Even though it is important to understand the significance of the reconstruction period, it is also critical to get understand what that period entailed. Many concepts can be drawn from the chronology of the reconstruction period. However, one important concept that should not be ignored is that it was the period when critical debates that established the foundation of the current American society started. For example, this was the period when Americans started a sustained debate over who was an American and what rights they enjoy and possess, which formed the foundation of freedom and equality. As will be discussed in this essay, most of the American lives started to improve during the reconstruction period as policies that that tried to promote social and political rights were enacted.
First, the reconstruction period is believed to have changed the lives of African Americans, who were formerly slaves. The reconstruction period attempted to rebuild and transform South America after the civil war. It was also an opportunity to change the race relations throughout the country. The African Americans who were freed from slavery started to have changes that improved their lives (Roark, Johnson, Cohen, Stage & Hartmann 387). For example, the establishment of the Freedmen's Bureau in March 1865 gave the former slaves the opportunity to get more welfare relief, supplied food and medical services, and gave them the abandoned lands to settle in (Course Notes 7). The former slaves started to get jobs including managing the abandoned lands. Even though they were still poor due to lack of social and economic resources, the reconstruction period brought a relief to the African Americans.
Secondly, during the reconstruction period, the Republicans continually tried to promote and secure both social and political rights for the African Americans through legislation. Some of the major legislation used to achieve these goals include the Reconstruction Act of 1867, the 13th Amendment of 1865, the 14th Amendment and 15th Amendment of 1868 and 1870 respectively (Course Notes 8). These legislations were effective because they created the basis of equal rights and freedom that Americans still enjoy up to date. Roark et al. explain that the persistent agitation of the radical republicans together with the abolitionists created a political crisis that led to the creation of other policies that furthered the agenda of the Republicans of promoting social and political equality for the former enslaved race (471). The crisis that emerged between the Congress and President Andrew Johnson resulted in the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 as well as the 14th and 15th Amendments (Roark et al. 479).
However, the reprieve did not come easy as these newly acquired rights were constantly opposed by the White Southerners in the Congress. For instance, the Republican legislators who controlled the Congress refused attempts by the President, Johnson Andrew to vote a bill that could extend the Freedmen's Bureau in the South (Roark et al. 475). After a long struggle between the presidency and the Congress, the Republicans unanimously passed the 14th Amendment, which created a platform that guaranteed due process for the African Americans. The 14th Amendment provided the African Americans and other minority racial groups with the constitutional civil rights that aimed at guaranteeing them with equal opportunities before the law (Roark et al. 480).
In conclusion, the reconstruction period may have come as a result of the political struggle for the African Americans, but it also created a reprieve for the former slaves. The Republican legislators in the Congress passed policies that guaranteed the minority groups equality before the law. The creation of the Civil Rights Act, 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments created a better life for the African Americans.
Course Notes. "Reconstruction." SlideShow.
Roark, James L., Michael P. Johnson, Patricia Cline Cohen, Sarah Stage, and Susan M. Hartmann. The American Promise, Volume 2: From 1865: A History of the United States. Bedford, St. Martin's 7th Edition, 2012.
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