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Reconstruction of the South and Racial Oppressions

There is a number of historical events that had a significant effect on a country or the whole world, and unfortunately, not all of them were positive. Reconstruction of the South that lasted from 1865 to 1877 was the period following the American Civil War. These twelve challenging but extremely ambitious years played a great role in defining future race relations and the part of the federal government in promoting equality. Despite various advantages, including emancipation and crucial amendments, there were essential shortcomings of this period. Reconstruction of the South was considered one of failure because of severe racial oppressions that were not stopped by the federal and state governments and still continue shaping racism in America.

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To begin with, it is important to mention that the Reconstruction of the South had noble goals. However, despite the abolition of slavery and various steps aimed at achieving equality, state and federal governments could not succeed in securing the rights that constitutional amendments guaranteed to former slaves (Foner). First of all, the Fourteenth Amendment, adopted in 1868, promised that all U.S. citizens, despite their skin color or social status, could get equal protection of the laws (Foner). However, a legal doctrine, “separate but equal,” announced that racial segregation could occur in specific situations and did not always violate the Constitution. Next, in January 1865, General William Tecumseh Sherman decided to provide the freed slaves with 400,000 acres of confiscated Confederate land (Foner). However, this Special Field Order number 15 was rescinded by President Johnson, which is another factor contributing to racial oppression.

New amendments adopted during those years gave African Americans hope for the future. Nevertheless, the Black Codes tried to take away the rights and freedoms of those who had just gotten them (Foner). Despite the announced equality, Southern states wanted to make African Americans feel miserable and work in bad conditions and for low wages. An extended number of racist ideas justified executive enforcement, court decisions, and legislative enactments (Foner). The founding and the rapid and successful extension of the Ku Klux Klan that acted in spite of the Fourteenth Amendment again proves the cruelty and unwillingness of a number of Americans to admit equality.

Several other issues and factors contributed to the racial oppressions during the Reconstruction of the South. First, Radical Republican governments either could not or did not want to enact land reform (Foner). Thus, former slaves lacked the economic resources necessary for breaking the poverty cycle. Second, black-white voter coalitions were not preserved by State Republican parties. Otherwise, they could have stayed in power and continued political reform aimed at making all people free and equal. Finally, it is possible to suggest that African Americans’ problems were not essential enough for governments. Racial bias was not only a southern but also a national issue, and northerners should have paid less attention to industrialization and westward expansion and more to the former slaves’ oppressions.

To draw a conclusion, one may say that the Reconstruction of the South was a serious, challenging, ambitious, and contradictory period in American history. Though attempted were made to achieve complete equality, not all people agreed to that, and former slaves were granted rights and freedoms they could not use properly. During those years, racial oppression increased and had a significant influence on the future process of eliminating racism and inequality.

Work Cited

Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: An American History. 6th ed., vol. 1, 2017. W. W. Norton & Company.

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