On the surface, reconstruction was reintegrating the southern states back into the Union. However, the reintegration process aroused many questions that the US society needed to answer, including the question of citizenship of freed slaves. Reconstruction is an attempt of the Nation to come to terms with the results of the Civil War by defining the new rules.
There were several approaches to reconstruction. The first approach was developed by Abraham Lincoln; however, it was not implemented due to the assassination. The second approach was developed by Major General Oliver Howard. In 1865, President Andrew Johnson formed the Freedmen’s Bureau.
According to the second plan, black people had the right to receive forty acres of abandoned land for personal use. Black Americans would have three years to pay for this land. Thus, even though the Freedmen’s Bureau was underfinanced, it had a comprehensive plan to reconstruct the economy of the South.
However, the plan was not meant to come true, as shortly after Howard started to give out the land, President Andrew Johnson started to give out pardons to former southern slave owners, which gave birth to Black Codes. Black Codes were essentially the recreation of slavery, as they restored the slave trade under vagrancy and apprenticeship laws. Additionally, Ku Klux Klan was born as a form of slave patrol.
As a result, radical republicans with Thaddeus Stevens started a silent revolution by telling the Congress Clerk to avoid naming all the representatives of the southern states at the start of the Congress session in 1866. Radical republicans started the so-called military reconstruction by dividing the former South into five military districts and walking over these districts to show everyone that the confederates were no longer in charge.
During this period, freedmen were given the right to vote to pass the fourteenth amendment, under which everyone was given the right to become a citizen if born in the US. This moment in reconstruction was called “a brief moment in the sun.” In 1877, when Hayes was elected president, reconstruction saw an end, as the newly-elected president withdrew troops from the rebel states to end interference in the self-governing of the southern states.
As a result, the reconstruction era achieved much success. It passed three amendments, which abolished slavery, gave African Americans the right to vote, and provided Black people equal protection. However, reconstruction failed to redistribute the land to resurrect the southern economy without slavery, and it failed to suppress the violence of white southerners. As a result, even though African Americans were legally given the right to vote or work independently, they rarely had the ability to practice their rights.