In what ways was Reconstruction a failure?

Reconstruction was a failure because it didn't rebuild the Southern economy or create lasting improvements in the social, political, and economic opportunities available to former slaves. Reconstruction was forcibly imposed on the Southern states by the government, a fact that many white Southerners deeply resented. As a result, racial attitudes in the South didn’t really evolve during this period.

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Reconstruction was a failure in that it didn't fully incorporate the South back into the Union. Despite the best efforts of Radical Republicans in Washington, the South remained a land apart, never fully reconciled to the new way of things.

To a considerable extent, this was the consequence of the different levels of economic development displayed by the North and South. Whereas the Northern economy was expanding at an ever more rapid pace, the Southern economy, still reeling from the Civil War, remained predominantly agrarian. This made it much harder for the South to be able to stand on its own two feet economically—an essential precondition of its reincorporation into the Union.

Reconstruction also failed in that it was never able to garner support among a sufficient number of white Southerners. On the whole, this was probably inevitable, as the vast majority of white Southerners remained wedded to the old ways and believed that the Confederacy was a noble cause dedicated to the protection of states' rights.

That being the case, the South was never going to be reconciled to a policy that represented the complete antithesis of just about everything it believed in. And so Reconstruction had to rely on sufficient political energy from Washington, something that was impossible to sustain over the long term.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 24, 2021
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Reconstruction failed in its primary objective, which was to get the South back on its feet. Much of the South had been damaged in the war; whole cities were razed and many agricultural fields that the Southern economy depended on were destroyed. The agricultural workforce was also crippled by the freeing of the slaves, as the plantations that were the backbone of the Southern economy had been utterly reliant on free slave labor.

Unfortunately, the South resented Reconstruction policies, which they felt were an intrusion by the North, and were very resistant to large-scale change. In the end, racial attitudes in the South remained largely unaltered, and many freed slaves were forced into sharecropping arrangements, which were in reality very similar to being enslaved. The federal government stopped enforcing Reconstruction policies in the South after a relatively short period of time, and most Southern states immediately took action to reverse the social, political, and economic progress that had been made by former slaves.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on April 3, 2020
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The point of emphasis of reconstruction after the Civil war was to help black Americans become equal citizens. This obviously met with a lot of resistance from groups in the south. While laws were put into place to give rights to the former slaves the southerner's did not agree with them or abide by them.

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I would say that Reconstruction has to be considered somewhat lacking in that the issue of how White America dealt with Black America was never quite resolved.  The fundamental issue of Reconstruction involved attempting to bring together the Northern and the Southern states.  Yet, underlying all of this was the fundamental issue of the "color line."  This was a reality that was never quite fully understood at the time and its premise was never quite dealt with from a governmental standpoint.  The fact that segregation practices became common in the South only proved to exacerbate the regional tension between both.  In not being able to fully dissolve and eradicate this particular fear, Reconstruction has to be seen as something that had more problems to solve that weren't solved than more deliverance of positive elements for all of America.

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The most obvious reason that Reconstruction was a failure can be seen if you just think about the status of African Americans in the years after Reconstruction ended.

One of the major points of Reconstruction was to make blacks equal citizens in the eyes of the law (as the Civil War Amendments made clear).  But this really did not happen.  As soon as Reconstruction ended and the Southern states were allowed to do what they wanted, they imposed segregation on blacks and did all sorts of things to prevent them from voting.

In addition, Reconstruction failed to help blacks economically.  They did not get the "40 acres and a mule" that they hoped for and so they continued to be poor farm workers who pretty much had to work for the rich landowners.  This was not much different from how things had been during slavery.

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Reconstruction was the period from 1865 - 1877 where the government of the United States tried to put the country together again after the Civil War.  In general, historians consider it an unsuccessful effort for several reasons.

Politically, the government did convince southern states to rejoin the Union in a fairly simple process.  They also managed to pass the 13th, 14th and 15th amendment.  Past that, not much went well.

The Freedmen's Bureau was underfunded and cut short, leaving the vast majority of free slaves uneducated and still in the South.  There was no land reform, meaning slaves were forced into a sharecropping system and did not own their own farms, which might have made them more independent, equal and successful.

The Black Codes and other laws restricting former slaves, though clearly unconstitutional, were not challenged in court or struck down by local military authorities, leaving African-Americans virtually unprotected and subject once again to working for whites involuntarily.

And finally, the effort of Reconstruction was cut off after only 12 years, leaving the economy of the South still in ruins and its population largely in poverty.

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