After the Civil War, the government had changed from a republican rule to a democratic rule that had hatred towards the South because of conflicts that had arisen during the Civil War. The Northern Republicans wanted to punish the South by forming laws that terminated slavery and granted freed blacks the right to vote, the right to own land, the right to due process, and outlawed discrimination based on race; all were attempts to try and end slavery by reconstructing the justice and social and economic equality among freed blacks.
In theory, the thought of reconstruction was practical and could end slavery however, a thought is never the same when put into physical use because there are unforeseen obstacles that cannot be avoided such as the invention of sharecropping, the lynchings of blacks, the court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the formation of the Ku Klux Klan, “Jim Crow” laws, and the cooperation of white southerners to adhere to these new laws. In the minds of Radical Republicans the idea of reconstruction was positive and geared towards ending slavery and discrimination in the south.
For example, a piece of the thirteenth amendment, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (Document A). What the thirteenth amendment is saying is that slavery of forced servitude is to be outlawed except as a punishment where a person must be duly convicted. This law would put an end to slavery and free black slaves.
Extra instance is in the fourteenth amendment, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States: nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, property, without due process of law: nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction he equal protection of the laws” (Document B).
The fourteenth amendment is exclaiming that any citizen of the United States cannot be denied the right of life, liberty, and property and cannot so be done without due process. Therefore the fourteenth amendment grants more rights to blacks and makes blacks almost equal with whites. In addition to the fourteenth amendment, the fifteenth amendment also encourages equal rights such as, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (Document C).
What the fifteenth amendment is trying to say is that no one who is a citizen of the United States can be denied the right to vote because of the color of his or her skin. Lastly, the Civil Rights Act of 1875 states, “That all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land and water, theaters, and other places of public amusement” (Document F) The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was created to eliminate segregation in public places such as transportation, restrooms, store etcetera.
Therefore, these laws have the ability to make blacks equivalent to whites in terms of rights. However, these ideas by radical republicans were not highly effective, as shown in the document D. Document D shows a picture of a white southern farmer shaking hands with Ku Klux Klan member and in between them is a family of blacks cowering away from them. This shows that even though there are laws to prevent discrimination, they could not be enforced because the Ku Klux Klan uses scare tactics to prevent the law from being enforced.
Another instance that goes against reconstruction is in document E, “Nurses- No person or corporation shall require any white female nurse to nurse in wards or rooms in hospitals, either public or private, in which Negro men are placed. ” The “Jim Crow” laws are in clear violation of the fourteenth amendment because they segregate and make whites superior to blacks.
Moreover, Frederick Douglass addressed the Post- Reconstruction Economic Settlement in 1883 and says, “No more crafty and effective device for defrauding the southern laborers could be adopted than the one that substitutes orders upon shopkeepers for currency in payment of wages. It has the merit of a show of honesty, while it puts the laborer completely at the mercy of the landowner and the shopkeeper… It gives the shopkeeper customer who can trade with no other storekeeper, and thus leaves he latter no motive for fair dealing except hod own moral sense, which is never too strong…” Document G). Douglass is saying that sharecropping is a terrible way to do business because the shopkeepers can lie about purchases in their tab book and con blacks out of cheap labor. Another reason reconstruction didn’t work is because of the Plessy versus Ferguson case, “…we have before us a state enactment that compels, under penalties, the separation of the two races in railroad passenger coaches, and makes it a crime for a citizen of either race to enter a coach that has been assigned to citizens of the other race…” (Document H).
This court case is why the separate car act was created, to keep blacks inferior to whites and to segregate them. In the graph on document I, Lynchings By Race, blacks have a higher lynching rate than whites. Blacks were targeted more because they were being granted rights that white southerners didn’t want them to have so they would beat them to try and scare blacks from voting, and other activities that they felt blacks didn’t deserve.
Lastly, sharecropping was a way to keep the concept that whites were superior to blacks stated in the sharecrop contract, “To every thirty to thirty-five acres, I agree to furnish the team, plow, and farming implements, except cotton planters, and I do not agree to furnish a cart to every cropper. The croppers are to have half of the cotton, corn, and fodder if the following conditions are complied with; but-if not-they is to have only two fifths. Croppers are to have no part or interest in the cottonseed raised from the crop planted and worked by them… All must work under my direction.
All plantation work to be and oats to be hauled and put in the house. All the cotton must be topped about august first. If any cropper fails from any cause to save all the fodder from his crop, I am to have enough fodder to make it equal to one-half of the whole if the whole amount of fodder had been saved” (Document J). These reasons for segregation contradict the whole idea of reconstruction because when they try to rid the United States of it, the south just comes up with another excuse as to why reconstruction is hopeless.
In conclusion, the failure of reconstruction to bring justice and social and economic quality to freed blacks is due to the facts that no southern citizens wanted to follow the laws that were established by republicans to create a south where discrimination is nonexistent therefore the amendments were nullified and replaced with “Jim Crow” laws, and black codes that would restrict blacks from expanding their rights. In an economic sense reconstruction was a failure too because of the invention f sharecropping.
This made it so farmers no longer had to care for their laborers, or feed them, or clothe them. This was worse than slavery because farmers were making more money because they didn’t have to tend to their black slaves, and they could also restrict them as to what to grow, who to sell it to, and where to buy it from. So long story short, the laws and amendments created to grant equal rights to blacks were null en void because they could not be enforced and were met with resistance by white southerners at every attempt to obtain equal rights for blacks.