How did Reconstruction affect people's lives?  

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Reconstruction, which was the period in which the former Confederate states were readmitted to the union (1865-1877), affected people differently. For former slaves, it was a time of some promise, though many promises went unfulfilled. For example, the country, including the former Confederate states, passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, which ended slavery, granted basic civil rights to all people, and granted the vote to all American-born men (including African-Americans), respectively. However, these Amendments were often not heeded, and, even before Reconstruction had ended, the south had instituted a Jim Crow policy by which states did not grant basic civil rights, including the right to vote, to African-Americans. On the positive side, several schools, including colleges and industrial schools, were established in the south for African-Americans. However, freed slaves were largely not able to gain access to land ownership, though there was the promise of land redistribution after the Civil War (referred to as the promise of "40 acres and a mule"). Many former slaves became sharecroppers after the Civil War. 

White southerners largely experienced Reconstruction as a time of reversals in their traditional way of life. Though some white people in north and south were in favor of granting African-Americans civil rights, the south for the most part remained committed to denying African-Americans their rights, particularly their right to vote, in a society that practiced segregation until well into the 20th century.