The Reconstruction period started after the American Civil War and lasted between 1865 and 1877(Encyclopedia Britannica, Web). The Congress implemented the period whose main objectives were two. First, there was the need to rearrange the Southern states that had successfully seceded prior or during the war by putting in place ways of readmitting them to the Union (Encyclopedia Britannica, Web).
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Secondly, reconstruction intended to heal the social inequities arising from slavery and its socio-political and economic heritage. (Encyclopedia Britannica, Web).
The Impact of Reconstruction
The American Civil War marked the end of slavery and thus marked the emancipation era. In this regard, the blacks were termed freedmen (Encyclopedia Britannica, Web). However, the freedom was only technical as the freedmen remained slaves to policies introduced during this period (The Social Studies Help Center, 2013). The reconstruction period was therefore another era of suffering for the blacks on their social, economic and political life as discussed below.
State laws know as black codes came into effect in 1866. The codes conferred power on the whites over freedmen to prevent the freedmen from owning land or seeking employment outside their states (The Social Studies Help Center, 2013). This forced the freedmen to work in the lands owned by the whites under crop lien contracts.
Crop lien contracts demanded that the freedmen work in the farms and earn by getting a share of the harvest at the end of the season (Encyclopedia Britannica, Web). Unfortunately, during harvest, the white people would deduct all the expenses incurred by the freedmen during the season (Encyclopedia Britannica, Web).
The expenses accrued from using white men’s tools, for food consumed in the course of working or for accommodation in the whites’ homes (Encyclopedia Britannica, Web). The deductions would always be higher than the share of the harvest leaving the freedmen in debts and thus forcing them to work again to settle such debts. The circle would start all over again (Encyclopedia Britannica, Web). This implied that the freedman was not yet economically independent.
Under the black codes, the freedmen were not free concerning socialization. There were restrictions touching on time (The Social Studies Help Center, 2013). The codes banned public gatherings by the blacks after sunset and if such meetings occurred during the day, the freedmen had to seek permission in writing from the government officials prior to the meeting (The Social Studies Help Center, 2013).
In addition, the black codes prohibited the blacks from preaching or better still, speaking out to congregations without special permission from the government officials (The Social Studies Help Center, 2013).
It was also illegal for the freedmen to be in public place after sun set unless the government had authorized such a stay in public (The Social Studies Help Center, 2013). On the social front still, the freedmen could not marry or get married to a white person (The Social Studies Help Center, 2013). Such prohibitions clearly demonstrated that the term freedmen were not free at all.
Regarding political freedom, the freedmen could not participate freely in the political process due prohibitive laws and intimidation from terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan (Encyclopedia Britannica, Web).
Political power was in the hands of Scalawags and Carpetbaggers and as such, the black never got the political equality they had hoped to achieve (The Social Studies Help Center, 2013). In addition, the black codes introduced segregation by law known as de jure segregation, which went hand in hand with de facto segregation (The Social Studies Help Center, 2013).
The term reconstruction was at its best a misnomer. The objective of reconstruction was emancipation of the freedmen but it ended up enslaving the freedmen further through the infamous black codes that were against freedmen.