Civil War and Reconstruction
Reconstruction and Civil Rights Acts
Reconstruction lasted until 1877, and many referred to the period as
merely a continuation of the Civil War itself, not necessarily because of feuds and racism, but because many Southern communities
had lost nearly all able-bodied males over 18, leaving a vacuum in the workplace and a void in the traditional family.
The Civil War had witnessed unprecedented loss of life, but the
magnitude of soldiers returning home with diseases and wounds was equally unfathomable. Reconstruction? What
a daunting task they confronted. While families were uncertain about life, others were enjoying the consternation for personal
gain and political favors. Although Reconstruction meant rebuilding, it happened during an era absent of social
security and veterans affairs, so to live and eat was synonymous with teamwork and community effort (notice the word
"unity" in community). Post traumatic stress disorder, battle fatigue and shell shock, and other disorders and mental
diseases, were not recognized at the time and neither were there any treatments. Everyone, everyday, had personal battles
of their own, such as having food to eat, and enduring the physical and emotional traumas associated with the costly
Civil War, and the majority of the nation cared little about Reconstruction and Civil Rights Acts. So on the national
political front, it too was a battlefield as individuals maneuvered and fought for rights and equality. Reconstruction was
indeed a continuation of Civil War.
|Civil War, Reconstruction, and Civil Rights Acts
|Civil War, Reconstruction, and Civil Rights Acts
(About) This 1866 political cartoon, distributed by a white-supremacist
candidate, declared that Republicans sought to grant suffrage to black men in order to create a voting bloc for themselves.
Detractors of the campaign for full black male suffrage were attempting to discredit abolitionist Representative Thaddeus
Stevens of Pennsylvania and others.
Civil Rights Acts
The Civil Rights Act of 1866: This act granted black citizens equal rights
to contract, to sue and be sued, to marry, travel, and own property. It made all citizens subject to "like punishment, pains
and penalties." Any person guilty of depriving citizens of their stated rights because of race, color, or previous condition
of servitude could be fined, imprisoned or both.
The Reconstruction Act of 1867: This act allowed former slaves to participate
fully in the political arena. As a result, African Americans sat in constitutional conventions, helped draft state constitutions,
and supported new comprehensive programs for state education in the South.
The Enforcement Act of 1870: This act stated that all citizens otherwise
qualified to vote in any election should not be denied the vote because of race. States could set up prerequisites for voting,
but all persons were to have equal access to the vote.
The Civil Rights Act of 1871: This act set up a system of federal supervision
of elections within the states in order to stop illegal voter registration practices.
The Ku Klux
Klan Act of 1871: This act was intended to protect black citizens against intimidation by illegal action, such as by the KKK,
in cases where states could not, or would not, provide protection.
The Civil Rights Act of 1875: This act entitled all persons the "full and
equal enjoyment" of public accommodations, such as hotels, transportation or theaters. It granted blacks the right to sue
for personal damages, and allowed any qualified person to serve as a juror. This was the last piece of civil rights legislation
passed by the United States Congress until 1957.
|Reconstruction and Civil Rights Acts
|Reconstruction and caring for Civil War amputees
(About) Pvt. Benjamin Franklin, Company H, 2nd Minnesota Regiment Cavalry.
As soldiers lay dying all around them and others awaited attention – some screaming, some in shocked silence –
the surgeons in blood-splattered clothes went to work, sawing through bone. Their task was to sever the pulverized limbs and
shattered bones of those who had been hit by deadly bullets shot from the barrels of rifled muskets. Amputations conducted
on such a large scale had never been seen before.
(Related reading below, Selected sources are from each of the books
listed below. Poster and Photograph Courtesy Library of Congress.)
Recommended Reading: Reconstruction:
America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877.
Review: This "masterful treatment of one of the most
complex periods of American history" (New Republic)
made history when it was originally published in 1988. It redefined how Reconstruction was viewed by historians and people
everywhere in its chronicling of how Americans -- black and white -- responded to the unprecedented changes unleashed by the
war and the end of slavery. This "smart book of enormous strengths" (Boston Globe) has since gone on to become the classic
work on the wrenching post-Civil War period -- an era whose legacy reverberates still today in the United States. Continued below...
the Author: Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor
of American History at Columbia University, is the author of numerous
works on American history, including Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil
War; Tom Paine and Revolutionary America; and The Story of American Freedom. He has served as president of both the Organization
of American Historians and the American Historical Association, and has been named Scholar of the Year by the New York Council
for the Humanities.
Reading: Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction. Description: In Forever Free, Eric Foner,
the leading historian of America's Reconstruction
Era, reexamines one of the most misunderstood periods of American history: the struggle to overthrow slavery and establish
freedom for African Americans in the years before, during, and after the Civil War. Forever Free is extensively illustrated,
with visual essays by scholar Joshua Brown discussing the images of the period alongside Foner's text. (From Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review.) Probably no period in American history is as controversial, as distorted by myth and as "essentially unknown"
as the era of emancipation and Reconstruction, award-winning historian Foner (The Story of American Freedom; Reconstruction;
etc.) argues in this dense, rectifying but highly readable account. His analysis of "that turbulent era, its successes and
failures, and its long-term consequences up until this very day" addresses the debates among historians, corrects the misrepresentations
and separates myth from fact with persuasive data. Continued below…
his work with an overview of slavery and the Civil War and concludes with a consideration of the Civil Rights movement and
the continuing impact of Reconstruction upon the current political scene, a framework that adds to the clarity of his history
of that era, its aftermath and its legacy. Joshua Brown's six interspersed "visual essays," with his fresh commentary on images
from slavery through Reconstruction to Jim Crow, buttress Foner's text and contribute to its accessibility. In his mission
to illuminate Reconstruction's critical repercussions for contemporary American culture, Foner balances his passion for racial
equality and social justice with disciplined scholarship. His book is a valuable, fluid introduction to a complex period.
