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During the Reconstruction era, African Americans in the South experienced many different changes. In some ways, things got better. Sometimes, however, they got better and then they got worse again.
The main thing that got better and stayed better for African Americans was their ability to create their own free families and communities. Blacks no longer had to fear that their families could be broken up by their owners. They no longer had to have permission to meet with one another. They could set up their own community institutions that could help them feel solidarity and which could help them in tangible ways as well.
Other changes were not so permanent. Political rights fell into this category. In the early years of Reconstruction, African Americans were introduced into formal education and got political rights. They were allowed to vote. Some of them even held high office. However, as the Reconstruction period went along, these rights were gradually taken away from them. This happened because the Southern whites were starting to “redeem” their state governments.
Economically, only a few blacks experienced real benefits during Reconstruction. Of course, no blacks were enslaved, and that was a big change. However, they only went from being enslaved to being, for the most part, economically dominated through things like the sharecropping system.
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