Reconstruction: The Freedmen’s Bureau Essay

The American Civil war hardly fought by a great amount of soldiers in order to get African American slaves the freedom they deserved. A mass amount of lives were lost leading up to the Union victory which set millions of slaves free. The south was in ruins after they fought a defensive war and Reconstruction was introduced. With Lincoln in charge, many people looked forward to the future after the long Civil War. The first step was encouraging people to abandon the Confederacy and to come back into the union.

This is where the complications started to be revealed. During the reconstruction period, the freedmen had big hopes now that they had their freedom. After president Lincoln was assassinated, Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency. Johnson was a southern democrat who had pro-union sympathies. IIIsuited to the difficulties of Reconstruction, he experienced prejudice against African Americans and favored a government run solely by white citizens (Boyer). These bias opinions by Johnson inspired the Confederates to create freedom-limiting laws against the freedmen.

These laws were called Black Codes and they were primarily focused on keeping African Americans from achieving equality economically, socially, and politically. These codes established a major amount of white power over the African Americans once again, similarly to before the Civil War (Boyer). It re-established white control over the labor of African Americans and denied them from traveling without permits, having an education, etc. Also, in 1877 after the Reconstruction, these laws removed African American from office (“Black Codes and Pig Laws”).

Also as a result of these continuing racial discriminations, many race riots broke out. These Black Codes and other laws like it set back the freedmen to a time before their fight for freedom. It was almost like their freedom had never been given to them and white supremacy had been re-established. Clearly racism was one of the biggest failures that came with Reconstruction and it didn’t seem to stop with the Black Codes. In addition the those laws, there was a formation of a racist group known as the Ku Klux Klan, or the “KKK”.

This anti-black group was aimed at preventing African Americans from voting. These men killed and assaulted freedmen whom they thought had too much success. They also burned houses, schools, churches, and other important aspects of African American life (Boyer). Although prejudices against African Americans was a major problem during Reconstruction, so was the southern economy. After the Civil War, the South was destroyed. railroads and cities were burned, agriculture was destroyed, and what little industry the south had was also demolished.

All of these things had to be recovered, which would cost a lot of money. This caused problems because since the Confederates created their own currency during the war, it was worth nothing after. Citizens in the south were poor and the Confederacy could not pay off their war debts. The southern economy was a big failure that existed during Reconstruction. Although there was a lot of negativity that came along with the Reconstruction, there were several benefits that came out of it as well. One obvious success was the unification of the union.

In addition to the re-unification, Freedmen’s Bureau was another success during the Reconstruction. This bureau was created in 1865 to help the poor white farmers and the former slaves after the Civil War. The organization provided food, medical aid, housing, schools, and much more to these people in need (“Freedmen’s Bureau’). Congress had intended the bureau to only be in effect for one year, but this was so beneficial that they extended the life of the program. The Freedmen’s Bureau gained a lot of support around the country, to president Johnson’s dislike.

Some of the biggest successes of the Reconstruction were the passing of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments. The Thirteenth Amendment was passed by Congress in 1865 and officially abolished slavery. The Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1866 and required states to extend an equal citizenship to the African Americans and all of the people who were born in the United States. This virtually overruled the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case who said that African Americans could not be considered citizens. Finally, the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified in 1870.

This amendment gave the millions of African Americans the right to vote. This, however, did not give the voting rights to women and it did not guarantee the right to hold office or prevent states from limiting the voting rights of Africans (Boyer). These beneficial reforms and amendments helped to exemplify the positive legacies that came out of the Reconstruction. The period of Reconstruction could be seen as either beneficial or not. There were many problems concerning the freedom of African Americans, which caused many of the failures regarding this period.

Their new and exciting lives turned into reliving the terrors of the past when the whites took over control again when the Black Codes were made. The bad economy of the south also caused problems as the citizens had to find a way to dig themselves out of the big hole of debts. On the other hand, the Reconstruction had some successes that could make up for the failures. The Freedmen’s bureau and the new amendments helped to establish and protect the lawful rights of African Americans. Also, thanks to the Reconstruction, the once divided country was once again united as one union.