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Almost all aspects of Reconstruction were a failure. The only thing it really accomplished was to get the Union back together after the Civil War. Let us look at the two main ways in which Reconstruction failed.
First, Reconstruction failed because it did not do very much, if anything, to help African Americans. Reconstruction was, through things like the Freedmen’s Bureau, supposed to help African Americans get on their feet economically. It was, through things like the 14th and 15th Amendments, supposed to make them legally equal to whites. Neither of these things happened. After Reconstruction, blacks were mainly employed in menial positions or were part of the sharecropping system, which worked to keep them impoverished and in the control of rich whites. After Reconstruction, blacks were second class citizens who were denied the right to vote and many other rights. Thus, Reconstruction failed miserably in its attempt to help African Americans.
Second, Reconstruction was supposed to help the economy of the South. Reconstruction was given that name in part because it was supposed to rebuild the South. If the goal of Reconstruction was to make the South’s economy stronger and more diverse, it failed. At the end of Reconstruction, the South was not that much more industrialized than it had been before the war. In addition, the South was still very poor. Reconstruction failed to such a degree that the states of the South are still the poorest in the country today. In short, Reconstruction did not change or improve the Southern economy in any major way.
Since two of the most important goals of Reconstruction were to help African Americans and to improve/rebuild the Southern economy, we can say that Reconstruction failed in two of its most important tasks.
Although the era of Reconstruction helped to rejoin the southern states with North, it failed to have the lasting impact that was intended by many of the initiatives of the era. The progressive laws that were to be put into place in the south were replaced by 'black codes' as soon as the northern troops left the south. Furthermore, former Confederate leaders were able to regain public office in the south. Southerners found ways to usurp rights of freed slaves in the south and northern whites got tired of advocating for rights for freed slaves. Thus, southern Confederates were able to hold a dominant position with regard to policy for freed slaves after Reconstruction even though the south lost the war.
In the beginning it was somewhat successful, in that many African-Americans were elected into political office, and even to Congress. But, what made the efforts fail was the blatant humiliation that the government placed on the white Southerners. From refusing to bury the dead Confederate soldiers to banning political offices and so on, resentment only grew stronger and fueled the fires of revenge. With the energy of the Radical Republicans slowly fizzing out, Reconstruction became yesterday's hot topic, which then allowed for rampant illegal activities like the Jim Crow laws to flourish unchecked, making Reconstruction a huge failure in the end.
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