Reconstruction era. Many Southern states adopted Jim Crow laws, which imposed segregation and discrimination against African Americans, and used various tactics, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, to suppress the African American vote. African Americans also faced violence and intimidation from white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, which sought to maintain white dominance in the South.
In addition to the challenges faced by African Americans, Reconstruction also saw significant political conflict between the Republican Party, which controlled the federal government, and the Democratic Party, which opposed many of the Reconstruction policies. This conflict played out in a number of ways, including in the impeachment of President Johnson in 1868 and the disputed presidential election of 1876.
The Era of Reconstruction was a tumultuous and transformative period in American history. It marked the end of slavery and laid the foundations for the civil rights movement of the 20th century, but it also revealed the deep divisions in the country and the persistent challenges of achieving racial equality.

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