By: Zachary Walls

Reconstruction was a period after the Civil War where the country rebuilt the south; with thousands of displaced people it was a time of rebuilding, economic change, and racial merging. During the time that Reconstruction took place it was perceived by people through many different views, Some thought of it as a salvation from slavery. Some thought of it as a punishment for leaving the Union. And some thought of it as the beginning of equal rights. Reconstruction, although seen from many different views and opinions was a crude attempt at the beginning of melding together two races; one race that was enslaved and hated by great amounts of the other. And one race that for generations thought themselves superior to the other race in every aspect. The change was one of the beginnings of integration and although it met much opposition and went through much hardship, it was and is one of the driving factors that helped move us to the point we are today.
As the Reconstruction process began it sparked many different views from those who lived in the south. Many of the former slaves thought of it as a cementing of their new freedom and as an attempt to make up for the slavery. Some of the white southerners thought of it as a punishment for separating from the North and believed it was just to punish them. In spite of the views, Reconstruction pushed onward. From a Southern white standpoint, Reconstruction seemed like insult to injury. Not only did they lose the primary source of labor that helped their economy thrive, but also they now had to walk on equal ground with people they considered sub-human, even animal-like. On the flip side it was a godsend. African Americans were allowed to own property, learn to read, and had so many other freedoms that for so long eluded them. Some families were reunited and families wouldn’t be sold away from each other again.
Reconstruction, after the civil war the country had some problems. Thousands of misplaced people lost their possessions during the war. And even more African Americans were now free and with no place to go. Even more troublesome was trying to build bonds between races that had been divided for generations. The white Southerners thought that those who were in slavery were un-educated animals incapable of learning anything. Though to force an entire race into slavery and degrade them in that manner, they must be thought of as less than human because no human could commit such atrocities to those they considered humans. And African Americans had to meld into a society filled with those who hate them for no other reason other than that they were born with dark skin. This type of hate has no logic or reason behind it. With these events, though, a clumsy attempt at integration began. Races tried to meld society tried to make equals of everyone. But all good things require time and the building had just begun.
Like all things there were people against Reconstruction. Although its cause and idea were moral, it caused discomfort for those so used to feeling superior. Laws were passed in attempts to limit African American freedoms such as the work permits, poll taxes, and literacy tests at the votes. The literacy tests wouldn’t be that much of a problem aside from the fact that slaves weren’t allowed to learn reading. Some even took it upon themselves to use a form of vigilante justice. The KKK formed in an attempt to sustain the old order. They hung any African Americans who seemed like they were doing well for themselves, or any African Americans who injured or hurt a white person in any way. The KKK ruined farms or property belonging to African Americans, forcing them to return to their plantations and take low-paying jobs from their former masters.
This era known as Reconstruction did much. This clumsy and disorganized attempt at melding two races together was the first attempt of integration attempt with African Americans and white Americans ever done. The end result helped move America forward to where we are today and remind us how much people had to fight for Americas core values to be heard.

Fig 1: Charleston, South Carolina, lies in ruins following the war between the states.

o_why.pngFig 2:Bureau officer promotes racial peace in the postwar South.
Harper's Weekly, July 25, 1868

Fig 3:Freed slaves on a Hilton Head Island plantation, two
wearing U.S. Army uniforms, cultivate sweet potatoes.


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Library of, Congress (2008). African American Odyssey: Reconstruction and its aftermath Part 1. Retrieved April 28, 2008, from African American Odyssey Web site:

PBS, PBS (1997). American Experience Reconstruction the second Civil War PBS. Retrieved April 25, 2008, from Reconstruction the second Civil War Web site: