Who Killed Reconstruction: North or South?

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After the destructive battle of the Civil War between the North and the South, large efforts were put into place to help restore the destroyed Southern society. The policy of Reconstruction was put in place to unite the southern states. The North initially made attempts to improve the African-American citizenship, resulting in establishing Amendments to give them civil rights and more freedom to become equal in authority. However, the South, refusing to change, disagreed with the idea of Reconstruction. The struggle for the continuance and advancement of Reconstruction resulted in collapse. The South was the primary cause of the death of Reconstruction due to forceful control, violence, and the unwillingness of change.

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The Ku Klux Klan’s violence against the North and African Americans fueled paranoia, worsening the efforts of Reconstruction. Many secret societies, specifically the KKK, took particularly ruthless actions in attempts to keep the whites in power and stop whoever, whether that may be voting African Americans or government officials from taking over. ‘He was stabbed five or six times, and then hanged on a hook in the Grand Jury room…. Another brave, honest Republican citizen has met his fate at the hands of these fiends,’ (Document A). The Klansmen would even break into African American’s homes, attack them with whips, and leave them to die due to their rights to vote for the Radical Republicans, (Document B). Murderous outrages toward northern and southern citizens were a step for the KKK to complete their goals of becoming higher in authority.

The Southerner’s greed and obsession of control prompted the downfall of Reconstruction. An image from Harper Weekly portrays an African American male voter held at gunpoint by two white Southerners in front of a ticket box, (Document B). This shows that African American voters were often threatened to vote for whom the Southerners wanted in office. In the background of the image, other white men are shown not only allowing this foul treatment to proceed but are in agreeance as well, (Document B). The treatment continues as more white men on horses bring in an African American voter. (Document B). The South also did not want anyone to be higher in authority than them, neglecting African American rights. ‘Scalawags… were white Southerners who… wanted to improve their economic position and did not want the former wealthy planters to regain power. Very few of these white Southerners would have been pro-equality when it came to African American rights,’ (Document E).

The North did not make consistent efforts to progress Reconstruction and even began to oppose its policies, causing the South to continue its collapse. During the 1870’s, the North began to focus less on the problems in the South and turn their attention to their own issues such as the Panic of 1873 and corruption of Grant’s administration, and ‘the tide of public opinion in the North began to turn against Reconstruction policies,’ (Document C). The allowance of the South’s continuation of violence and disagreement with the Reconstruction policies was an ironic decision because the North initially put Reconstruction into place. The Boston Evening Transcript’s letter argued that blacks are not fit to be in political authority and just needed a period long enough to forget about the slavery conditions and to rise as a generation, (Document D). The anti-slavery Northerners believed that the African Americans still needed to be further educated on the system, and even viewed them as obnoxious and chaotic according to Harper’s Weekly’s portrayal, (Document D).

The eruption of violence, disagreements about equal rights, and carelessness of the North caused the period of Reconstruction to become the opposite of its policy. The African Americans resulted in being the primary group who made efforts to ‘put an end to these outrages,’ (Document A) and to have freedom in their own nation. The Northerners failed to recognize the arising issues of the South in which the Southerners were the fault of. Among the power-hungry KKK (Documents A and B) and the negligent and judgemental Northerners (Documents C and D), the Southerners were the ones who struck the final blow on the death of Reconstruction. 

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Who Killed Reconstruction: North Or South?. (2021, Jun 30). Retrieved December 2, 2022 , from
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