Essay Question: Did the reconstruction period improve the living conditions of blacks in the south?



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Background: After the Civil War the nation had about four million newly freed slaves. The victorious Union was faced with the extraordinary task of protecting the newly freed slave’s rights of citizenship. In order to do this, the South was first divided into five military districts. The U.S. military was put in charge of enforcing equality. Next, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments were passed to protect freed people's natural rights. This process is referred to as Reconstruction. Southern states were not pleased, however, and many worked to get rid of the military presence in their states. By 1870, all of the former Confederate states had accepted the amendments and were readmitted into the Union. Reconstruction ended in 1877 with the removal of Union troops from Confederate territory.
Assignment: Review the documents below. Then in a multi-paragraph essay, answer the essay question below. In your writing take clear position on the issue. Make sure to fully develop your claim, provide counter claims and use relevant and specific evidence from the documents to support your position. 

 

Essay Question:  Did the reconstruction period improve the living conditions of blacks in the south?

 


Life Improved

Life didn’t improve

Improve

  1. Economics and mobility

    1. Previously slaves

    2. Now get paid for their work

    3. Could own land and enter into contracts for the first time

    4. With money could save for better life.

  2. Access to education

    1. No longer against the law to get an education

    2. Opened up more opportunities – allowed for the possibility for social mobility

    3. Could now attend college

    4. Allowed them to have a better understanding of their position

  3. Political freedom

    1. Right to vote

    2. Liberty garunteed in constitution

    3. Run for political office to improve their situation (in the beginning)




  1. New form of economic servitude

  1. Kept perminantly impoverish

  2. Not able to move until debt paid off.



  1. Social freedom’s were taken away or circumvented

  1. Jim Crow Laws took away rights

  2. Plessy vs. Fergesson

  3. Weren’t truly free

  4. Lived in fear so not really free.



  1. Political

  1. Voting became difficult

  2. Lost representation in government

  3. Black codes




Document A

13th Amendment:
          Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or and place subject to their jurisdiction.....

14th 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, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws....

15th Amendment:


          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 conditions of servitude.......

Source:_U.S._Constitution____Document_B'>Source: U.S. Constitution



Document B

Whereas it is essential to just government we recognize the equality of all men before the law, and hold that it is the duty of government in its dealings with the people to mete out equal and exact justice to all, of whatever nativity, race, color, or persuasion, religious or political....

…That all persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement;.....



Source:  The Civil Rights Act. March 1, 1875.

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Document C

   Let there be White Leagues formed in every town, village and hamlet of the South, and let us organize for the great struggle which seems inevitable We have no war to make against the United States Government, but against the republican party our hate must be unquenchable, our war indeterminable and merciless. Fast fleeting away is the day of wordy protests and idle appeals to the magnanimity of the republican party. By brute force they are endeavoring to force us into acquiescence to their hideous program. We have submitted long enough to indignities, and it is time to meet brute-force with brute-force. Every Southern State should swarm with White Leagues, and we should stand ready to act the moment Grant signs the civil-rights bill. It will not do to wait till radicalism has fettered us to the car of social equality before we make an effort to resist it. The signing of the bill will be a declaration of war against the southern whites. It is our duty to ourselves, it is our duty to our children, it is our duty to the white race whose prowess subdued the wilderness of this continent, whose civilization filled it with cities and towns and villages...to let northern radicals understand that military supervision of southern elections and the civil-rights bill mean war, and that war means bloodshed, and that we are terribly in earnest, and even they, fanatical as they are, may retrace their steps before it is too late.

Source: Atlanta News, "Meet Brute Forces With Brute Forces," September 10, 1874.



Document D

If the postwar riots and violence were intended to teach the freedman "not to arouse the fury of the white man," they taught him that and considerably more. Law enforcement agencies and officers, if not co-conspirators in violating the civil rights of ax-slaves, might be expected to protect or ignore the violators. Neither the Union Army nor the Freedmen's Bureau could be trusted to afford them the adequate protection; instead, Union troops in some localities alterr1ated with native whites as the principal aggressors. To seek a redress of grievances in the courts of law, as many freedmen also quickly discovered, resulted invariably in futility if not personal danger.


Source:  (Excerpt from a notion that the government was not protecting the freedmen) 
"Been In the Storm SO Long," by Leon F. Litwack.




Document E

Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865, former slave Henry Adams testified before the U.S.

Senate fifteen years later about the early days of his freedom.

The white men read a paper to all of us colored people telling us that we were free and could go where we

pleased and work for who we pleased. The man I belonged to told me it was best to stay with him. He

said, "The bad white men was mad with the Negroes because they were free and they would kill you all

for fun." He said, stay where we are living and we could get protection from our old masters.

In September I asked the boss to let me go to Shreveport. He said, "All right, when will you come back?" I told him "next week." He said, "You had better carry a pass." I said, "I will see whether I am free by going without a pass."


I met four white men about six miles south of Keachie, De Soto Parish. One of them asked me who I

belonged to. I told him no one. So him and two others struck me with a stick and told me they were going

to kill me and every other Negro who told them that they did not belong to anyone. One of them who

knew me told the others, "Let Henry alone for he is a hard-working [negro] and a good [one]." They left

me and I then went on to Shreveport. I seen over twelve colored men and women, beat, shot and hung

between there and Shreveport…


During the same week the madame takin' a stick and beat one of the young colored girls, who was about

fifteen years of age and who is my sister, and split her back. The boss came next day and take this same

girl (my sister) and whipped her nearly to death, but in the contracts he was to hit no one any more. After

the whipping a large number of young colored people taken a notion to leave. On the 18th of September I

and eleven men and boys left that place and started for Shreveport.


Source: Excerpt from Senate Report 693, 46th Congress, 2nd Session (1880).

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Document F

 

Breaking New Ground -- African American Senators

To date, six African Americans have served in the United States Senate. In 1870, Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first African American senator. Five years later, Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi took the oath of office.  It would be nearly another century, 1967, before Edward Brooke of Massachusetts followed in their historic footsteps.





Hiram Revels







Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first African American senator in 1870.

Source: http://www.senate.gov Photo taken from Library of Congress



Document G




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