In what ways was Reconstruction a success, and in what ways was it a failure?

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Reconstruction was a success in that it showed how concerted action by the federal authorities could bring about desirable social ends. The implications of this development were profound indeed, and influenced American political life for many decades to come. Thanks to Reconstruction, Americans could see government as an enabler of rights rather than as a permanent threat to them. Under the new policy, African-Americans were able to enjoy the civil rights of which they'd been deprived for so long. For the first time ever, African-Americans in the South were able to exercise their right to vote. Not only that, but they could also stand for public office, and many were subsequently elected to state legislatures and the U.S. Congress.

The biggest failure of Reconstruction was that it didn't achieve lasting civil rights protection. This was mainly because it failed to take into account the almost impossible levels of political energy in Washington that would be required to make the policy work on a long-term basis. As the memory of the Civil War receded in time, public opinion showed a willingness to move on. This meant that Reconstruction became a growing political liability for the Republican Party, which found itself losing votes to Democrats in the towns and cities of the North.

As far as most white people were concerned, Reconstruction had largely achieved its goals and had pretty much run its course. Besides, the vast majority of white Americans—both North and South—believed that African-Americans were racially inferior. So commitment to the ideals of the Reconstruction was lukewarm, to say the least.

Without concerted action from the center, Reconstruction began to unravel. Abandoned by Northern politicians, African-Americans in the South were left at the mercy of the white supremacist political elite, who systematically set about undoing the legal panoply of civil rights protection. Through the implementation of the notorious Jim Crow laws, Southern legislatures were able to reintroduce slavery by the back door, in substance if not in form, keeping African-Americans in a state of legalized subjection for almost the next hundred years.

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Depending on your point of view, Reconstruction can be viewed as a success or as a failure. There are reasons why it can be viewed as a success. One of the goals of Reconstruction was to rebuild the South. As a result of Reconstruction, more industries were developed in the South as the South diversified its economy. Also, transportation expanded as more railroads were built in the South. Another goal was to reunite the country. This occurred as all of the southern states that seceded were brought back into the Union by 1870. The reconstruction process also wanted to help the former slaves. Formers slaves got their freedom and got other rights they didn’t have before the Civil War. African-Americans males got the right to vote and some got elected to political offices, especially at the state level. African-Americans also got jobs and got help taking care of their basic needs such as food, clothing, and medical care.

There are some people who felt that Reconstruction was a failure. Reconstruction didn’t change the attitudes of many white southerners who continued to believe in the racial superiority of whites. Once Reconstruction ended, many of the accomplishments African-Americans had achieved were reversed or eliminated. Jim Crow laws were passed that legalized segregation. Groups like the Ku Klux Klan formed and began to intimidate and to terrorize African-Americans. African-Americans had their voting rights restricted with the creation of poll taxes and literacy tests. Many of the accomplishments of Reconstruction disappeared after Reconstruction ended.

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