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American Reconstruction and Civil Rights Movements

Impacts of Reconstruction

After the end of the Civil War in 1865, American society embarked on a rigorous reconstruction program that aimed at bridging the gap between the blacks and the whites, who had engaged in several conflicts that were brought about by slavery and the slave trade. It was felt that each person was free to do as he or she wished, and this could not be achieved without constitutional changes and the establishment of strong economic and political policies.

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Through the process of reconstruction, several political and financial amendments were introduced in the country, and they had great impacts on both blacks and whites. The reconstruction was all about empowering the minorities to enable them to catch up with the rest of the society as far as economic and political development was concerned. However, the idea was abandoned upon the realization that blacks were being given an undue advantage in society and subsequently subjecting other races to unfair competition (Houck 23).

Overall, the idea of reducing the gap between the two antagonistic races resulted in various economic and political changes. Politically, Africans were given a chance to be represented in government when they were given the freedom to vote for one of their own. Previously, Africans never had a leader to represent them in major governmental decision-making, something that complicated their position in the society.

With the lapse of time, Freedman’s Bureau was established with the major role of giving blacks an equal chance as regards to education. In any given society, education is critical because it determines the success of the community. Black people only had basic education that allowed them to read and write. Through the bureau, several public schools were introduced for blacks and other monitories, something that guaranteed them access to quality education.

Even though most of the teachers in these schools were white women from the South, they were progressively taken over by African-Americans. Education played an important role for blacks in the labor market as it facilitated their entry into government and private organizations. Consequently, many black people moved to cities and other urban centers in search of jobs and other economic opportunities.

In particular, they moved to the North since the region had several industries and factories that offered job positions. In the owning land system, the law required the property owners to divide their large pieces of land and distribute them to squatters, who were mainly blacks. Additionally, they had to provide several farm materials, such as farm tools and planting materials, to their workers.

The reconstruction policies called on all financial institutions, including private and public banks, to consider giving blacks loans that would help them establish small businesses and acquire extra tools to boost agriculture. In return, the former slaves were expected to honor their masters by repaying the loans and submitting some portion of their produce as taxes (McNeese 12). Through this, blacks benefited economically since they would dispose of the remaining products to the market at a fair price. Despite all these, blacks remained in debt, and they were forced to work for longer hours in the fields.

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The reconstruction collapsed when the black codes were introduced and ratified into the law meaning that any black person found to have contravened the set laws would be subjected to harsh punishment. For instance, no black person was allowed to marry a white individual since this would result in the death penalty. Additionally, no black had a right to take a white to court, and the law required that only whites would serve as the jury.

Civil Rights Movements

Several factors forced blacks to revolt against the existing structure in society. In terms of voting, blacks were denied their rights in the sense that they could only support a white candidate in an election, who was never interested in their problems. Since whites were unresponsive to the sufferings of blacks, they deprived them and other minorities of the opportunity to hold public office. If an African presented him or herself as a witness in a case involving a white person, this would be considered a breach of the law, and a person would be punished harshly.

Unlike whites, blacks were never allowed to carry weapons meaning that their lives and properties were always under threat. In fact, Africans were unable to defend themselves against the militia groups set up by whites. President Johnson declared openly that the United States was a country of white people, and it was God’s choice for it to be governed by a white. There was a feeling among whites that the reconstruction policies were unconstitutional because blacks were given a chance to outmuscle their white counterparts (Franklin 8).

After the abandonment of the reconstruction programs, blacks were taken through oppression and suppression in various parts of the country. For instance, a group of white Democrats, referring to themselves as Redeemers, took over the leadership of the South and occupied all major positions. They never allowed blacks to enjoy their rights, including the right to life and employment. Segregation and white supremacy were the main components of the white rule as blacks never had a say pertaining to governmental decision-making.

The carpetbaggers, who were a group of the Northerners that moved to the South, gave the locals a tight competition forcing blacks to close their small business and embark on the provision of cheap labor. The establishment of the Ku Klux Klan sparked a heated debate in government and society in general as it targeted blacks and their wealth. The main role of the militia group was to flush out all Republicans from the public offices and ensure that all blacks were disenfranchised (Uslaner 46). The group employed several tactics in executing its heinous acts of terrorism, including intimidation, threats, and violence. However, the government was unable to deal with it because it was a secret organization.

Before the eruption of violence at the railway station, where a black woman refused to pass a seat to a white man, Africans had gone through many injustices. They had suffered so much both politically and economically since the government was unwilling to provide an enabling environment that would ensure individual fulfillment of the society. In particular, the government-supported several state laws that advocated separately in facilities for blacks and whites.

Due to all these, Morris underscored the fact that there was much more to the Civil Rights Movement than Dr. King’s speeches and protest marches. To some extent, the civil rights movement resolved the African problems because several acts were passed and paved the way for equality, even though blacks were still a little disadvantaged given the fact that absolute equality was always hard to ensure in any human society (Ollhoff 82). Black Americans were finally granted the right to participate in the electoral process through voting and presenting their candidature during elections.

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Works Cited

Franklin, John. Reconstruction after the Civil War. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press, 2012. Print.

Houck, Davis. Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954 – 1965. Waco, Tex: Baylor Univ. Press, 2006. Print.

McNeese, Tim. Reconstruction: Life after the Civil War. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2009. Print.

Ollhoff, Jim. The Civil Rights Movement. Edina, Minn: ABDO Pub, 2011.Print.

Uslaner, Eric. Segregation and Mistrust: Diversity, Isolation, and Social Cohesion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.

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