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The Reconstruction Era
Transcript of The Reconstruction Era
Andrew Johnson had 2 BIG aims: (1) Southern States had to create new governments that were loyal to the Union & (2) Slavery had to be abolished once and for all!
This plan left a lot of unanswered questions setting the stage for a battle over the control, and the meaning, of Reconstruction
Who will control the Southern governments? Former Confederates?
Do the freed slaves have the same rights as citizens?
What would the relationship between former slaves and slave owners look like?
Radical Republicans did not agree with President Johnson when he announced the end of Reconstruction at the end of 1865. They believed that the South would not be completely rebuilt until freedmen were granted the full rights of citizenship.
Wanted the federal government to take a more active role in Reconstruction
Fought for tougher requirements for restoring Southern governments.
Led by Thaddeus Stevens (PA) in the House of Republicans
Led by Charles Sumner (MA) in the Senate
Radical Republicans joined with more moderate lawmakers in Congress in 1866 to create 2 bills:
1. Extended the Life of the Freedmen's Bureau
2. Civil Rights Act of 1866: Declared freedmen to be FULL citizens with the same
- the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all people as citizens, especially equal treatment under the law - as whites.
Andrew Johnson declared
them. An angry Congress overrode his vetoes with a 2/3 majority vote.
With the Military Reconstruction Act, the U.S. Army returned to the South in 1867. First things first...REGISTER VOTERS!
The right to vote was limited to 3 groups since former Confederates were NOT allowed to vote.
2. White Southerners who opposed the war
3. Northerners who had moved south after the war.
Responding to Segregation
African Americans responded to segregation in many ways. The boldest protested openly - this was VERY dangerous! Blacks who spoke out risked being attacked by white mobs. Many were lynched for speaking out against "white rule." During the 1890s, an African American was lynched somewhere in the U.S. every day.
The Reconstruction Era
The End of Reconstruction
Most southerners resented the Southern Reconstruction governments.
Felt that these governments were forced on them by Yankees.
Taxpayers blamed their tax bills on corruption - misuse of public office for personal gain - by the South's new leaders.
Some Southern officeholders stuffed their pockets with public money.
MOST officeholders, black and white, were honest and capable leaders.
Seeing former slaves voting and holding public office infuriated Southerners.
Democrats vowed to regain power and return their states to "white man's rule."
President Johnson's Reconstruction Plan
In May 1865, President Johnson announced his Reconstruction Plan.
A former Confederate state could rejoin the Union once it had:
written a new state constitution
elected a new state government
repealed its act of secession
canceled its war debts
ratify (sign) the 13th Amendment - abolishing slavery
By the fall of 1865, every Southern state had met the President's requirements and the 13th Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution.
The Freedmen's Bureau
The 13th Amendment guaranteed freedom to former slaves, but it also brought problems...
Free from the individual master but a slave of society... He had neither money, property, nor friends. He was free from the old plantation, but he had nothing but the dusty road under his feet...He was turned loose, naked, hungry, and destitute (penniless) to the open sky
." - Frederick Douglass
To assist former slaves, Congress established the Freedmen's Bureau in March 1865 - an agency established by Congress at the end of the Civil War to help and protect newly freed black Americans.
The Bureau provided food and medical care to both blacks and whites in the South.
Helped freedmen arrange for wages and good working conditions
Distributed some land in 40-acre plots to "loyal refugees and freedmen"
Some whites attacked the bureau as an example of Northern interference in the South.
The hope for freedmen to get "forty acres and a mule" died when Congress refused to take land away from Southern whites.
BIGGEST lasting benefit was in education!
1,000s of former slaves, young and old, flocked to free schools built by the bureau.
Even after the bureau was gone, schools such as Howard University in Washington, D.C. continues to provide educational opportunities for African Americans.
As the new state governments took more power in the south, Republicans grew alarmed that they were headed by the SAME people who had led the South before the war - wealthy white planters. Once in office, these leaders began passing laws known as
to control their former slaves.
Black codes: laws passed in 1855 and 1856 in the former Confederate states to limit the rights and freedoms of African Americans.
Black codes served
1. Limit the Rights of freedmen
Slaves COULD: (1) marry, (2) own Property, (3) work for wages, and (4) sue in court.
Slaves did could NOT: (1) vote or (2) serve on juries in the South
2. Help planters find work to replace their slaves
Required freedmen to work; those without jobs could be arrested and hired out to planters.
