Civil War known as Reconstruction In our first assignment we will explore the period following the Civil War known as Reconstruction. Begin the assignment by going to the Mini-lecture on Reconstruction provided below.
Take time to read the Mini-lecture, and then read the assignment listed on that page. Note that you do not need to read the hyperlinks within the essay itself. However, make sure to do the
appropriate readings from the Internet links and text that are at the end of the lecture. Then go to the Discussion Board to discuss questions and ideas on your studies. Finally, write a one to three-page paper covering the questions I have listed, using the paper to show your knowledge of the readings. Try to include a balance of your own thoughts combined with specific examples from your studies.
Civil War known as Reconstruction
Consider the situation facing President Abraham Lincoln and the American people at the end of the Civil War in April of 1865. Eleven states and 5.5 million white southerners had detested Lincoln and the Republican party so much that they attempted to leave the United States and form their own country. The ensuing Civil War led to some 620,000 deaths. As a result of this death toll, it is estimated that there were seven women for every four men in the United States in Much of the southern population was literally starving to death as the war concluded. In addition, with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the practice of slavery was finally officially abolished. This meant that there were about 4 million people who had been held in slavery all their lives that were now free. These Americans had been denied virtually every important right one could think of and most were illiterate with little concept of American governmental systems. How do you make the country whole again? This is the question of Reconstruction.
The process came down to two fundamental issues. How should the southern states be brought back into the United States and how should former slaves be brought into freedom? We will never know how Abraham Lincoln would have really dealt with these problems as he was assassinated in April 1865. Ironically, the man that was now brought to the presidency, Andrew Johnson, was a southerner and a Democrat. This began a struggle between Johnson and the Republican Congress over who should provide leadership in reconstructing the country, with Congress eventually taking charge with the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Reconstruction Acts of 1867.
Put yourself in a former slave’s position. You and your family have worked on a cotton plantation all your life and someone finally tells you that you are no longer enslaved. What would you do?
What would you hope for? Most, like most Americans in this time period, wanted economic independence in the form of a small farm. The motto “forty acres and a mule” reflects the aspirations of many former slaves in the Reconstruction era. Access to education and freedom of religion are also important and these are largely successfully secured through a combination of community work and government assistance. However, economic security and legal and political rights remain as problems that will only be somewhat addressed by Reconstruction.
It is said that the sign of a good compromise is when no one is fully satisfied. This might be said about Reconstruction. When reading your text, make sure to read about sharecropping and crop lien farming and the precarious economic position that many southerners, both black and white, find themselves in during the postwar years. Also, read about the Ku Klux Klan and other forms of white resistance that work against political and legal equality and economic opportunity for emancipated Americans. Finally, read about the Election of 1876 and the Compromise of 1877 in your text, which was one of the most controversial presidential elections in US history, where the Republican party ultimately gives up on Reconstruction and the idea that the federal government has a responsibility to assist an oppressed minority in attaining its rights. At the conclusion of Reconstruction in 1877 many southern African Americans will find themselves in situations that are not entirely different from the circumstances they faced before the Thirteenth Amendment. It will take almost one hundred more years before southern African Americans and the federal government will embark on a second Reconstruction in the form of the civil rights movement.
Reading: Oakes, Chapter 15 (focus on Reconstruction) or Chapter 15 of The American Yawp, Assignment links (see below)
Read the information in Chapters 15 and then compare it with the testimony of a South Carolina freedman. (http://www.freedmen.umd.edu/mcmilln.htm). Also, read a letter documenting events in Maryland during Reconstruction (http://www.freedmen.umd.edu/tdavis.htm). Then, consider the following questions. when you respond to the questions, don’t write your responses in the form of a study sheet, but instead, try to create a holistic essay that features an introduction and conclusion that ties the information and studies together. Just use these questions for ideas on what to discuss.
Do not use unassigned books or web sites for information in this essay.
1) What was Reconstruction and what were some of its goals?
2) How did President Johnson’s views on Reconstruction differ from Republicans in Congress?
3) What were some of the problems in implementing Reconstruction?
4) What were some of the problems facing the freedmen?
5) What were the aspirations of the freedmen? Do you think they were largely met by Reconstruction?
6) What were some of the important outcomes of Reconstruction? How should we evaluate that era?