Reading: A Short History of Reconstruction. Review: In an attempt to document the important issues of reconstruction,
Eric Foner compiled his book Reconstruction: America's
Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. Foner addresses all the major issues leading up reconstruction, and then finishing his book
shortly after the end of reconstruction and the election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876.
In the preface of his book, Foner discusses the historiography of Reconstruction. He notes that during the early part
of the twentieth century many historians considered Reconstruction as one of the darkest periods of American history. Foner
notes that this viewpoint changed during the 1960s as revisionists shed new "light" on reconstruction. The revisionists saw
Andrew Johnson as a stubborn racist, and viewed the Radical Republicans as "idealistic reformers genuinely committed to black
rights." The author notes that recent studies of reconstruction argue that the Radicals were actually quite conservative,
and most Radicals held on to their racist views and put up very little fight as the whites once again began to govern the
south. Continued below...
describes the African-American experience during the Civil War and Reconstruction. He argues that African-Americans were not
simply figures that took little or no action in the events of the day, and notes the enlistment of thousands of African-Americans
in the Union army during the war. Foner also notes that many of the African-Americans that eventually became civil leaders
had at one time served in the Union Army. He states, "For men of talent and ambition, the army flung open a door to advancement
and respectability." He notes that as reconstruction progressed, African-Americans were the targets of violence and racism. Foner
believes that the transition of slaves into free laborers and equal citizens was the most drastic example of change following
the end of the war. He notes how African-Americans were eventually forced to return to the plantations, not as slaves but
as share croppers, and were thus introduced to a new form of slavery. He argues that this arrangement introduced a new class
structure to the South, and states "It was an economic transformation that would culminate, long after the end of Reconstruction,
in the consolidation of a rural proletariat composed of a new owning class of planters and merchants, itself subordinate to
Northern financiers and industrialists.” The author illustrates how both blacks and whites struggled to use the state
and local governments to develop their own interests and establish their respective place in the evolving social orders. Another
theme that he addresses in this excellent study is racism itself and the interconnection of race and class in the South.
he addresses is the expanded presence of federal authority, as well as a growing idea and commitment to the idea that equal
rights belonged to all citizens, regardless of race. Foner shows how both Northern and Southern blacks embraced the power
to vote, and, as Reconstruction ended, many blacks saw the loss of suffrage and the loss of freedom. Foner illustrates that
because the presence of blacks at the poll threatened the established traditions, corruption increased, which helped to undermine
the support for Reconstruction. The former leaders of the Confederacy were barred from political office, who were the regions
"natural leaders," a reversal of sympathies took place which portrayed the Southern whites as victims, and blacks unfit to
affected the North as well, but argues that it was obviously less revolutionary than it was in the South. Foner notes that
a new group of elites surfaced after the war, industrialists and railroad entrepreneurs emerged as powerful and influential
leaders alongside the former commercial elite. The Republicans in the North did attempt to improve the lives of Northern blacks.
However, there were far fewer blacks in the North, so it was more difficult for blacks to have their agendas and needs addressed
in the local legislatures. He states, "Most Northern blacks remained trapped in inferior housing and menial and unskilled
jobs." Foner adds that the few jobs blacks were able to acquire were constantly being challenged by the huge influx of European
is definitely worthy of his original volume. Reconstruction is a subject that can still be interpreted in several ways, including
the revisionist school of thought. Foner, however, seems to be as objective as possible on this subject, and has fairly addressed
all major issues that apply.
Recommended Reading: Inhuman
Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World. Description: Winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, David Brion
Davis has long been recognized as the leading authority on slavery in the Western World. Now, in Inhuman Bondage, Davis sums up a lifetime of insight in this definitive account of New World
slavery. The heart of the book looks at slavery in the American South, describing black slaveholding planters, rise of the
daily life of ordinary slaves, highly destructive slave trade, sexual exploitation of slaves, emergence of an African-American
culture, abolition, abolitionists, antislavery movements, and much more. Continued below…
centered on the United States, the book offers a global perspective spanning four continents. It
is the only study of American slavery that reaches back to ancient foundations and also traces the long evolution of anti-black
racism in European thought. Equally important, it combines the subjects of slavery and abolitionism as very few books do,
and it connects the actual life of slaves with the crucial place of slavery in American politics, stressing that slavery was
integral to America's success as a nation--not
a marginal enterprise. This is the definitive history by a writer deeply immersed in the subject. Inhuman Bondage offers a
compelling portrait of the dark side of the American dream.
Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President
(Library of Religious Biography). Description: Since
its original publication in 1999, "Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President" has garnered numerous accolades, including the prestigious
2000 Lincoln Prize. Allen Guelzo's peerless biography of America's
most celebrated president is now available for the first time in a fine paperback edition. Continued below...
The first "intellectual biography" of Lincoln, this work explores the role of ideas
in Lincoln's life, treating him as a serious thinker deeply
involved in the nineteenth-century debates over politics, religion, and culture. Written with passion and dramatic impact,
Guelzo's masterful study offers a revealing new perspective on a man whose life was in many ways a paradox. As journalist
Richard N. Ostling notes, "Much has been written about Lincoln's
belief and disbelief," but Guelzo's extraordinary account "goes deeper."