Limited freedmen to farming or jobs requiring few skills; African Americans could not enter most trades or start businesses.
3. Keep freedmen at the bottom of the social order in the South
Codes called for the segregation (forced separation) of blacks and whites in public places.
Congress approved the 14th Amendment which granted citizenship to
"all people born or naturalized in the United States."
It also guaranteed all citizens
"the equal protection of the laws"
- meaning that the state governments could not treat some citizens as less equal than others.
President Johnson opposed the 14th Amendment and called on voters to throw Republicans lawmakers out of office. Republicans, instead, won a 2/3rds majority in both houses of Congress in the 1866 election
Congress now CONTROLLED Reconstruction!
Military Reconstruction Act
Military Reconstruction Act was passed in 1867, again, over another Johnson VETO. The plan:
Divided the South into 5 districts
Each district would be supported by federal troops.
State governments set up under Johnson's Reconstruction plan were declared illegal
New governments were to be formed by Southerners loyal to the United States - both black and white.
Southerners who had supported the Confederacy were denied the right to vote.
Congress also passed 2 acts designed to reduce Johnson's power to interfere with Congressional Reconstruction
1. Command of the Army Act: limited his over over the army.
2. Tenure of Office Act: barred him from firing certain federal officials without Senate's consent
Johnson blasted both laws as unconstitutional. To prove his point, he fired one of the officials protected under the Tenure of Office Act
President Johnson is IMPEACHED! :0
House of Representatives responds to Johnson's challenge by voting to impeach (fire) the President. The House charged Johnson with:
Violating the Tenure of Office Act
Bringing "the high office of the President of the United States into contempt, ridicule, and disgrace, to the scandal of all good citizens."
Johnson's lawyer argued that the only "crime" he committed was disagreeing with Congress. If he was removed for this reason "no future President will be safe who happens to differ with a majority of the House and Senate."
With 7 Republicans and 12 Democrats voting "not guilty," Johnson escaped removal from office by ONE vote...but he had lost his power in office.
During the chaos in the capital, African Americans in the South worked to rebuild new lives. Sharecropping was invented to meet various needs:
African Americans wanted land to farm on, but had NO money to buy it.
Former slave owners needed workers to farm their land but had NO money to pay them.
How sharecropping works:
Planters who turned to sharecropping divided their land into small plots.
These plots were rented to individual tenant farmers - farmers who paid rent for the land they worked.
Few tenants paid the rent in cash, but most paid their rent by giving the landowner a portion of what they raised. This payment of crops was called a share.
Sharecropping, at first, looked promising because they would be able to work towards buying their own land. The negatives:
Most sharecroppers had to borrow money from planters for food, seeds, tools, and supplies.
Few EVER earned enough from their crops to pay back what they owed.
Share-cropping usually led to a life-time of poverty and debt.
The South's New Voters
African Americans made up the South's largest group of new voters. Most black voters joined the Republican Party - the part of Lincoln and emancipation.
White Southerners who had supported secession were the next largest group - aka: Scalawags.
Poor farmers who had never voted before.
Saw the Democratic Party as the party of wealthy planters and secession...SUPPORTED the Republican Party.
Southern Democrats were disgusted! In their eyes, any white man who voted Republican was a TRAITOR to the South.
: Northerners who had moved south after the war.
Southerners called the newcomers "carpetbaggers" after a type of handbag used by many travelers.
The Election of 1868
The new voters in the South cast their first ballots in the 1868 presidential election.
Republican Candidate: former Union General, Ulysses S. Grant
Supported Reconstruction and promised to protect the rights of African Americans in the South.
Democrat Candidate: Horatio Seymour
Promised to end Reconstruction and return the South to its traditional leaders - white Democrats.
Results of the new voters:
Seymour won a majority of white votes.
Grant elected with the help of half a million black votes
Lesson for Republicans = if they want to keep control of the White House and Congress...SUPPORT the African American voters.
The 15th Amendment
In 1869, Congress passed the 15th Amendment with President Grant's urging stating that a citizen's right to vote
"shall not be denied...on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
This guaranteed EVERY
citizen the right to vote, regardless of race.
When this Amendment passed, most abolitionists felt their work was done. The American Anti-Slavery Society declared the 15th Amendment to be
"the capstone and completion of our movement; the fulfillment of our pledge to the Negro race; since it secures to them equal political rights with the white race."
