Historical Context



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Unit 1: Building a Powerful Nation



Chapter 3 - Reconstruction (1865 - 1877)

Historical Context


The Civil War may have settled some significant national problems, but it also created many more. Slavery was abolished, the country was reunited, and the supremacy of the federal government was confirmed. However, the cost of the Union victory - lost lives, destroyed property, and sectional bitterness - was staggering and it created huge new problems and tasks.
Perhaps the most challenging task facing our tired nation was the future status of the four million newly freed slaves. After the death of President Lincoln and the failure of President Johnson, Congress, in 1867, tool charge of the effort to “reconstruct” our divided nation. A large part of “Congressional Reconstruction” was an effort to establish and to protect the citizenship rights of freedmen. The former Confederacy was divided into five military districts, each governed by a Union general. The southern states, in order to rid themselves of these “military dictatorships”, were required to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing equal rights for all citizens B including former slaves.
At the same time, large numbers of former Confederate soldiers and supporters were disenfranchised, or denied the right to vote. By 1870, all of the former Confederate states had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment and were readmitted to the Union. In each state, the voting rights of freedmen were protected while voting was denied to many white Southerners. Therefore, with many whites not voting and union troops remaining in the South to protect them, freedmen seemed to be enjoying some level of equal rights and full citizenship. This did not last long.
By 1877, Reconstruction ended and all Southern state governments were restored, and the citizenship rights of freedmen rapidly eroded. African-American voting rates plummeted. Soon these former slaves fell into a “second class” citizenship characterized by a system of state-enforced segregation and discrimination
DIRECTIONS: The following question is based on documents in this packet. As you review and analyze the documents, take into account both the source of the document and the author’s point of view.

 Carefully read each document-based question. Consider what you already know about the topic. How would you answer the question if you had no documents to examine.

 Now, read each document carefully, underlining important phrases or words that address the document-based question. You may also wish to use the margin to make brief notes. Answer the questions which follow each document

 Based on you knowledge and on the information found in the documents, formulate a thesis that directly answers the question.

 Organize supportive and relevant information into a brief outline.

 Write a well-organized essay proving your thesis. The essay should be logically presented and should include information both from the documents and from your own knowledge outside the documents.


Question:

Why did Congress’ Reconstruction efforts to ensure equal rights to the freedmen fail?

Part A: The following documents address the reasons why Reconstruction failed in the effort to ensure equal rights to the newly freed slaves. Examine each document carefully, and answer the question or questions that follow.

Document 1

In January 1866, soon after the Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery, radical Republicans in Congress began arguing that freedmen should be allowed to vote on equal terms with whites. A bill was introduced to give the vote to the freedmen of the District of Columbia. Most Democrats and many moderate Republicans opposed the bill, though most radical Republicans supported it (even though only five Northern states allowed African-American men to vote at this time). The following excerpts come from the speech of Pennsylvania Congressman Benjamin Boyer, a Democrat who opposed the bill to allow African Americans the right to vote in the District of Columbia.

It is common for the advocates of Negro suffrage to assume that the color of the Negro is the main obstacle to his admission to political equality… But it is not the complexion of the Negro that degrades him… {the Negro is] a race by nature inferior in mental caliber… the Negroes are not equals of white Americans, and are not entitled… to participate in the Government of this country…

Why, according to Congressman Boyer, should African Americans be denied the right to vote? _________

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Do you suppose that this racist viewpoint was widely held at this time? Explain. ____________________

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Document 2

Black codes enforced in Southern states during Reconstruction prevented freed slaves from exercising many rights. Read the following passage - adapted from selected sections of one state’s black code

- and answer the questions below.
Now that the slaves have become emancipated, it is necessary to pass regulations that preserve public order. These regulations must also preserve the comfort and correct behavior of the former slaves. Therefore, the following rules have been adopted with the approval of the United States military authorities who have command in this area:

Every Negro is required to be in the regular service of some white person, or former owner, who shall be held responsible for the conduct of that Negro.

