Was the Reconstruction Period a failure, success, or something in between?     

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Most historians would argue that Reconstruction was basically a failure. The intent of reconstruction was to create a new South that provided basic protection of the rights of black Americans. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery; yet no provision was made to rehabilitate former slaves, other than the ill-fated efforts of the Freedman's Bureau. The Fourteenth Amendment protected the Civil Rights of Black Americans and the Fifteenth guaranteed them the right to vote; yet southern states went to great lengths to circumvent both. The Supreme Court, in Plessy vs. Ferguson  sanctioned "separate but equal" facilities for the races, thereby insuring the survival of legalized segregation for close to another one hundred years. Numerous devices were used to prevent Blacks from voting, including poll taxes, residency and literacy requirements (which were applied quite unequally.) In addition, organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camellia, and in South Carolina the Red Shirt Campaign terrorized Blacks with abandon. Many law enforcement officials and public officers were themselves members of these organizations. Finally, in the election of 1877, Congress abandoned Reconstruction and removed federal troops from the south to ensure the election of Rutherford B. Hayes to the Presidency. Aside from their freedom, Blacks gained little from Reconstruction except their freedom. The ills of Reconstruction were only addressed in the Civil Rights era of the 1950's and 1960's.