"Was Reconstruction a Success?"
To decide whether or not Reconstruction was a success you must first define what success actually means. Websterís Dictionary says that success is a favorable or desired outcome. Although Reconstruction only lasted approximately ten years, it was a favorable and desired outcome. There are many reasons that prove this, but there are three which are very important, even today. The public school system is a significant part of today, as well as our religion and churches. The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments were all very important pieces of the Constitution which were developed either from or due to Reconstruction.
"Over 90 percent of the Southís adult African American population was illiterate in 1860."(Faragher, 527) Blacks access to education became a part of the meaning of freedom, to themselves, because so many Southern states had prohibited education for slaves. African Americans, in rural areas, created large amounts of "wayside schools." Outside organizations, such as American Missionary Association and the Freedmenís Bureau, were the main contributors of educational aid in African American communities. Most black schools were built from the ground up by African Americans, in the mid-1860ís. To cover the costs of building the schoolhouses, buying supplies, and paying teachers the necessary money was raised or donated by blacks. Labor for construction was donated by blacks, and teachers room and board was offered by black families. African Americanís want for self-improvement and education was validated by the increased spread of schools. "By 1869 the Freedmenís Bureau was supervising nearly 3,000 schools serving over 150,000 students throughout the South. Over half the roughly 3,300 teachers in these schools were African Americans, many of whom had been free before the Civil War."(Faragher, 527)
After freedom African Americans needed some sort of social institution in which they could count on to help them. "The church became this institution because the ministers, respected for their speaking and organizational skills, were among the most influential leaders. By 1877 the great majority of black southerners had withdrawn from white-dominated churches."(Faragher, 527) In 1865 approximately 40,000 black Methodists attended biracial churches, in South Carolina, but in 1877 only a few hundred remained. Some of the Protestant denominations tried to get the African Americans to join, but most African American Christians joined black Baptist or Methodist churches. The African Methodist Episcopal Church gained power over other white dominated churches, but the greatest number of freed people were drawn to the Black Baptist churches because of their structure and more emotional services. "Churches became the center not only for religious life but for many other activities that defined the African American community: schools, picnics, festivals, and political meetings."(Faragher, 526)
Reconstruction brought on three very important additions to the United States Constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment stated that slavery was prohibited in the United States. The Fourteenth Amendment granted national citizenship for all persons born or naturalized in the US; stated that state representation in Congress would be reduced proportionally for any state disfranchising male citizens; denied former Confederates the right to hold state or national office. The Fifteenth Amendment prohibited denial of suffrage because of race, color, or previous condition or servitude. These three amendments to the constitution brought on the beginning of freedom for African Americans, as well as provided a beginning for womenís rights and suffrage.
The beginning of educational institutions, the building or establishment of churches, and the Thirteenth, fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments are all very important parts of our history. These items all prove that Reconstruction was a success, or favorable and desired outcome, in many ways. Reconstruction ended a way of life, and began the building of the world we know today.