What is the Reconstruction Era?

Negro Lawyers

After the emancipation proclamation and the civil war began the Reconstruction Era.  Reconstruction Era began in 1865 and lasted to 1877.  The Freedmen Bureau was created in 1865 as a U S government agency to assist the recently freed slaves.  And, the Freedmen Bureau lasted as long as the Reconstruction Era did. The Union Army took over southern state government and took away the right to vote from leading whites and allowed Negroes to hold state office.  So there was the reconstruction of state government and reconstruction of the life of the ex-slave.
At the beginning of the civil war was the capture of South Carolina. Freedmen Bureau was very helpful in providing food, housing, helped bring families together, and medical aid.  The Freedman Bureau first job in South Carolina was dispersing of the abandon land by some of the Planters.  The Planters owed taxes and the U S Treasury confiscated the lands and auctioned them off. Can you imagine the ex-slaves able to buy the land that they once worked? The ex-slave hurriedly to have land by any means necessary whether they squatted on the land, piecemeal purchased or through other ventures.
    All through the south whites were bitter by the loss of their slaves and lands. The Union Army took control of state government and leading whites were not allowed to vote but ex-slaves were.  Consequently, a lot of Blacks were elected into state government as well as the House of Representatives and the Senate. But even with the federal government and the Republican Party on the side of the ex-slave, there was nothing to rid their lives of brutality and degradation they suffered.  Enraged whites soon gave birth to Klu Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups.
 Every waking moment for the Negro was full of fear.  From the time he woke in the morning until he laid his head down at night life was the fear of offending a white person in the pettiest way.  Fear of not jumping off the sidewalk in time for a white person to pass, not tipping one’s hat enough, any little break of what is expected could cost a Negro his life. By the 1870’s reconstruction started to fail and the Freedmen Bureau retreated.  Unfortunately, the gains that had been made by the Negro were reversed and life was made more difficult.
Southern Democrats regained power by 1877 through widespread corruption and violence. This marked the end of the Federal government’s reconstruction era.   The Solid South was the term used for the Democratic Party allegiance from southern states.  The politicians in state government were democrats and so were the federal representatives from these states. Eventually, the government returned some of the Planters’ land that was taken through General Sherman’s field order number 15. The North had abandoned the ex-slaves to the whims of the white south.  Jim Crow laws were put in place in the 1890’s and lasted until 1960.  So, the American Negro had a little more than 10 years of the government’s help now they were worst off than before but free.
In 1896, the Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson dealt the final blow to their hopes for equality for almost a century. The Court ruled that the Constitution cannot make people color-blind and gave approval to the separate but equal concept. Only one justice dissented. Justice John Harlan wrote, “Our Constitution is color blind.” His words fell on deaf ears. A flood of Jim Crow laws followed. In the words of orator Frederick Douglass, the Blacks under Jim Crow was not the slave of “the individual master, but the slave of society.”

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