Reconstruction: Success or Failure?

February 25, 2004

U.S. History

Period 4

After the Civil War the United States was at a difficult point in its history. There were many controversial issues that were yet to be resolved, and many people with a number of different opinions on how things should be settled. Due to this, the nation was forced into a period of reconstruction to help shape the country as a whole, and work to settle problems that remained unresolved. The Reconstruction Period following the Civil War was overall a success. By the end of this time, the country was reunited and moving rapidly towards industrialization. Individual freedoms and equal treatment before the law was set for all Americans. Although, like anything else, it had both positive and negative effects, however the positive aspects out shined the negative.

The Civil War was fought to free slaves, and to help them redeem their independence. However, by the end of this struggle there was a distinct line between whites, and blacks. Reconstruction was called upon to aid the country in deafening that lone and uniting the nation as a whole, and not separate sections. At this time many conflicts were in need to be resolved. For example, because slaves had never known the feeling of freedom before they had no where to go or work, it was almost over whelming. Segregation and racism also came into action.

During this time many of those issues were touched upon in positive ways. The thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth Amendments were all added to the Constitution for the benefit of this country. The thirteenth Amendment, which was perhaps the most important, assured freedom to all African Americans, Native Americans and many other various races of people by banning slavery. The fourteenth Amendment provided a constitutional basis for the civil rights act, making “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” The fifteenth Amendment was added to the constitution, stating that no one could kept form voting due to their “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” These constitutional changes had a very positive effect on the United States in the long run. They assisted a large portion of the nation and helped people get up on their feet, and start their lives over again.

Although overall reconstruction was a very good thing it also had negative effects. Three things that stand out as the leaders were struggling to rebuild this nation include, the Klu Klux Klan, Black codes, and Jim Crow laws. The Klu Klux Klan basically defined racism. It was a group of people strictly against blacks, who publicly displayed their hatred towards them. Black codes were another negative outcome; they were a series of laws that tightly restricted blacks from many things such as, carrying weapons and traveling with out a permit. These laws went hand in hand with the Jim Crow laws, which also restricted blacks from various things. The Jim Crow laws were designed to separate blacks and white in public places, magnifying segregation. It considered things “separate but equal” when in reality it was only “separate” and in many ways far from “equal”.

Although, as previously stated, there were a number of negative effects from Reconstruction, there were also many positive things that came from it. The constitution was amended freeing blacks, and although it took time before they were freed to full extent, with out reconstruction they would not have been free at all.