|Date(s):||January 1, 1865 to December 31, 1877|
|Location(s):||Louisiana, United States|
|Tag(s):||Civil War, Reconstruction, Andrew Johnson|
|Course:||“U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction,” Richard Bland College|
After the Union won the Civil War the Southern economy was left in utter ruin. In an attempt to aid them in their reorganization and integration, the Northern government proceeded to send Union military generals and governors down to the South in order to assist them in reconstruction. However due to their fundamental indifference to Southern prosperity, and lack of concern for growing social tension between the African community, and Caucasians, as their involvement was done more so out of obligation, many of their implementations were done in vain. One such implementation was the establishment of the Freedmen’s Bureau created by Congress. This organization was responsible for providing freedmen with food, medicinal supplies, schooling, and employment opportunities. While approximately 4,000 children were able to attend schools via the bureau, in regards to their additional goals at aiding freedmen, they were not very successful. This was in part due to their desire to primarily focus on the prosperity of the Northern economy which was over seeing their first ever transcontinental railroad. In addition to this disinterest, many Northerns were divided as to how much assistance the South should receive, this was seen well upon looking at Andrew Johnson’s Administration.
Andrew Johnson was a Southern who favored complete integration with haste while many Republicans in his party opposed it; this caused a split within the party. So while the North began to blossom under its continuous industrial boom, the South ruled by a resentful one party political body that despised the North, began establish itself as a society deeply rooted in white supremacy; this was done in an attempt to hold on to their past as an institution founded on the ideology of racial superiority. With this ex-confederate bureaucrats began to terrorize freedmen preventing them from voting, obtaining land, and prospering. One of the most notorious organizations to arise was the Klu Klux Klan, a hate group founded by ex- confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest. In response to this the government did very little to protect its citizens as they showed little to no concern regarding their equality.
This indifference can best be seen by observing several court cases addressing the mistreatment of African Americans; the two most notorious being U.S vs Cruishank, and U.S vs Reese. In Cruikshank, a court annulled three individuals belonging to a white mob that had murdered 300 African Americans stating that they could not be convicted as the 300 individuals killed were not protected under the law. Chief Justice Waite contradicted himself as he stated “'That if two or more persons shall band or conspire together, or go in disguise upon the public highway, or upon the premises of another, with intent to violate any provision of this act, or to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any citizen, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise and enjoyment of any right or privilege granted or secured to him by the constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having exercised the same, such persons shall be held guilty of felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be fined or imprisoned, or both.” Knowing their familiarity with the law, their verdict was undoubtedly racially motivated. In U.S vs. Reese, an African American man was denied the right to vote after having been given an affidavit for not having been able to pay a voting tax on the premise of not having paid the voting tax, which he was denied access to. These instances of discrimination were not particular as they were pervasive throughout the entirety of the South. This was established well by Black Codes, which ensured that while African Americans were de jure free, while de facto they would remain in bondage. An example of the severity of the restrictions could be seen by noticing that in South Carolina, simply organizing oneself in a small assembly without the supervision of a white figure of authority, was enough to deem the community as “vagrants.”
So though America has had an elected African American President, socio-economic disparities and racial tensions between Caucasians and African Americans continue to be present in contemporary American society. This can be seen by the severe income disparity between the two demographics; one in every four individuals of African descent lives in poverty as opposed to one in every ten Caucasians. In addition to this, institutionalized racism and rampant police brutality continue to cause severe distrust of government and law enforcement agencies within African American communities. So what has been the fundamental cause of all of the inequality? While there are multiple factors that have contributed to America’s long-held struggle with race, the main factor that has prevented our society from progressing has been the failure of reconstruction shortly after the emancipation of African Americans after the civil war. With the American Civil War having reunified the Union, and liberated slaves from bondage, the North with their disinterest for the south, caused immense harm by failing to address the discrimination, and de facto slavery present in their society.