How did the Reconstruction period affect the lives of southern African Americans, the newly freed?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The impact that the Reconstruction Era had on the lives of the newly freed African Americans is very mixed.  While it was a time of improvement for African Americans in many ways, it was also a time of great disappointment.

There were both temporary and permanent improvements in the lives of African Americans during Reconstruction.  The temporary improvement was largely political.  During much of Reconstruction, blacks were allowed to play a major political role in the South.  There were African Americans who were elected to high government offices.  The major permanent improvement that was felt by most African Americans was the fact that they were now free.  We should not understate the importance of this idea.  Blacks no longer needed to fear things like being sold away from their families.  They had more freedom than ever before.

However, we tend to remember the Reconstruction era as a disappointment for African Americans nonetheless.  One disappointment was economic.  Blacks were never given much chance to acquire their own land and so they ended up working for whites and often being exploited by them.  Another disappointment was political.  The political rights and power that blacks had were taken away from them relatively quickly.

Thus, Reconstruction had both positive and negative impacts on the lives of typical African Americans in the South.