What did the lack of serious economic aid and land reform for the freedmen as well as military removal from the South before all the civil rights work had been completed have to do with the failure...

What did the lack of serious economic aid and land reform for the freedmen as well as military removal from the South before all the civil rights work had been completed have to do with the failure of Radical Reconstruction? 

Asked on by jane988888

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The major goal of Radical Reconstruction was to improve the lot of the freed slaves.  This would have to consist of improvements in two areas—economic status and legal rights.  The problems that you mention in your question caused Reconstruction to fail in both of these areas.

If African Americans were to be equal to whites after Reconstruction, they would have to have legal rights.  This was why the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were pushed through by the Radical Republicans.  However, the vast majority of white Southerners had no desire to give blacks any real equality.  Therefore, the only way for blacks to keep these rights in the South was for the North to use military force to support pro-Reconstruction state governments.  If the military presence were removed, the white Southerners could take the government back over and suppress the rights of African Americans.  Because the military was removed from the South before a system could be set up that would truly protect black rights, Reconstruction failed to give African Americans lasting legal equality.

Of course, legal equality is not everything.  If blacks were to be truly equal to whites after Reconstruction, they would also need to have economic power.  Since the vast majority of freed slaves had been farm workers and domestic servants during slavery, it seemed likely that the best way to help them economically would have been to give them their own farms.  This was the idea behind the “40 Acres and a Mule” proposal that would have taken land from plantation owners and given it to freed slaves.  However, this did not happen on any long-term basis.  Neither did any other sort of economic aid.  Therefore, blacks who had recently been slaves were being asked to compete on an equal basis with whites.  Of course, most blacks lost and ended up as sharecroppers or tenant farmers or menial laborers.  This constituted a failure to bring blacks significantly closer to true equality with whites.

  In these ways, the problems that you mention in your question made it impossible for Reconstruction to succeed in giving African Americans true equality in either the economic or the political/legal sphere.

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