In  the wake of the Civil War, Congress acceded to pressure to have the federal government intercede to secure African Americans' rights.  What were some of the long-range effects of that...

In  the wake of the Civil War, Congress acceded to pressure to have the federal government intercede to secure African Americans' rights.  What were some of the long-range effects of that government posture?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In essence, this question is asking for the long range effects of Reconstruction.  Reconstruction was a very important time period in American history, one which has had many effects on us today.  In this answer, I will look at three long range effects of the Reconstruction Era, all of which exist to some extent to this day.

The first effect of the Reconstruction era was the Civil Rights Movement and the fact that African Americans today have full legal equality in this country (even if there are still important ways in which they are not as well-off as whites).  After the Civil War, the Republican Party ensured that the Reconstruction Amendments were passed by Congress and ratified by the states.  These amendments gave African Americans formal legal equality with whites.  Of course, these amendments were not really enforced for a very long time.  However, if those amendments had not become part of the Constitution, it is unlikely that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s would have been able to occur and it is unlikely that African Americans would enjoy as many rights as they now do.  In this way, the federal government’s “posture” after the Civil War helped make sure that African Americans would be able to eventually win the rights that they now have.

The other effects that I will discuss are less beneficial.  Specifically, I will argue that the federal government’s posture after the Civil War helped cause the enmity between the North and South that continues to this day.  That enmity has helped to create our current situation in which the South is solidly Republican, thus helping to make sure that our country is politically polarized.

Reconstruction made the South feel a tremendous amount of animosity towards the North.  It helped to enshrine in Southern thinking the attitude that the South had been badly treated by the North during and after the Civil War.  This animosity only grew during the Civil Rights Era when white Southerners felt the North was once again infringing on their right to rule themselves.  Today, this animosity is seen in part in the fact that there are very few white Democrats left in the South.  The South started to hate the Democratic Party during the Civil Rights Era and continued their move to the GOP in the 1980s.  The Republican dominance in the South helps to ensure that our country is very polarized along party lines today. 

Thus, we can see that the government’s posture on the issue of African American rights had a number of long range effects.  This posture did tremendous good by helping to ensure that blacks would eventually have equal rights.  However, in doing so, it also helped divide our country to some degree.

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