The American Journey Modern Times © 2009
Reconstruction and the New South
Section 1: Reconstruction Plans
The Civil War saved the Union, but Americans still faced the challenge of Reconstruction. Government leaders however, disagreed about how Southern states could rejoin the Union. Lincoln’s Ten Percent Plan was designed to heal the Union quickly, whereas Radical Republicans supported the Wade-Davis Bill with stricter requirements. Lincoln and Congress did agree to establish the Freedmen’s Bureau to help African Americans adjust to freedom. The nation was shocked when Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Vice President Andrew Johnson took office and announced his “Restoration” plan that would readmit states once they had ratified the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery in all parts of the country.
Section 2: Radicals in Control
The readmitted Southern states agreed to ban slavery, but many Southern whites still mistreated African Americans. Black codes were passed that limited their freedoms. Radical Republicans believed that Johnson’s plan was too easy on the South. The Republican-dominated Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment that protected and gave additional rights to African Americans. Johnson strongly opposed the Radical version of Reconstruction, and defied Senate plans to limit his power. The Republicans’ effort to impeach Johnson failed, but Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment giving African American men the right to vote.
Section 3: The South During Reconstruction
In addition to white Northerners, African Americans, scalawags from the South, and carpetbaggers from the North supported the Republican Party. As African Americans increasingly took part in civic life, they faced resistance from Southern whites, some of whom formed the violent secret society Ku Klux Klan. African Americans as well as poor white were limited by the sharecropping system that made it difficult to own land.
Section 4: Change in the South
Democrats steadily regained control of Southern governments. Meanwhile, Northerners lost patience with Radical Reconstruction policies as well as trust in Republican politicians involved in corruption and scandal. The Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes became president but only after the disputed election of 1876 was settled by Congress in the Compromise of 1877. This decision also gave control of the South to Democrats, removed federal troops, and marked the end of Reconstruction.
During the late 1800s, industry made dramatic growth, but farming became less profitable. Despite the civil rights laws passed during Reconstruction, white Southerners found ways to deny African Americans the right to vote, access to the same schools as whites, and greater equality.