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The Old South Rebuilt Essay

1008 words - 4 pages

Towards the end of the Civil War and the first few years after the Civil War, the United States of America faced an era of reconstruction in the South. The Civil War significantly altered the Southern way of life by eroding at the traditional plantation master-slave relationship. Not only did the Union have to readmit the seceded states, it also had to rebuild the south's devastated economy and readjust southern society from a slave society to a free society. However, despite large efforts on both individual organizations and the federal government to reform the south politically, economically, and socially, after the Compromise of 1877, a symbolic end of reconstruction, the new south was not very different from the traditional south that reformers ultimately tried to change.Political reforms were a battle ground where the federal government and local southern state government countered each other in assisting and in suppressing the newly freed slaves. For example, congress established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, all of which provided aid to freed slaves in the form of food and clothing. This was useful as it helped ease the transition of blacks from slaves to free people. However, southern state governments adopted a series of laws known as Black Codes to subject black freedmen to discrimination. Through these local laws, blacks were suppressed by being barred from jury duty and by not being allowed suffrage. The federal government then countered the Black Codes by passing the Civil Rights Act, which affirmed the rights of blacks to enjoy all benefits of the laws. This act ended legal discrimination of the freedmen thereby effectively nullifying the Black Codes. Most significantly, two new amendments were added to the constitution to give former slaves more political power. Along with the fourteenth amendment, anyone, including former slaves, born in the United States or naturalized was considered citizens. This guaranteed equal protection under the law and thus put blacks in a more protected position to produce reform. As southern states were put under military rule with The Military Reconstruction Act, they were given the chance to have their state governments re-implemented if they agreed to ratify the fourteenth amendment. The Military Reconstruction Act effectively pushed southern states to, at least under law, accept the citizenship of blacks. Finally, the fifteenth amendment prohibited denying the right to vote to anyone based upon race. Through this, blacks were finally given a voice in politics and an important tool for reformation.In addition to a great change in the political organization, the traditional and stereotypical economic structure of slave working for plantation owners was destroyed. As slaves were emancipated, they were given almost no economic opportunity beneficial enough to allow them to buy land and become independent of the plantation owner. Because of this, ex-slaves often fell back into...

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