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How The Failure Of Reconstruction Impacted African Americans

1115 words - 4 pages

After a war that claimed the lives of more men than that of all other wars combined, much of the country was left in ruins, literally and figuratively. Dozens of towns in the South had been burned to the ground. Meanwhile, the relations between the North and South had crumbled to pieces. Something needed to be done so that the country could once again be the United States of America, not the Divided States of America. The years from 1865 to 1877 were a time of rebuilding – the broken communities and the broken relations. This time period was known as Reconstruction. Reconstruction was a failure on the basis that the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments that were passed should have given protection and freedom to the African American people, instead, it actually hurt them because the laws were not enforced, and eventually lead to the organization of white supremacy terrorist groups.
The 13th amendment to the Constitution legally ended slavery, however, one could argue that socially and economically it did not. Once African Americans were free, they had nothing and were given very little. Due to the racist attitudes that were rampant in the South, it was nearly impossible to find anything but low paying, unskilled jobs. Because blacks needed work and plantation owners had vacant land they came to a compromise – sharecropping. Sharecropping was an agreement that in exchange for land, a cabin, and tools, at a very high interest rate, the landowner would receive a portion of the harvest. Although this may sound like a good deal, the high interest rates made the debt nearly impossible to repay, thus once again the African Americans were under control of the white race. The contracts also included clauses that were similar to the rules during slavery. The contract viewed in class included things like: no conversation during the day, one cannot leave during the day without permission, no raising cattle without permission, and they must be “cheerful” while working (Clark-Pujara 11/18/13). These rules closely resembled the rules of the plantation just a few years earlier during slavery. Although slavery was now technically illegal, the government never made any attempt to intercede and stop these practices that essentially put African Americans forever in debt and under the control of the whites.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution defined citizenship as anyone born in the U.S. or naturalized, thus giving citizenship to African Americans. Like the 13th amendment, the 14th was not enforced. Had this amendment had been enforced, as citizens of the United States the most basic rights of black people should have been protected, like any other citizen. However, they were continually marginalized. If a crime was committed against them, the legal system turned a blind eye. If they were in need, no one would offer a helping hand. The government largely funded public white schools, whereas African Americans had to raise much of their...

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