The reconstruction period was America’s first attempt to understand, protect, and recognize the black people. It is at this period that the American people spearheaded by their government accepted that time for change was due and the best they could do was accept that black people were in the USA to stay. The resolve of reconstructing their society for the betterment of everyone was inevitable. Integration was on the horizon and it had to be accepted irrespective of how painful or controversial it was. The consequences of the same were about to be bloody as assassinations and battles were to be unveiled on some high public figures, for instance, President Lincoln and a hoard of other civilians. This paper will look at the new programs, changes and obstacles faced by newly freed slaves in the reconstructed Southern Society.

Just after the civil war, the non-African local Southern communities formed organizations that were blatantly against African American lenient governments. To the followers of such organizations, this was interpreted as patriotism. One such organization was the Ku Klux Klan as explained by Wade (1998). Fights and killings were perpetrated by such groups and this made the business of reconstruction more dangerous. These killings were the first obstacles that the reconstruction process was subjected to and it did not stop even after the reconstruction process was complete. Violence was top on the menu as a retaliation method or worse, showing displeasure with the new way of doing things.

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After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the presidency fell on the shoulders of Andrew Johnson who from his actions was not ready for the responsibility at the time.  He ordered that the land in the hands of blacks be returned back to their original owners and this opened a platform for confrontations. However, the Congress was not siding with the president and it passed a bill that protected the liberties and civil rights of blacks. Johnson was impeached and in his place was Ulysses S. Grant.

Separation of African Americans from their families was a common occurrence that was initiated during slave trade. The slaves were always separated when they were sold away by their masters. They were mere commodities that were to be sold and worked off without caring about their health and emotions. During reconstruction, the now freemen were in search for their relatives. In 1865, a reporter from the North reported of encountering a freeman who did 600 miles on foot to North Carolina from Georgia according to King (2005). He was on the search for his wife and children who were sold as slaves. After joining their families, African American freemen shun white controlled institutions such as churches. On this, they came up with the Methodist and Baptist Churches which gave rise to schools, social interactions, and political platforms.

Change must not be physical, mental change is also something that equates to change and African Americans did not disappoint on this. Education was to be pursued with the seriousness it deserved. After liberation African Americans were in a rush for education (Ayers, 2005). Prior to the reconstruction, it was illegal for this unfortunate class of people to be educated, especially when they were under slavery. Schools established after the civil war were flocked and African-Americans were showing a great understanding of the correlation between education and economic liberation. African Americans would, therefore, shun working as employees under the supervision of whites for wages but opt for working on their leased lands. General Rufus Saxton was in favor of the socially, economically and politically deprived communities especially the African Americans. Autonomy was key and most whites were angered.

In 1868, it became the government’s responsibility to ensure that no citizen would be deprived of their rights as a voter due to their race upon the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment. Under the rule of President Grant, confederate states were all admitted back to the Union by 1870. During this time, no black was in a position of control either in federal or state governments. For instance, in the states of Tennessee and Virginia, democrats and uncomfortable Republicans ganged up together to ensure that the status quo was maintained.

According to Holt (1979), in the South, after the Civil war, infrastructure was highly damaged both physically and functionally. Such infrastructure included railroads, factories and farms which were left unattended and livestock killed. This meant that the South was not a favorable place for investors to put their money. Much capital was needed to rebuild the otherwise wanting infrastructure and this was a wake-up call for those who needed opportunities. Small scale farmers, whether black or white faced the same problem of neglect by their government and this prompted them to form a political party going by the name ‘Populist’ to champion for their needs.

The reconstruction was a defining moment for the South. It was, however, a period of difficulty as the activation of the activity was met with tough resistance which was at times terminal. Despite the challenges, the lives of African Americans were highly transformed by the newly acquired freedom. Education, which was a preserve of the whites and those who were free, became accessible, families were able to grow together and the democratic rights of the ‘free slaves’ were upheld in the constitution. Voting was allowed for all citizens and segregation by race was abolished. Economic fortunes of black people became more feasible and tenable due to the abandonment of free and forced labor. African Americans could finally acquire land, either by leasing or otherwise and use the same for their economic betterment. For the white land owners, the disappearance of free labor was economically devastating and wreaked havoc to such owners. Infrastructural development was pitched on a higher gear and was put on course.


Ayers, E. L. (2007). The promise of the new South: Life after reconstruction. Oxford University Press.

Holt, T. (1979). Black over white: Negro political leadership in South Carolina during Reconstruction (Vol. 82). University of Illinois Press.

King, W. (2005). “Dis Was atter Freedom Come”: Freed Girls and Boys Remember the Emancipation. In African American Childhoods (pp. 73-92). Palgrave Macmillan US.

Wade, W. C. (1998). The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America. Oxford University Press, USA.

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