Reconstruction

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What would be some good arguments both for and against the following statement? "The era of Reconstruction was a failure."

In one way, Reconstruction was a success in that it ultimately brought the North and South back together. In another way, it was a failure in that African Americans were treated as second-class citizens and the South had few economic opportunities.

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Reconstruction is largely branded as a failure—Eric Foner, a historian of the period, calls it "America's Unfinished Revolution." Reconstruction did not permanently ban many former Confederate leaders from taking back power after military Reconstruction ended in 1877. Though Grant would curtail the power of the Klan, lynchings would still be...

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Reconstruction is largely branded as a failure—Eric Foner, a historian of the period, calls it "America's Unfinished Revolution." Reconstruction did not permanently ban many former Confederate leaders from taking back power after military Reconstruction ended in 1877. Though Grant would curtail the power of the Klan, lynchings would still be common throughout the South and African Americans would still be incarcerated in order to work on chain gangs at a higher rate than white people. Many Southern states and municipalities enacted grandfather clauses and literacy tests in order to keep black people from the polls; without the secret ballot, many African Americans were targeted for abuse for their Republican votes.

The South also had little opportunity for the people who lived there after the war. The Freedman's Bureau was never fully funded, and the region did not experience the same level of economic growth as the rest of the country after the Civil War. While some industries, such as textile and iron production, invested in Southern factories, it was hard for these new companies to compete with Northern ones who had more access to infrastructure and a large population.

In another way, Reconstruction can be viewed as success. One has to remember that many people believed that the Civil War could restart at any time. Other than Henry Wirz, the commandant at Andersonville, no one was executed by federal action due to their role in the Civil War. African Americans gained their freedom and citizenship, and African American males were granted suffrage. When one considers the transformation the United States underwent from the antebellum era to 1877, Reconstruction can be viewed as successful.

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