SS7 Chapter 18 Notes: The Reconstruction Era

Section 1: Planning Reconstruction (p. 494-497)

The Civil War was fought from 1861 until 1865. The North, or Union, won the war. Now that the war was over, it was time for the country to become whole again. The states in the South needed to rejoin the states in the North. The nation needed to be rebuilt, or reconstructed.  Thus this period became known as the Reconstruction.  It includes the various plans to bring Southern states back into the Union.

The president and Congress did not agree about how to bring the Southern states back into the Union.  Some people wanted to harshly punish the South while others wanted to take it easy on them.

President Abraham Lincoln’s plan was to be lenient on Southern states.  It was called the Ten Percent Plan.  Lincoln also offered amnesty (forgiveness)  to Southern people who agreed to the loyalty oath.  Confederate states could rejoin the Union if:

  • The voters of the Southern states took an oath of loyalty to the Union.
  • Once 10% of the voters agreed to the oath then the state could form a new government.
  • The state would then have to adopt a new constitution banning slavery.

The Radical (extreme) Republicans thought the South should be punished.  Thaddeus Stevens was their leader.  Their plan was called the Wade-Davis Bill and it would make it hard for Southern states to rejoin the Union.  Southern states had to do three things:

  • A majority of 50% or more of the state’s white male population had to promise loyalty to the Union.
  • Only white males who had not fought in the war could vote for representatives for their new government.
  • All new states had to ban slavery.

Although the Wade-Davis Bill passed through Congress, Lincoln refused to approve it.  In the meantime, Lincoln and Congress created the Freedman’s Bureau which was made to aid poor Southerners and former African American slaves.  It provided food, clothing, shelter, work, and an education.

President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a Southern sympathizer.  Vice President Andrew Johnson became president. He had different ideas about Reconstruction than Lincoln did.  Johnson wanted to forgive Southerners but not the Confederate leader, who believed tricked ordinary Southern citizens.  Johnson also opposed equal rights for African Americans.

Johnson’s Plan for the Reconstruction was:

  • Southern states had to write a new constitutions banning slavery.
  • States also had to ratify (agree) the 13th Amendment (which outlawed slavery in the United States).

Most Southern states followed Johnson’s plan (except Texas).


Section 2: The Radicals Take Control (p. 498-503)

As Southern states started setting up new government, elected Southern officials started to come back to Congress.   Radical Republicans would not seat them and thought Johnson’s Plan was to easy on Southerners.

Bitter about their Civil War lose, the South passed black codes which were laws meant to control newly freed African Americans.  It didn’t allow African Americans to own/rent land and made it illegal for them not to have a job.  In many ways, the black codes made life for African Americans little better than slavery.

Unhappy with these codes, Congress empowered the Freedmen’s Bureau to deal with issue relating to African American rights and passed the Civil Right Act of 1866.  The Civil Rights Act gave citizenship to African Americans and gave the federal government the power to get involved in state affairs to protect African Americans’ rights.

Fearing the courts might overturn the Civil Rights Act, there was a push to add new amendments to the Constitution.  The amendments were:

  • The Thirteenth Amendment which ended slavery.
  • The Fourteenth Amendment made African Americans citizens. It promised equal protection under the law. It also banned former Confederate leaders from holding office unless they had been pardoned.
  • The Fifteenth Amendment granted African American men the right to vote.

Radical Republicans were a powerful force in Congress and became an even more powerful force in 1866 (an election year). There was no way President Johnson could stop them. A period known as Radical Reconstruction began. The Radical Republicans passed the Reconstruction Acts.  One of the acts, divided ten (Southern) states into five military districts governed by generals.  The Southern states were now under the control of army generals which angered Southerners. This brought the differences between Radical Republicans in Congress and President Johnson to the boiling point.

The Radical Republicans accused President Johnson of violating a newly created law created by Congress.  The Radical Republicans reacted strongly. The House of Representatives voted to impeach Johnson – that is, formally charge him with wrongdoing.  Not enough votes were cast so Johnson was able to remain president until Ulysses S. Grant was elected.


Section 3: The South During Reconstruction (p. 504-507)

Republicans were a powerful force in Congress after the Civil War.  They even helped Africans Americans participate in government (both as voters as well as elected officials).  Some African Americans were even elected to Southern state governments.

Most Southern whites opposed the Republican Party, but there were a few that supported it.  These people (supporters of the Republican Party) were called scalawags (an insulting nickname) by other whites.

Northerns that moved down South after the Civil War were considered suspicious by many Southerns.  Southerns did not trust their motives but some of them just came down South to help rebuild war-torn areas.  White Southerners called the Northerners “carpetbaggers” because of their cheap bags made of carpet fabric.

Africans Americans were treated with resentment by many Southerns.  Southerns refused to rent/sell them land, give them credit (borrow money), or give them jobs.  Even worse, African Americans were victims of violence. Secret societies like the Ku Klux Klan used fear and violence to control them. Klan members disguised themselves in white sheets and hoods. They threatened, beat, and killed thousands of African Americans and their white friends. They burned African American homes, schools, and churches.

Despite this, schools were established for African Americans in the South.  These school were usually separate from the schools that white students attended.

Although some Africans Americans did try to purchase their own farmland, they often didn’t have the money.  They were forced to work on farms owned by whites.  Greedy white landowners often used sharecropping to continue a different form of slavery down South.  Sharecropping is a system where the landowner lets a farmer (usually a former African American slave) farm his land in return for a part (share) of the crops grown.  However, the landowner would take such a large share, there would be little to nothing left for the farmer (the former African American slave).


Section 4: The Post-Reconstruction Era (p. 508-513)

Former Civil War general, Ulysses S. Grant, became President after Johnson left office.  Because of corruption during his administration paired with an economic depression, Democrats (the party of the South) made gains in government.  These new Democrats wanted to save their states from “black Republican” rule.

In the election of 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes (a Republican) won the office of President but only by the slimmest of margins.  He was elected President but Republicans had to make compromises with the South including withdrawing all military troops out of the South.  This marked the end of Reconstruction.

The Southern leaders looked to make the “New South.”  This meant creating new business and industries (iron/steel, lumber, etc.) in the South (making it more similar to the North).  The Southern economy did very well but it still heavily relied on farming.  The South hoped to reduce it reliance on cotton but thanks to sharecropping that didn’t really change much.

As the troops withdrew from the South, justice and freedom for former African Americans slaves faded away.  Democrats started creating laws that discriminated against African Americans.  For example, a new law said a person had to be literate (the ability to read and write) in order to vote.  They passed this law knowing that most Southern Africans were uneducated and illiterate which in turn prevent them from voting.

In the late 1800s, segregation was common in the South. Segregation is the separation of races. Public places were segregated by law. The laws that required segregation were called Jim Crow laws.

In the South, lynching were a common practice.  Lynching happens when a mob kills a person, often by hanging. White mobs lynched many African Americans in the South.