Discuss the Reconstruction period in the South. Would you consider Reconstruction a success or failure? Something in-between?
History books might recount what took place in one light, while those living in the South—and those in the North—would very well have viewed it differently based upon the reality of their experiences as opposed to the idealistic plans mapped out on paper.
This idea is supported by the writing of Howard University professor, John Hope Franklin who stated:
It may be said that every generation since 1870 has written the history of the Reconstruction era. And what historians have written tells as much about their own generation as about the Reconstruction period itself.
Who can remain objective with tempers and feelings are involved?
President Abraham Lincoln, like a father wishing his fighting children would reconcile, provided a plan to allow the Southern people and their leaders some salvaged pride by proposing more lenient guidelines to reunite the states, even prior to the end of the war. The Republicans (which would be today's Democrats) were disgusted by Lincoln's soft approach, demanding a stricter collection of rules and requirements before the South could "return to the fold," while the Democrats (today's Republicans) had already begun to reorganize based on Lincoln's Proclamation of Amnesty.
Everything came to a screeching halt with the introduction of the Wade-Davis bill that was more interested in keeping the South repressed so that it would never "rise again." Lincoln pocket-vetoed it much to the fury of the Congress. When President Lincoln was assassinated, the "power struggle intensified," with the Vice-President filling the Presidential seat—a man from southern Tennessee.
William A. Dunning, a historian, stated (to opposition) that this time of Reconstruction was...
...a time of great demoralization among southern whites.
Allegedly, he felt the ill-feelings against blacks could be blamed on the new government in place. However, it was noted that conflict between the upper-class whites and blacks was not as "hostile" as was the case with lower-class whites.
On the other hand...
...Rembert W. Patrick asserts that the southern whites’ triumph at the end of Reconstruction led to the demoralization of the black South.
While slavery had been outlawed, it was alleged that a "caste" system had taken its place.
Reconstruction took place at different times and at different rates of speed for several of the southern states involved. There were a number of phases in the reconstruction. Patrick asserts:
In reality, some undeterminable day during the years from 1868 to 1877 marks the beginning of the fourth and final phase of reconstruction—that phase which ended in Southerners’ winning a portion of the peace.
Patrick insists that this final place was the South's attempt to put the black man "in his place," still inferior to the southern white man. And the plight of the black man in the United States, but especially in the South, secured the superiority of whites over blacks. Though not slaves, they still were not equal.
For almost half a century following the Civil War, equality under law was the subject of debate and experiment.
This continued until the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. While more progress was made then than in any time since the Civil War, many more years would pass before racial equality would move forward. Reconstruction was not successful overall, in my opinion.