New State Constitutions
When the army finished registering voters, Southern Reconstruction got underway.
Delegates were elected to Constitutional Conventions - about a fourth of those elected were African Americans.
Conventions met and wrote new constitutions for their states - most progressive (advanced) in the nation.
Guaranteed right to EVERY adult man to vote.
Ended imprisonment for debt.
Established the first public schools in the South
Georgia Constitution: schools should be "forever free to all the children of the state."
HOWEVER, under the new state constitutions, these schools were open ONLY to whites
New State Governments
Elections were held to fill state offices. Majority of those elected were Republicans. A fifth of them were African Americans.The South's new state governments quickly ratified the 14th and 15th Amendments. By 1870, every Southern state had completed Reconstruction and had rejoined the Union.
Repair damaged roads, bridges, and railroads
Build schools and hospitals
To pay for this, state legislatures raised taxes...
Between 1860-1870, taxes increased in the South by 400%
Example: If taxes were $10, they increased to $40.
African Americans in Office
About a 1/5th of the South's new officeholders were African Americans.
Blacks served in every Southern legislature and held high offices in 3 states.
22 African Americans represented their states in Congress - 20 in the House of Representatives and 2 in the Senate.
Many had been born into slavery
"The colored men who took their seats in both the Senate and House did not appear ignorant or helpless. They were as a rule studious, earnest, ambitious men, whose public conduct...would be honorable to any race."
- Pennsylvania congressman, James G. Blaine
Violence Against African Americans
At first, Democrats tried to recruit African Americans to their party, but soon turned to legal means to keep blacks from voting or taking office.
In Georgia, the legislature refused to seat elected black lawmakers until they were forced to by the state supreme court
Legal methods failed quickly, allowing whites in the south to turn to VIOLENCE
Secret societies were created to drive African Americans out of political life
Most famous of these societies was the Ku Klux Klan.
Dressed in long, hooded robes and armed with guns and swords.
Did their work of terror at night.
First, they threatened black voters and officeholders...
If African Americans did not heed their threats they were , secondly, beaten, tarred and feathered, and even murdered
The Enforcement Acts
In 1870 and 1871, Congress passed 3 laws, known as the Enforcement Acts, to combat violence against African Americans
Made it illegal to prevent another person from voting by bribery, force, or scare tactics.
President Grant sent troops in to enforce these acts - 100s were arrested for violence against blacks.
Unfortunately, those brought to trial were rarely convicted because few witnesses and/or jurors wanted to risk the Klan's revenge for speaking out.
The Amnesty Acts of 1872
Northerners began losing interest in Reconstruction..."let the South alone." The result was the passage of the Amnesty Act of 1872.
Amnesty = forgiveness for past offenses.
The Amnesty Act allowed most former Confederates to vote once again. The effects were immediate:
By 1876: Democrats regained ALL but 3 states in the South.
Republicans held power in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida with the help of federal troops.
The Disputed Election of 1876
New York governor Samuel J. Tilden
Rutherford B Hayes from Ohio
Tilden won a majority of popular votes and 184 electoral votes, 1 SHORT of the 185 NEEDED
Hayes received 165 electoral votes - 20 electoral votes from 4 states were in dispute
Congress, which was controlled by Republicans, appointed a commission to decide which candidate should get the disputed electoral votes.
Commission gave ALL 20 votes to Hayes, giving him EXACTLY the 185 electoral votes he needed to win
Democrats threatened to block the commission's decision...with Inauguration day coming closer, there was still no President
Start at 9:50
The Compromise of 1877
After weeks of negotiation, Democrat and Republican leaders in Congress agreed to a compromise.
Hayes became the U.S. President
Hayes would withdraw (take away) the remaining federal troops still occupying the Southern States.
Reconstruction would be OVER!
Democrats IMMEDIATELY took control of the last Southern states.
"This is a white man's country and white men mus govern it."
- South Carolina senator Ben Tillman
For freedmen, the return of the South to "white man's rule" was a giant step backward.
"The whole South - every state in the South has got into the hands of the very men that held us as slaves."
- Louisiana freedmen
Southern leaders began to talk about building a "new South" with mills, factories, and cities.
Between 1880 and 1900, the number of textile mills in the South grew rapidly.
