American South: The Politics of Reconstruction

This blog is my lecture notes on the Reconstruction era of the American South. This happened just after the period of Civil War.

The Three Main Phases of Interpretation:

  • Pro-Southern: this viewpoint was the dominant viewpoint until the 1950s. This viewpoint expressed the idea that the South was oppressed, that the reconstruction was a mistake and a tragedy.
  • Revisionist: there was an emphasis on Southern white intransigence
  • Post-revisionist. Too cautious and conservative.

Six main phases:

Lincoln’s Reconstruction There were tentative efforts of Lincoln to form Reconstruction policy during the civil war. ‘Lincoln’s view ‘Malicy towards none. Charity for all!’  However there was no blueprint and as Lincoln was assassinated it was very hard to continue with his plans when they were splattered across the walls with his brain.

Johnsonian Reconstruction – From April 1865 to December 1865 there was an attempt by Johnson to form policy while Congress wasn’t in session; he proposed that if the South rejected secession and accepted abolition of slavery they could return to their pre-war ways. Unfortunately the South remained defiant with such legislature as the ‘Black Codes’; these were very similar to ‘Slave Codes’ so the black population were still made to be inferior.

Conflict between Congress and President – More problems begin to arise when Congress refuses to seat delegates elected in the South under Johnson’s system. A new Joint Committee on Reconstruction was formed and so causes disputes over Freedman’s Bureau and Civil Rights proposals However, in April 1866 there was the proposal of the 14th amendment. Finally elections give the Republicans a 2/3 majorities in both houses.

Radical Reconstruction – In the years 1867 to 69 the  ex-Confederacy were divided into 5 military districts and  the 14th amendment was ratified; the 15th amendment was then introduced in February 1869 and all the states were re-admitted to the Union by 1870. However there were moves to impeach President Johnson

Radical Rule in the South – from 1868 to the early 1870s there was the Southern myth of ‘Black Reconstruction’: carpetbaggers, scalawags, and black henchmen oppress helpless white South by combination of military rule and political corruption. The south then retaliates with the organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan being used which in turn were very effective.

End of Radical Reconstruction – In the years of 1872 to 1877 the North loses interest in trying to reconstruct the South. In the end there was the Compromise of 1877.


One response to “American South: The Politics of Reconstruction

  1. Really good use of your blog Phil. This is a great time to experiment…

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