Effects of Reconstruction on African Americans Essay

Reconstruction had a large impact on African Americans. It was a gateway period for African Americans into American society as equals. Many changes were made that helped them gain rights and acceptance, but it wasn’t an easy change. In the early years of reconstruction, black codes restricted African Americans greatly (Document D), but as reconstruction went on, various acts were passed to help African Americans gain passage into every day society (Document A).

From 1865-1866, the Southern governments put Black Codes into place.

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These were laws that targeted blacks as unequals in society to try and regain white supremacy. Blacks couldn’t vote, purchase land, testify in court against a white man, bear arms (Document D), etc. Blacks were also forced to sign heavy-laboring contracts for work. Black Codes also sparked the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan, or KKK, who killed and lynched large numbers of African Americans and their families (Document G). Radical Republicans began to take action to give southern blacks equal rights in society.

In 1866, the Civil Rights Act was passed that granted African Americans national citizenship and entitled them to sue and be sued, give evidence, and buy/sell/inherit land (Document H). Two years later in 1868, the 14th Amendment was ratified which made blacks both national citizens and citizens of the states that they resided (Document I). States now could not discriminate against blacks.

From 1867-1877, Radical Republicans led Congress to many new laws promoting equality. The 15th Amendment was passed in 1870 granting black males the right to vote. Thomas Mundy Peterson was the first African American to vote under provisions of the latter (Document E). He voted in a municipal election in Perth Amboy in the same year, 1870. The KKK Act of 1871 made the infringement by private individuals of a person’s civil and political rights a federal crime. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 gave protection to blacks against segregation in public accommodations.

Blacks were finally able to participate in southern politics. State constitutional conventions now had black delegates, southern blacks were elected to varied important state and local offices, and all state legislatures had black members. Some of the statewide offices held were governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, superintendent of education, state treasurer, senators, and representatives (Document C).

Reconstruction introduced sharecropping to the black community. Sharecropping was a system in that blacks rented a plot of land and paid to the plantation owner a certain percentage of the cotton crop, work animals, fertilizer, and seed (Document H). Sharecropping became a system that croppers were greatly exploited in a variety of ways. Planters had a great advantage in the system. They charged high prices and outrageous interest rates for food and clothing purchased by sharecroppers on credit at the plantation store.

Various organizations emerged like the Freedman’s Bureau to help African Americans in education, finding respected jobs, and establishing a place in society. The Freedman’s Bureau played a large role in education by donating supplies to school buildings and paying teachers (Document F). Many colleges and universities were also established.

By 1876, all but three Southern states were restored to home rule (Document B). Things that may have effected this process were the use of violence by organizations like the KKK and Knights of the White Camelia to terrorize African Americans and their families, the depression of 1873-1877 that devastated Southern states’ credit, tax rolls, and budgets.

Obviously, reconstruction had a huge impact on the everyday life of African Americans. African American advances were made that not only helped blacks but the overall feeling of unity in the US. As a result, many blacks began to feel comfortable in society and gain a sense of belonging.

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