Between 1861 and 1865 the United States was involved in a great war between citizens of the northern states and citizens of the southern states. The southern states didn't think that the federal government in Washington, D.C., could tell them what to do. President Abraham Lincoln wanted to get rid of slavery in the southern states. The southern states didn't think he should be able to do that. So, in 1861, 11 southern states decided they didn't want to be a part of the United States and left the union. They seceded from the union. They formed a new country called the Confederate States of America. They elected Jefferson Davis as their President.
During the war, called the Civil War or War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression, much of the South was damaged or destroyed. After the surrender of the southern army in 1865, much work remained to be done in rebuilding what had been destroyed. This period of rebuilding was called the reconstruction era.
The reconstruction period lasted from 1865-1877 under 3 different presidents. The federal government wanted to help rebuild bridges and railroads, and provide medicine and housing to those in the South. However, although there was much unemployment in the South, the southerners didn't want the federal government to interfere.
The war accomplished President Lincoln's goal of holding the union together. Now the United States was one country, not a group of individual states. Amendments were added to the Constitution which gave the right to vote to all men, abolished slavery, and gave equal protection under the law to all men. The Freedman's Bureau and the Civil Rights Act helped black men to get jobs. Black men were also allowed to hold elected office.
President Andrew Johnson who followed President Lincoln wanted to make the return to the union as easy as possible for the southern states. Many in the North were not happy that any Confederate office holders would be able to still be in government. In the elections for the United States Congress in 1866, many men called Radical Republicans were elected who wanted to punish these leaders from the South. They made it possible for many black men to become leaders.
President Johnson tried to prevent laws helping the black men from being passed, but he couldn't. Members of Congress even tried to remove him from office. Many southern white people also didn't like the idea of black men holding office and voting. During this time an organization called the Ku Klux Klan arose. It was very violent against the black people and local Republican leaders who wanted black people to have rights.
All the southern states wrote new constitutions. Charitable organizations helped give aid to expand education in the South. New businesses opened in the South.
Men called carpetbaggers moved from the North to seek new business opportunities and help the black people. Southerners thought that these people were just out for their own gain and didn't like these people. They were northern Republicans. White southerners who thought they would gain from siding with the Republicans after the War were called Scalawags.
The Compromise of 1877 officially pulled Federal troops out of the South and ended the Reconstruction era. However, many southern states still made policies which hurt the black people after this time.
To link to this Reconstruction page, copy the following code to your site: