Reconstruction after the Civil War

The American Civil War was a monumental war that split the current world power into two sides: pro slavery versus no slavery. This war split father against son and brother against brother. The war decided the future of America and changed the country’s way of running things.

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Slavery was outlawed, and justice prevailed. The Civil War was so fiercely fought that considerable reconstruction was required to return America to its former state. Also, the South did not like the new free slaves, so bias laws were passed. The problems grew considerably, and they required help. The Reconstruction was the answer to these problems. The Reconstruction is the most important post-Civil War event because it changed the rules for southern states. For example, southerners figured out how to bypass new laws, slaves were given rights they had never had before, and southern state governments were restricted from making unjust laws; however, America returned to its full glory.

Immediately after the Civil War ended, Reconstruction began. The outlook for a better America was bright for a brief moment, then the flame was immediately extinguished by the South. The defeat hit the South hard, and they had trouble getting past the fact that they no longer were superior to the African-Americans that they now had to call citizens of the United States of America. So, the South began passing “black codes”. Black codes, by definition, are “ a body of laws, statutes, and rules enacted by southern states immediately after the Civil War to regain control over the freed slaves, maintain white supremacy, and ensure the continued supply of cheap labor (Black Codes, Encyclopedia.com pg 1). The main issue for the South was the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the U.S. The first counterattack was in Mississippi. On November 22, 1865, Mississippi civil officers were ordered to hire orphaned slaves. The newly hired employees were not allowed to leave their place of work. Mississippi then passed a law that required African Americans to carry a parchment proving that they had an occupation. They also made a special court system for people who violated these new laws. “A few months after these laws, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina all passed similar laws” (Black Codes, Encyclopedia.com, Pg 1). This marked the beginning of the Black Codes’ reign.

When the black codes emerged, Congress immediately recoiled. They passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, “which made it illegal to discriminate against blacks by assigning them an inferior legal and economic status” (Black Codes, Encyclopedia.com, Pg 2). However, the Southern states found a way around this issue also. They passed laws that allowed police officers to discriminate against “certain individuals”. These “certain individuals” or “unseemingly people” were the blacks. This move was also countered by the Federal government. Just when the discrimination seemed to be over, the Jim Crow Laws appeared. These laws basically separated blacks and whites. Schools, restaurants, movie theaters, restrooms, water fountains, and etc. all became color coordinated. In Plessy vs. Ferguson (a law that required separate railroad cars for blacks and whites in Louisiana), the Jim Crow Laws appeared to the Federal government. Finally, the people decide to take matters into their own hands. People joined cult-like groups that were harsh and cruel towards the blacks. They attacked them physically, and most of the time the attacks were planned. Sometimes, the targets even died. One of these group was the KKK. They were an especially cruel group and had many members. The government did stop these groups, but not after damage was done. They immediately shut down the unjust laws and groups that were bringing pain to the new American citizens, and the South’s bias experimentation of power was over.

The Abolition Movement had been pushing for slave rights for quite some time, and in 1866, they finally got what they were pushing for. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 declared that all freed slaves had the same rights as other American citizens. They had the right to sue (and be sued), own personal property, and the right to fair trial. The 13th Amendment (which abolished slavery), was passed in 1865. These two new laws paved the road for a new America. The Black Codes have started to spring up, but the 14th Amendment (equal protection for the slaves) the Enforcement Act of 1870 (established penalties for voting fraud) the Force Act of 1871 (prevent election fraud, not cheating out the new voters’ voices), the Enforcement Act of 1871 (“an Act to enforce the rights of citizens of the United States to vote in several states of the union” (U.S. Political Geography, Encyclopedia.com). When the 14th Amendment came out, it dropped a bomb on the South. The Ku Klux Klan arose around this time, but the rights just kept coming. On March 1st, 1875, the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was enacted. This law prevented separate restrooms, restaurants, bus seats, etc. This act changed the game entirely. Finally, the 15th Amendment was passed. This gave the ex-slaves the official right to vote and sealed the deal forever.

During all of this, the Federal Government was uniting America. The Southern United States were in ruin after the war. Plantations, farms, homes, and cities were all desolate. They required many hands to restore the cities. With most of the fields torched, they also needed a food source that was dependable. “The new Southern governments were forming. In 1866, Tennessee was the first state to be readmitted to the union. The last state, Georgia, was readmitted in 1870 (Ducksters, pg 2). The North began rebuilding roads, farms and homes for the South. The North wasn’t all just rainbows and sunshine, though. Some people, often called carpetbaggers because they carried their luggage in carpet bags, tried to make money off of the recovering South. The people did not like this. They were not polite to the carpetbaggers. Then, in 1865, Benjamin Butler, a general and supporter of African American rights, was elected to Congress. “A man, if he be active and energetic, can hardly fail also, be he never so selfish, of benefiting the general public interest” – Benjamin Butler. What Butler means here is that a man that is energetic will not fail often, and if he is not selfish, all will be benefited. This is what Butler wanted to be because he knew that the public’s current interest was to help the slaves. Then, in 1868, Oscar J. Dunn, a former slave, was elected the lieutenant governor of Louisiana. This was another big step, as that showed the states were beginning to accept the changes. The 4th Reconstruction Act passed that year too, along with the Fourteenth Amendment. The Federal government had removed all of the troop out of every state except for Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana. The Reconstruction officially ended when the troops were withdrawn from the South.

To conclude, the state governments’ experimentation of power, the blacks rights argument, and the Federal government uniting the nation as a whole truly made America the nation it is today. The era of mind changes, or the post – Civil War Reconstruction, was a very important part in American history. This era changed views on slavery, laws, and groups of people. In this era, people experimented with power and struggled with the loss of handicaps. The black codes shook the new citizens to their core while the state government were experimenting with there power. The Federal Government began helping the blacks while the states toyed with them. The image that the ex-slaves had was dim, but the light eventually broke through. The cruel experimentation process was over, and the United States of America were united again. The United States of America were once again united.

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