Describe the first programs and actions of southern whites and freedmen as they redefined race relations in 1865.

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saintfester | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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When the Civil War finally ended in 1865, a new social order was in its infancy in the south. Old ideas of race and social standing were stamped out in the fires of the Civil War and political power was finally up for grabs. Southern whites would have love a return to slavery, but with the defeat of the Confederacy knew that was only wishful thinking. Instead, they sought to create a new system as close to slavery as possible.

To this end, southern states quickly attempted to pass “black codes” which would have curtailed the rights of newly freed slaves, but luckily the Republican congress quickly passed the Freedman’s Bureau Act which established an agency dedicated to helping blacks and also with control of the legal system in the south.

With the legal system firmly on the side of blacks, southern whites began resorting to terror tactics in hopes of forcing their former slaves into second class status. Some Freedman’s Bureau agents recorded hundreds of killings by white mobs in some of the gulf coast states.

In response to these killings and the refusal of newly elected southern state legislatures to cooperate, Radical Republicans in congress passed the Military Reconstruction Act of 1867. They sent armies and generals to former Confederate states and enforced the new laws at gunpoint. Southern whites, no longer able to openly defy the new laws and rules, began forming secret societies aimed at curtailing black power in the south. Groups such as the KKK and The White Camellia continued terrorizing northern and African Americans all over the south.

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