Christopher Kim Chatsworth High 11th Grade
After the Civil War, the Reconstruction era came along. One major question of the era was what to do with the former slaves. Furthermore, while the North had sympathy for the freed African Americans, the South still lingered in deep hatred. While the US government tried to provide equality for the African Americans through the passage of the 14th and 15th Amendments, and African American men took advantage of their rights to suffrage by becoming politically active, many factors, such as the Black Codes, limited the freed African Americans from exercising their freedom.
Through the passage of the 14th and 15th Amendments, African Americans had gained the rights to suffrage and US citizenship. The radical Republicans were concerned, however, that once the former Confederate states were readmitted into the Union, they would try and repeal the act by amending the constitutions. Therefore, the Republicans incorporated Black suffrage into the federal Constitution with the 15th Amendment, which was passed in 1869. With equality as US citizens, specifically in terms of voting rights, the former saves were indeed liberated to be equal citizens to the White Americans.
Furthermore, African American men took advantage of suffrage and began to politically organize. Many formed the Union League to create a network of political clubs, supporting Republicanism. The Union League also established churches and schools, and even recruited militias for protection of the African American communities. In addition, African American men were able to participate in state constitutional conventions as delegates. Even here, they worked with whites to fight for universal male suffrage. Between 1868 and 1876, there were many black congressmen and senators, including Blanche K. Bruce. As part of radical regimes, African Americans were able to contribute to making reforms such as those on taxes and public school systems.
Despite many African American Reconstruction goals being met, there were obstructions that attempted to limit these goals, such as the Black Codes. This was one of the first acts of President Andrew Johnson to try and limit the affairs of the emancipated African Americans. The goals of the Black Codes were to make America as it was during the pre-Civil War era and to try and save the fallen Cotton economy. Although the codes recognized freedom legally, they did not allow Blacks to serve on jury or own land. With these laws, the former slaves had no economic opportunities, other than to be sharecroppers for their former masters. In other words, the blacks were no more than being re-enslaved, with no true rights as citizens.
Ultimately, the Reconstruction era worked for African Americans to have rights as citizens and have political participation. Yet, obstructions like the Black Codes limited the rights of the African Americans. Reconstruction was a first attempt for African Americans to gain social justice. The Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th Century fought against Black prejudice and violence, only this time, social justice was truly gained.
<Christopher Kim Chatsworth High 11th Grade