Monday, October 10, 2011

American Reconstuction

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Reconstruction was a period following the civil war during which the southern states were re-admitted into the Union. One issue that was dealt with during Reconstruction was the rights of freed slaves. While the Federal Government attempted to give the freedmen rights, their actions were opposed by southern governments and people.

The Federal Government did in fact take action to help the newly freed slaves. Starting with the 1th amendment, slavery and forced labor was pronounced illegal, giving slaves their first taste of freedom. The Freedmen’s Bureau soon came into effect. This new federal agency offered food, education, medical supplies and clothing to the freedmen who were most likely poor. Then, in 1868, a turning point occurred, the 14th amendment was passed. This amendment stated, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws…” (Fourteenth Amendment, Article XIV, Section 1). This amendment defined citizenship and guaranteed the due process of law and equal rights and protection to all citizens. The ratification of the 14th amendment has had lasting effects throughout US history, including the election of the first African American woman to the senate. Carol Moseley-Braun was elected in 1993.

As time went by, more and more amendments were passed to give equal rights to all citizens, but these new rights came with opposing actions that caused great fear. Although the Federal Government passed laws to grant rights to freedmen, many of these rights were challenged and new methods of hostility came into effect. Many southern people were unhappy with the new anti-slave and equal rights laws. Some of these southerners even went as far as to form organizations to try to stop these changes. In 1866, a social club erupted in Tennessee. This groups name is the Ku Klux Klan, or KKK, which some people still follow today. The group soon became a terrorist organization with a goal of keeping African Americans in the role of submissive laborers. The KKK appeared at night wearing long, white robes with hoods and carrying guns, whips and torches. One tactic often used by the KKK was encircling the home of a victim and burning huge crosses. The Ku Klux Klan also harassed, kidnapped, tortured and even murdered their victims. Anyone who had different views than the KKK was at risk. This fear often forced the freedmen and their supporters to give up their rights. In many southern states, poll taxes were required, and in some cases a literacy test. This law, in effect in Alabama for instance, was to keep freedmen from voting and was very effective due to the fact that most were uneducated and poor. Even though the government passed laws giving the freedmen equal rights, organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and laws such as the Alabama State law, restricted these rights.

After approximately twelve years and four presidents, there was economic growth in the south, African Americans were granted equal rights and education was pronounced mandatory. Yet, the Reconstruction period also had a number of failures. Some failures included racist attitudes towards African Americans, the lack of industrialization in the south, and the fear that wreaked havoc throughout the south due to the Ku Klux Klan who were denying African Americans rights.

Reconstruction helped to both give and take rights from the freedmen.

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