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To what extent did Reconstruction create political equality for black men.

In the last lesson we discussed the effectiveness of reconstruction in dealing with the problems faced by freedmen. We specifically discussed whether or not reconstruction brought about economic equality. We determined that instead, freedmen were faced with economic slavery. Today we will examine the how effective reconstruction was in bringing about political equality.

Southerners fearing Black political power passed a series of laws in each state called Black Codes. Black Codes enforced in Southern States during Reconstruction prevented freed slaves from exercising many rights.

Here is an edited example of one of the Black Codes:

The Black Codes

Now that the slaves have become emancipated, it is necessary to pass regulations that preserve public order. These regulations must also preserve the comfort and correct behavior of the former slaves. Therefore, the following rules have been adopted with the approval of the United States military authorities who have commanded this area.

1) Every Negro is required to be in the regular service of some white person or former owner, who shall be held responsible for the conduct of that Negro.

2) No public meetings or congregations of Negroes shall be allowed after sunset. Such public meetings may be held during the day with the permission of the local captain in charge of the area.

3) No Negro shall be permitted to preach or otherwise speak out to congregations of colored people without special permission in writing from the government.

4) Negroes may legally marry, own property and sue and be sued in a court of law.

5) Negroes may not serve on juries.

6) A Negro may not testify against a white person in a Court of Law.

7) It shall be illegal for a Negro or a person of Negro descent to marry a white person.

8) No Negro shall be permitted outside in public after sundown without permission in writing from the government. A Negro conducting business for a white person may do so but only under the direct supervision of his employer.

9) No Negro shall sell, trade, or exchange merchandise within this area without the special written permission of his employer.

10) No Negro who is not in the military service shall be allowed to carry firearms or any kind or weapons of any type without the special written permission of his employers.

The Radical Republicans reacted to the Black Codes. They were outraged. The Black Codes clearly did two things. It created a political situation tantamount to slavery and it also placed the same southerners in political power who had power before the war

The Radical Republicans attempt to create political equality for freedmen by the passage of the Reconstruction Amendments.

13th - Ended Slavery

14th - Equal protection under the law, no state may deprive any person of life, liberty and property without due process of law.

15th - Gave blacks right to vote.

The South responded to these amendments.

They refused to ratify 14th amendment. Amendment was passed after the First Reconstruction Act which created military districts and mandated that the state constitutions include suffrage for blacks. The Act also mandated that states must ratify the 14th amendment before being readmitted to the Union

Scalawags and Carpetbaggers ran southern governments after the reconstruction acts threw out the old Southern leaders.

1. Scalawags (means scoundrel) -White southerners who joined the Republican Party. There were mixed motivations. Some wanted rapid industrialization, some opposed slavery and secession, some were selfish office seekers who used blacks to gain elective office by stuffing ballot boxes etc.

2. Carpetbaggers (from pictures of all belongings rolled in a carpet carried on their shoulders.)-Northerners who moved South. There were again various motives to support reconstruction. Some were teachers and clergy who really wanted to help former slaves, some were Union soldiers who preferred a warm climate, some were entrepreneurs, some were dishonest profit seekers.

3. Scalawags and Carpetbaggers both took political power away from blacks because they were the ones to fill the void in political leadership, not blacks as had been intended.

In the end freed slaves did not receive the political equality they sought. The black codes created segregation by law, known as de jure segregation to go along with existing de facto segregation. The south quickly became a divided society, and it the black family at the bottom of the economic, social and political heap.


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