Why did Reconstruction fail to bring social and economic equality of opportunity to the former slaves?
After the Civil War ended, Southern Whites were bitter and resentful; and determined to keep blacks as near slavery as possible. Although Congress set up the Freedman's Bureau and passed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, Southerners found creative, at times ingenious ways to prevent Blacks from obtaining social and economic equality. Blacks could only find work performing the most menial jobs, and were often denied jobs solely on the basis of race. All institutions, public and private in the South remained segregated on the basis of race; a practice which the Supreme Court endorsed in the Plessy vs. Ferguson("separate but equal") decision. There was no political will in the North to enforce social and economic equality. When the Ku Klux Klan terrorized Blacks who sought to better themselves, Congressional support for reconstruction was withdrawn. African Americans saw no equal opportunity until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Reconstruction failed because white Southerners did not want black people to have social and economic opportunities and because Northerners did not really care about the subject one way or another.
In order for the slaves to have gotten social and economic equality, the North would have had to have focused strongly on pushing for black equality. However, they generally did not care enough to do so. The white Southerners resisted strongly because they were very opposed to the idea of blacks having equality. Because the Northerners did not really care about black equality, they did not try hard to break this opposition.