No public meetings or congregations of Negroes shall be allowed after sunset. Such public meetings may be held during the day with the permission of the local captain in charge of the area.

No Negro shall be permitted to preach or otherwise speak out to the congregations of colored people without special permission in writing from the government

No Negro who is not in the military service shall be allowed to carry firearms or any kind of weapons without the special written permission of his employers

No Negro shall sell, trade, or exchange merchandise within this area without the special written permission of his employer.

According to the first paragraph, why were black codes adopted?

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Who approved the adoption of this code?

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How did the Radical Republicans succeed in eliminating black codes?

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What happened after black codes were eliminated first during Reconstruction and then after?

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Document 3

This excerpt is from The Era of Reconstruction, 1865 - 1877, by Kenneth M. Stampp (Vintage Books, 1967, p. 193). Stampp was a professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley.

Meanwhile southern Democrats gained strength when Congress finally removed the political disabilities from most of the prewar leadership. In May 1872, because of pressure from the Liberal Republican, Congress passed a general amnesty act which restored the right of office-holding [and voting] to the vast majority of those who had been disqualified… After the passage of this act only a few hundred ex-Confederates remained unpardoned.

How did the restoration of voting rights to white Southerners undermine efforts to preserve and protect the voting rights of the freedmen?

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Document 4







What is depicted in each of the documents?

 Left Photo

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 Right Photo


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How do the two cartoons affect your view of what Reconstruction accomplished?

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Document 5
The following petition was made to the United States Congress on March 25, 1871:

We the colored citizens of Frankfort and vicinity do this day memorialize upon the condition of affairs now existing in this state of Kentucky. We would respectfully state that life, liberty and property are unprotected among the colored race of this state. Organized bands of desperate and lawless men, mainly composed of soldiers of the late Rebel armies, armed, disciplined, and disguised, and bound by oath and secret obligations, have by force, terror, and violence subverted all civil society among the colored people… We believe you are not familiar with… the Ku Klux Klan’s riding nightly over the country, going from county to county, and in the towns spreading terror wherever they go by robbing, whipping, ravishing [raping], and killing our people without provocation, compelling colored people to break the ice and bathe in the chilly waters of the Kentucky River… Our people are driven from their homes in great numbers… We would state that we have been law-abiding citizens, pay our tax, and, in many parts of the state, our people have been driven from the polls - refused the right to vote, Many have been slaughtered while attempting to vote; we ask how long is this state of things going to last. We appeal to you… to enact some laws that will protect us and that will enable us to exercise the rights of citizens… the senator from this state denies there being organized bands of desperadoes in this state… we lay before you a number of violent acts occurring during his administration…

What factors or events caused the freedmen to write this petition?
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Why did the freedmen petition the United States Congress instead of working through their state government?

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Document 6





According to the cartoonist, what was the goal of the Ku Klux Klan?

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What kinds of weapons did the Klan members intend to use against the freed people?

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What actions did the KKK threaten to take to make the lives of freed people “worse than slavery”?
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Document 7

Following are headlines and excerpts from front-page news stories in November 1874.


Headline text from the New York Times, November 4, 1874
DEMOCRATIC VICTORY

CONGRESS TO BE DEMOCRATIC

Headline and story text from the New York Times, November 5, 1874


THE REPUBLICAN DEFEAT

Our later telegrams only add to the magnitude of the defeat experienced Tuesday… In the House [of Representatives] the Democrats’ gains continue to increase in numbers.

How did this Democratic victory help to undermine Congress= efforts to help the freedmen?

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What factors discredited the Republican Party during the early 1870=s? Explain.

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Document 8

The disputed presidential election of 1876 set the stage for the final stage of Reconstruction B the removal of all federal troops from the last three “unreconstructed” Southern states: Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina.






How was it possible that Hayes “won” the election of 1876?

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How did this disputed election lead to the end of Reconstruction? Explain.

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Part B: Complete the following essay question.

Why did Congress’ Reconstruction efforts to ensure equal rights to the freedmen fail?





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