Most Southerners, unfortunately, remained trapped in an "Old South" of poverty.
Losing Ground in Education
Most freedmen had put their hopes in education in order to get a better life during Reconstruction.
When Democrats regained control, they cut spending on education.
"Free schools are not a necessity...[schools] are a luxury to be paid for, like any other luxury, by the people who wish their benefits."
- Governor of Virginia
Public funding dried up making schools close. Those that stayed open charged fees.
By the 1880s, only about half of ALL black children in the South were attending school.
Losing Voting Rights
Southern states passed laws requiring citizens who wanted to vote:
Pay a poll tax - tax was set high enough that voting became a luxury that many black Southerners could NOT afford.
Had to pass a literacy test to show that they could read before allowing them to vote.
Tests were designed so that any African American, regardless of education, would fail.
In theory, these laws applied equally to blacks and whites, did NOT violate the 15th Amendment.
"Grandfather Clause" - taxes and tests did not apply to any man whose father or grandfather could vote on January 1, 1867.
No blacks could vote on that date, the grandfather clause applied ONLY to whites
African American protested that these laws denied them their constitutional right to vote. The Supreme Court found that the new voting laws did NOT violate the 15th Amendment because they did NOT deny anyone the right to vote on the basis of
Almost 100 years later, the struggle to vote continued...
Drawing a "Color Line"
During Reconstruction, most Southern states had outlawed segregation in public places. When Democrats returned to power, they reversed these laws and drew a "color line" between blacks and whites in public life. Whites called the new segregation acts
Jim Crow Laws
Not all white Southerners supported Segregation - a
Charleston News and Courier
editorial tried to show how unjust it was by taking segregation to ridiculous extremes.
"If there must be Jim Crow cars on railroads, there should be Jim Crow cars on the street railways. Also on all passenger boats...There should be Jim Crow waiting saloons [waiting rooms] at all stations, and Jim Crow eating houses...There should be Jim Crow sections of the jury box, and a separate Jim Crow...witness stand in every court - an a Jim Crow Bible for colored witnesses to kiss."
Instead of being a joke, as intended (sarcasm), most of these ridiculous suggestions soon became laws.
The History of the KKK
The KKK march on Washington, D.C. in 1928
Plessy v Ferguson
African Americans argued that segregation laws violated the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws. Homer Plessy, who was arrested for refusing to obey a Jim Crow law, took his protest o the Supreme Court.
The majority of the Supreme Court justices found that
segregation laws did not violate the 14th Amendment as long as the facilities were equal.
Justice John Marshall Harlan, a former slaveholder, disagreed.
"Our Constitution is color blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens."
After the Supreme Court ruled
"Separate but EQUAL",
states passed additional Jim Crow laws to separate black and whites in:
sections in restaurants/stores
While the facilities were supposed to be EQUAL, those set aside for African Americans were almost ALWAYS inferior to facilities labeled "whites only."
They became public event in the South since it occurred so regularly...
African American Migration
Thousands of African Americans responded to segregation by leaving the South.
A few chose to return to Africa. In 1878, some 200 Southern blacks chartered a ship and sailed to Liberia, a nation in West Africa that had been founded in 1821 for the settlement of freed American slaves.
Many more migrated to other parts of the U.S.
They were pushed out by racism and poverty and pulled out by the lure of better opportunities and more equal treatment.
Migrating to cities in the NORTH
Competed for jobs with recent immigrants Europe and faced continued racism.
Found work as cowboys and Indian fighters.
2 all-black U.S. Calvary units, Buffalo Soldiers, fought on the front lines of the Indian wars.
Some found new homes with American Indian nation.
Migrating to KANSAS during the Exodus of 1879
The "exodusters" faced many hardships on their journey.
Bands of armed whites patrolled roads in Kansas in an effort to drive the migrants away
The exodusters pushed on: "We had rather suffer and be free."
Most African Americans remained in the South. They worked hard in their families, churches, and communities to improve their lives. While most blacks farmed for a living, a growing number started their own businesses
Between 1865 and 1903, the number of black-owned businesses in the South soared from about 2,000 to 25,000.
Families, churches, and communities also banded together to build schools and colleges for black children.
Because of these efforts, literacy began to rise among African Americans.
By 1900, more than 50% of African American could read in comparison to the 5% in 1865 when the Civil War ended.