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CSU HIST 151 - Midterm Part 2

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Coming out of a four year long civil war with many casualties, the reconstruction era wasa time of renovation for the nation. During this period of reconstruction, slavery was officially abolished, southern states were reestablished within the union as the confederacy was dismantled, and African Americans began to be incorporated into the political system. With a vast amount of room to make new laws and build new subparts of government, many people panicked over what this newly united nation would produce. Although the reconstruction provided remarkable changes, it is widely considered a failure. The three main reasons the reconstruction failed were failure to enforce the thirteenth through fifteenth amendments, the black codes, and the compromise of 1877.African American communities overcame massive barriers with the introduction of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments. The thirteenth amendment, abolishing of slavery was monumental, especially in the south. This amendment was passed in 1865, two yearsafter Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Clearly even after the Emancipation proclamation was released it took quite some time to actually free slaves. The fact that it took two years just for slaves to get their basic freedom goes to show how deeply rooted racism was atthis time. The fourteenth amendment established, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, 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” (U.S. Constitution, amend. XIV). This law did give African Americans the right to act as free citizens, however, they were still targeted by foundational prejudices. White society was very reluctant to accept Freedmen as equals and the fourteenth amendmentwas designed to combat this. The fourteenth amendment was unsuccessful because it failed to ridAfrican Americans of the limits placed on them in the southern states. Finally, the fifteenth amendment extended voting rights to all male citizens regardless of their race or previous enslavement. Hester Clymer, a candidate for governor, was very supportive of white supremacy and he hated the Freedmen's Bureau. Freedmen's Bureau was a place which provided food, medical help, housing, schooling, and legal assistance to former slaves. Clymers campaign prompted, “White men are urged to vote Democratic in order to keep their taxes low and ‘protectthe white man.’ Such racist stereotypes played an important role in undermining northerners’ support for Reconstruction. (Edwards, 17)” Furthermore, many Black Americans endured other forms of involuntary labor such as white supremacist violence, selective enforcement targeting blacks, and the black codes.William Edward Burhardt DuBois was the first Black to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University; furthermore, he founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organization created to help African Americans fight for their civil rights. DuBois served as the voice of African Americans by telling them to stand their ground against the injustices they endured at the hand of White Americans. He believed that the African Americans and the Whites should not be separated due to their differences, but work to live in harmony. Sadly, not everyone in the United States shared DuBois ideals. The black codes were detrimental to African Americans and their freedoms during the reconstruction era. Edwards states, “Under the codes, freedmen and women could be forcibly indentured for long periods, beaten, deprived of pay if they protested, and have their children taken away to serve and work for whites'' (Edwards, 14). With the Black Codes, African Americans could be penalized for something as simple as not having proof of employment on their person. For these small,seemingly harmless actions, black Americans could be pushed right back into slavery as a form of paying their debts. These codes were allowed because they were disguised as granting African Americans certain freedoms such as the right to marry, testify in court, and buy or own property. However, their true purpose was to return African Americans to a position of cheap labor and slavery in order to maintain a sence of supremacy in white people.The compromise of 1877 is what truly brought this era of failure to a close. In 1876, the race for presidency was neck-&-neck with Rutherford Hayes coming out on top for the Republican party. This win for the Republicans pushed the democrats to try and negotiate. After debating between the two parties for a while the Democrats agreed not to block Hayes' victory onthe condition that the Republicans remove all federal troops from the Southern states, thereby solidifying democratic control over the region. “Once this happened the vast majority of federal involvement in the South ended, allowing white southerners to reinstall themselves on top of the economic, social, and political hierarchy” (Sheflin, Reconstruction). Southern Democrats also pledged to recognize the equality of blacks; although, they instead deprived black men from voting, imposed Jim Crow laws, and enforced segregation across the South.With the economy stalling, Americans mourning the loss of over 600,000 war casualties, and southern whites trying to maintain their ideas of supremacy, racial and civil matters didn’t seem important, it was every man for themselves. After the civil war, the southern landscape wasdevastated and being asked to change their entire way of life wasn’t something that seemed plausible to them even if it only meant giving people basic human rights. Politics also became much more tense due to the failure of reconstruction which allowed them to take on new meaning. The formerly confederate states were in economic downfall due to the war which madethem all the more hesitant to let blacks into the economy. William Edward Burhardt DuBoisstated, “the slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery”. This quote describes the reconstruction era perfectly because the slaves became free and got to enjoy some freedoms for a while but they


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