Describe how Reconstruction was brought to an end by white terror and the Compromise of 1877.

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the initial days of Reconstruction (1865-1877), African Americans made gains in attaining the vote and access to local, state, and even national office. To dismantle the gains that African Americans had made, southerners opposed to the changes formed vigilante groups. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), formed in Tennessee in 1866, was one such group that spread throughout the South and that worked to foment terror and to frighten African Americans away from exercising their right to vote, among other rights. Though Congress passed Enforcement Acts to use federal power to stop these groups, these laws alone could not prevent the vigilante groups from using their tactics of terror to prevent people from exercising their rights. As a result, African Americans lost many of the gains they had initially made during Reconstruction, as Democrats regained control over many southern states.

The Compromise of 1877 brought an end to Reconstruction. The election of 1876 had resulted in a contested and inconclusive election between Samuel J. Tilden, a Democrat, and Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican. Through this compromise, which was not written down, Hayes ascended to the presidency in return for removing federal troops from the South. As a result of these removals, "Redeemer" Democrats assumed control in the South, and Reconstruction was effectively at an end. 

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The "White terror" of which you speak were organizations such as the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the White Camellia, and in South Carolina the Red Shirt Campaign. These organizations were comprised of white Democrats who used various methods of terror to frighten both Blacks and Republican whites from participating in politics, particularly in voting. To the discredit of the Reconstruction Congress, the Federal Government virtually abandoned attempts to rehabilitate former slaves.

The Compromise of 1877 was the result of the disputed election of that year. Rival governments in the South sent rival electoral votes to Congress such that no one had a majority in the Electoral college. A committee of fifteen comprised of five members each of the House, Senate, and Supreme Court was formed to resolve the issue. By terms of the Compromise, Rutherford B. Hayes was declared the winner of the election, in exchange for which federal troops were removed from the South, and reconstruction came to an end, even though its work was not finished. Former slaves were free, but the Fourteenth Amendment notwithstanding, had few freedoms and civil rights. They were hardly better off because they had been abandoned by the North in the face of white terrorism.