In the words of President Abraham Lincoln during his Gettysburg Address (Doc. A), the Civil War itself, gave to our Nation, “a new birth of freedom”. The Civil War had ended and the South was in rack and ruin. Bodies of Confederate soldiers lay lifeless on the grounds they fought so hard to protect. Entire plantations that once graced the South were merely smoldering ash. The end of the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery, stirred together issues and dilemmas that Americans, in the North and South, had to process, in hopes of finding the true meaning of freedom.
Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States during the beginning era of Reconstruction, had plans to free slaves and grant them freedoms like never before. In 1863, before the war had ended, Lincoln had issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction for the areas of the South that the Union armies occupied. This proclamation was also called the 10 percent plan. It suggested that a state could reenter the Union when 10 percent of that state’s 1860 vote count had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States and pledge to abide by emancipation. Although this policy was put into place to help shorten the war, it also forced governments to further Lincoln’s emancipation policies and abolish slavery. Radical Republicans opposed this plan because they feared it was too lenient towards the South, fearing that his moderate plan would leave in place the political and economic structure that permitted slavery in the South. Many Congressmen believed that only until the South could be dismantled and rebuilt with more Northern philosophies, slaves would never be able to enjoy the benefits of freedom: social, political, and economic freedom.
The meaning of freedom provoked conflict in the Reconstruction South. Former slaves sought their independence from white control and whites, unwilling to accept a new relationship with former slaves often resorted in violent opposition. (Doc. E) Newly emancipated slaves would not need a definition of freedom. For former slaves, citizenship, legal recognition of their families, the right to vote, educational opportunities, free movement, and land redistributions equaled freedom. Congress sent Union troops to the South to protect the ballot and to protect the newly-freed African-Americans as well as their white allies. The addition of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution, the government had become an assumed insurer of freedom and protector of civil rights.
The Reconstruction Era policies enacted by Congress did quite a bit, including tax-supported public schools in the South. Although former slaves were allowed to attend schools, some whites believed that they were not as capable of learning as the white man. ...