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

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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...

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