Was Reconstruction A Success

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

Please include Political, social and economic changes. Rise of Terrorism. Expansion of Citizenship for Blacks. Psycological factors. Amnesty for Southern Radicals. Loyalty oaths. Affect on the Reconstruction Period.

Expert Answers
mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Determining if Reconstruction was a success or a failure depends on if a person views Reconstruction as a short-term or long-term event. If a person looks at Reconstruction as a short-term event, say from 1865-1876, then there were many successes. The 13th amendment ended slavery. The 14th amendment stated that a person born in the United States had the rights of citizenship. These rights could not be taken away without due process of law. The 15th amendment stated that voting rights could not be taken away based on race or color. The Freedmen’s Bureau helped the former slaves adjust to freedom. African Americans began to hold political office, and African American males voted. These were significant improvements for the former slaves.

The South was also rebuilt as a result of Reconstruction. Some industries began to develop in the South as a result of Reconstruction. While farming still dominated the southern economy, there were more industries than before the Civil War. Unfortunately, the Ku Klux Klan formed. This group worked to keep the former slaves in an inferior condition while terrorizing them. However, in the short term, there were many improvements for the former slaves, even though the Ku Klux Klan existed.

If a person would look at Reconstruction over the long run, a person would see that many of the gains African-Africans made during Reconstruction were reversed. The Democrats returned to power and developed policies that took away many rights from the former slaves. Jim Crow laws made segregation legal, and African Americans often lived in inferior conditions when compared to whites. Poll taxes and literacy tests made it much more difficult for African Americans to vote. The Ku Klux Klan grew stronger and more powerful. African Americans were terrorized and persecuted more than ever after Reconstruction ended. African Americans were also viewed as inferior to whites.

Therefore, it is fair to say that in the short term, Reconstruction was much more successful than in the long term.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were stunning social and economic successes and failures as well.  Socially, Reconstruction successfully put blacks on equal legal footing with whites, but did not change southern (or national) racist sentiment.  Slavery had ended, but it was replaced with something else.

Most importantly, Reconstruction began a social change by starting schools for freed slaves, and basic literacy for nearly 200,000 former slaves was achieved in only six years.  But that funding was cut in 1871, and the remaining 3.8 million freedmen were still uneducated.

Economically, limited land reform ideas had been pursued, most notably in the South Carolina Sea Islands and the Davis Bend Plantation, where former slaves received their own land to farm, and did amazingly well, forming co-ops and sharing costs and labor.  But no widespread land reform happened, and another golden opportunity was missed.

npoore84 | Student

In many ways the Reconstruction era can be considered both a failure and a success. It was a success due to the fact that the United States could finally be called the "United" States again. It ended the separation between the North and South, and ended the South trying to separate themselves from the North. Each state in the South had a new draft of their state constitution. New amendments were added to the Constitution: the 13, 14, and 15. These amendments granted equal rights to people of all color. The  Civil War and Reconstruction era also helped resolve the federalism dispute between Kentucky and Virginia. Because of the reconstruction era, the United States was now a nation, not just a country.

Although there were many positives and successes to the Reconstruction era, there were many negatives associated with giving slaves their freedom. The economy of the South plundered because there were now fewer people to work on the plantations. The racist group, the KKK, became more prominent in the South attacking both blacks and whites striving to gain equal rights for people of all color. The sharecropping system came into effect which was not a positive thing for blacks. Although they were given a portion of land to farm and to earn a profit, it was still very similar to slavery.

Due to the depression of the 1870's, reconstruction of the South was put on hold so others could focus on their own financial situation. The Democrats took hold of the House and came up with the 1877 Compromise, pulling federal troops out of the South. As a result, blacks would not truly gain equality until the 1960's.

biffknee21 | Student

Was Reconstruction a success or a failure? Or was it something in between? In your response, consider land policy, key legislation during Presidential and Radical Reconstruction, southern politics, racial and political violence, and northern “fatigue” with Reconstruction. Be sure to make clear what you mean by success and failure.

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