Why did Reconstruction fail to bring social and economic equality of opportunity to the former slaves?

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Racial equality did not come to the South as a result of a lack of political will on the part of Northern lawmakers. While Congress created the Freedman's Bureau and passed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, thus giving African Americans citizenship and the right to vote, these laws were often circumvented at the local and state level where local leadership sought to preserve the racial status quo. Black people were kept from the polls with grandfather clauses and literacy tests in order to ensure that the Democratic party would come to power as soon as military Reconstruction ended. Lawmakers convinced poor whites that it was in their interests to keep African Americans disenfranchised and poor. Segregation was custom in the South; after the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling in 1896, it became legally sanctioned by the federal government.

Only a minority of the Radical Republicans truly cared about the plight of the former slaves; they had an interest in tying the Republican party to the...

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