The Civil War was ensued by a period which came to be known as reconstruction. This period, which was between, 1865 and 1877 saw the United State of America at the time rebuild. Reconstruction is also a term that can be used to describe the process federal government used to admit back to the Union the defeated confederate states. However, the United States federal government efforts did not see success in all aspects; it realized success in some other areas (Jenkins 122). For instance, at the time, it saw the readmission of Confederate states to the Union, ratification of some amendments, and freeing of African Americans from slavery and, therefore, giving them an opportunity to restart new lives.
The end of civil war saw the reconstruction. As the term suggests, it reconstructed the lives of American slaves and offered them an opportunity of experiencing life they had never lived before. This owes to the thirteen, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments ratifications. This ratification saw to it that former slaves live new lives with legal rights to defend the actions they take. The reconstruction was also successful in its efforts to bring Confederate states back to the Union (Rhodes 86)
It is paramount to note that the period of reconstruction receive different interpretations in different lights. Most notable among these interpretations is the notion that reconstruction was a failure. This means that the federal government failed in its effort to provide former slaves with a solid economic and political base (Holt 45). However, the former slaves took the mantle themselves in an effort to free themselves fully. This essay, therefore, gives light into the actions the former slaves took in their emancipation.
The freed men for instance rejected the gang labor work patterns that slavery had made use. They formed a union called Freedmen’s Bureau which sensitized and forced planters to bargain for their labor. Contrary to what gang labor provided, the Strong backing from Freedman’s bureau enabled planters to have a greater bargaining power which led to a system of sharecropping. This in the end gave freedmen a greater social autonomy and economic independence. The planters, however, lacked capital and means of production such as tools, land, and animals which forced them to produce cash crops like cotton for the merchant and land owners. They entered into a crop line system which rendered them indebted. The indebtedness owed to poverty which was widespread, disruption of agricultural economy which was dependent on cotton, and the constant falling of cotton prices. This consequently led to the poverty which hit freedmen as well as planters.
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The reconstruction process is argued to have failed in its course because of beginning on a wrong footing. Booker T Washington who hailed from West Virginia and lived there during the reconstruction era for instance argued that the reconstruction experiment failed because it concentrated its emphasis on the civil and political rights the expense of self determination and building the economic infrastructure which were vital tools in emancipation of the black community. In an effort to do so, he led the Tuskegee community which advocated for the same (Woodward 34).
The 1960s neo abolitionists were not left behind in the emancipation of slaves who mainly comprised of blacks. Led by John Hope Franklin, Eric Foner, and Kenneth Stamp the neo abolitionists got a lot of impetus from civil rights movement in rejecting Dunning school of thought. Dunning in his school of thought argues that the reconstruction was a failure for a number of reasons. One of the reasons was that it took rights and freedoms from the whites who were qualified and gave them to unqualified blacks who were easily duped by corruption. The neo abolitionists held contrary views about reconstruction. They argued that it was a success only that it was not completed. They argued that the 20th century had to see its completion and achieve the goal of fulfilling the goal of full equality for African Americans. In their revolutionists’ efforts, they tried to minimize corruption and waste created by the Republican State. They further went ahead and asserted that the republican ideals backed the grave corruption and suppressed the rights of African Americans. The revolutionists downplayed the notion that Reconstruction failed because of blacks’ incapability to govern, since they did not dominate the state government, but it failed because the white race insurgent movement was after restoring white supremacy (Foner 922).
Women, on the other hand, were not locked out of the emancipation process; in fact, they contributed significantly in many ways in dealing with effects of post slavery effects. In collaboration with the freed men, women engaged in spirited efforts in locating family members separated by slavery, establishing independent religious institutions and autonomous churches, setting up schools and universities for themselves and their children, and participating in the local, state, and national political life. Jenkins further argues that these institutions further flourished in the later years. This also marked the era in which the women fraternity at all class levels gain a sense of self sovereignty and an autonomous world view which initiated formulas for change (Jenkin 56).
In conclusion, despite the period of reconstruction having weaknesses inherent in it, it also had some positive aspects. Scholars from all spheres have put forward their take on the period of reconstruction, some viewing it as a failure and others a success. This paper has briefly looked at the actions former slaves took in an effort too emancipate themselves in this era.
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