When looking at the Civil War and Reconstruction, what should the post-war South look like?When looking at the Civil War and Reconstruction, what should the post-war South look like?
This question is not 100% clear. Are you asking what the South did look like right after the war and before Reconstruction? Or are you asking what the South should have looked like after Reconstruction (if Reconstruction had gone the way I think it should have)?
As for the first, the South was completely devastated. The main work force (slaves) was no longer required to work. More than twenty percent of white men had been killed. Crops had been destroyed, as had many plantations and railroads and such.
As for the second, the South should have become a society where blacks and whites had equal rights under the law. It is not logical to think that whites would have felt blacks were truly equal, but they could have accepted blacks' legal equality. In such a society, white farmers could have competed fairly for black labor. Blacks could have voted, segregation would not have existed. It surely would have been too much to ask for racial harmony, but the kind of oppression that did happen was not necessary.
After the 'Radical' rule of reconstruction ended practically all of the southern governments and politics were focused on industrializing. Labeled the 'New South' this period referred to the growth of industry in the South after the Civil War. In addition, the slavery of the plantation system was replaced by tenant farming, the sharecropping system. This system basically perpetuated the plantation because it was designed to keep the former slaves tied to the land they now 'rented' from the landowner.
The post war south also saw southern state governments dismantling the political power of former slaves (namely the right to vote) by legislating poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses which exempted poor illiterate whites from the literacy tests. The birth of the Jim Crow- formal laws of segregation added to the racial tension of the post war South.
The single biggest failure of the post-war Reconstruction Era is the lack of widespread or lasting land reform. Had former slaves been given title to their own plots of land as opposed to being relegated to the virtual slavery of sharecropping, then civil rights and equality would, in my opinion, have come much sooner.
Secondly, a more concerted effort to use the newly concentrated wealth of the Gilded Age to reconstruct the southern economy and the cities of Georgia, Virginia and Mississippi would have left less enmity between the North and South and more social justice in the long run.
I would have to agree that there should have been some thought given to preparing the former slaves for their new found freedom. If he Southern leaders had not been trying to find ways to keep the slaves from advancing this probably would have occurred.