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How successful was reconstruction in dealing with the economic and social problems of freedmen?

The end of the Civil War and the Reconstruction of the South attempted to address some of the social concerns of the freed slaves but in reality could do very little to make blacks economically and politically equal to whites. In fact, there was never any intention of making blacks equal. The results of slavery and lingering racism were devastating.

I. Reconstruction

A. What economic problems did newly freed slaves face?

1. They had no education and could not read or write as a result of the Slave Codes.

2. Job opportunities were extremely limited.

3. Often the only skills a freed slave had was in farming and even then they usually only knew how to do the manual labor, not the actual running of a farm.

4. Freed slaves had no money, clothing, etc.

B. What types of jobs did freedmen take?

1. Sharecropping - Many freed slaves remained on their plantations and worked as sharecroppers. In this arrangement landowners (former plantation owners) also had no money to hire workers so what they would do is allow a freed slave to work the land and give a portion of the harvest to the landowner. The portion was usually quite high and it was difficult for the freeman to save enough to to sell on his own. In theory a sharecropper could save enough money to buy some mules and eventually rent the land but this was rare.

2. Tenant Farming - Some sharecroppers actually made enough to begin renting the land. This was known as tenant farming. Certainly this was better than 'cropping but they still struggled to make ends meet.

C. Who do you think they could turn to find some relief from this emotional burden??

1. growth of black Methodist and Baptist Churches - had Evangelical roots. Used spiritual song and gospel; they were the forerunner of Southern Baptist churches. AME - African Methodist Episcopal Church sent missionaries to the south immediately after the war. Membership increased from 70,000 to 390,000.

D. What needed to be done to help blacks reenter society?

1. Freedmen's Bureau - created as a part of the Reconstruction Act, it was a Federal agency designed to provide food, clothes and shelter for freed slaves and whites in need.

2. Education - black and white school teachers came south and began to teach the freed slaves. Booker T. Washington said "It was a whole race going to school. Few were too young and none were too old."

E. How successful was reconstruction in creating real economic freedom?

1. Not very much. many called sharecropping and tenant farming economic slavery because it still kept freedmen subservient to whites and at their whim.

F. What would be the ultimate level of achievement for a freedman?

1.. Election to the government - sixteen blacks elected to Congress, 2 senators and 14 reps. Hiram Revels, a Senator, took Jefferson Davis' spot from Mississippi the other Senator from Mississippi was also black, a former slave who has escaped from Virginia before the war - Blanche Bruce.

Senator Hiram Revels

G. How do you think most southerners reacted to reconstruction?

1. Supremacist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camelia were formed . Some originally warned blacks not to vote, then turned violent.

H. How did groups like the Klan effect reconstruction?

1. Southerners may have had to live with blacks but they sure didn't like it and they sure were not going to treat them as equals. What came to exist in the south was a segregated society, or one where the races are separated. This was not originally law (though it later came to be) and is thus referred to as de facto segregation or segregation by the fact that it exists.

This cartoon by the famous Thomas Nast was published in Harper's Weekly in 1874. It shows how white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan worked to keep freed slaves in politically and economically deprived conditions. Look at the inscriptions at the top of the cartoon. It says "The Union As It Was" and "This Is A White Man's Government." The KKK wanted to keep Blacks out of government and prevent them from voting.

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