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Chapters 1-6 of A Short History of Reconstruction

A Critical Summary of the Book: Chapters 1-6

The book “A Short History of Reconstruction, 1863-1877” examines how the Republican government wanted to transform America. The main goal was to have a society that treated former slaves as income earners. The author of the book believes strongly that Reconstruction did not achieve most of its goals. To begin with, the period resulted in several accomplishments.

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However, it failed to support the liberties of many American citizens. The author goes further to explore the issues that surrounded the idea of free labor. Many northerners believed that free labor would take the form of wages1. On the other hand, many African Americans wanted to own land and live independently. The idea of sharecropping also emerged during the era. This development disappointed many people in the country.

The whole idea began with the Presidential Reconstruction of 1863. The idea was to support different southern states using the best policies. However, Andrew Johnson failed to consider the rights of many men in the south. The next strategy was to present various legislations in order to modernize such states. The period also presented new social ambiguities. For instance, many whites were isolated from the blacks. The period also established new standards of freedom and equal citizenship. The author also argues that many African Americans were still unable to achieve their goals2. The government also inscribed patriarchy on every black family.

The sixth chapter explains how the Federal Government reorganized different states based on various political rights. More people became free in the country. However, this development resulted in a complex scenario whereby many blacks were bound to the whites3. This new system was based on sharecropping.

What the Author is Writing About

Several arguments are notable from the above summary. To begin with, the purpose of Reconstruction was to expand the federal authority in the country. The government was also ready to empower more citizens. The government wanted more people from different racial backgrounds to have equal rights4. However, this decision was opposed by different racial groups and local leaders. That being the case, Foner treats Reconstruction as a national agenda that was aimed at promoting the best socio-economic developments. However, Reconstruction eventually became the beginning of a complex historical process that would redefine the future of the United States.

Critique of the Argument

From a personal perspective, I strongly believe that Eric Foner gives the best analysis of the Reconstruction Era. These six chapters address the challenges and issues that characterized the period. The author describes how the failure of the Presidential Reconstruction effected on the country’s socio-political relations. The author also uses powerful themes and ideas in order to support his arguments.

Although the government promoted the rights and liberties of the southerners, new systems emerged in order to oppress every former slave. According to the author, the era empowered many African Americans with new political rights. The author also argues that Reconstruction eventually failed5. This is true because many people were unable to achieve their liberties. Eric also explains why it was impossible for many Americans to overcome the pains arising from Reconstruction.

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Discussion Question

It is notable that Eric’s book raises many questions. The question presented below is necessary for discussion.

  • Was Reconstruction destined to fail from the start?

Bibliography

Bressler, Jonathan. “Reconstruction and the Transformation of Jury Nullification.” The University of Chicago Law Review 78, no. 4 (2011): 1133-1201.

Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction, 1863-1877. New York: Harper Perennial, 1990.

Footnotes

  1. Eric Foner. A Short History of Reconstruction, 1863-1877 (New York: Harper Perennial, 1990), 19.
  2. Jonathan Bressler, “Reconstruction and the Transformation of Jury Nullification,” The University of Chicago Law Review 78, no. 4 (2011): 1139.
  3. Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction, 1863-1877 (New York: Harper Perennial, 1990), 25.
  4. Jonathan Bressler, “Reconstruction and the Transformation of Jury Nullification,” The University of Chicago Law Review 78, no. 4 (2011): 1146.
  5. Eric Foner. A Short History of Reconstruction, 1863-1877 (New York: Harper Perennial, 1990), 73.

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StudyCorgi. "Chapters 1-6 of A Short History of Reconstruction." December 14, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/chapters-1-6-of-a-short-history-of-reconstruction/.

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StudyCorgi. 2020. "Chapters 1-6 of A Short History of Reconstruction." December 14, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/chapters-1-6-of-a-short-history-of-reconstruction/.

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StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Chapters 1-6 of A Short History of Reconstruction'. 14 December.

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