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“No one man has the authority to give up one rebellion for any other man. We must imply begin with…discordant elements. Nor is it a small embarrassment that…the loyal people differ among ourselves as to…reconstruction”. This was part of Abraham Lincoln’s speech on reconstruction in April 11th 1865. Unfortunately Lincoln was assassinated before implementing his lenient plan on reconstruction. But congress did finally implement reconstruction from 1866 to 1877. It was to create a means which whites and blacks were to coexist in harmony after the civil war particularly in the Southern states. This paper argues that reconstruction did not successfully solve the problems integration of the black community in to the American society, protection of former slaves and racial violence caused by slavery and the Civil War.
To begin with, years after the civil war, one of the challenges the nation faced was creation of jobs and residentials’ for four million former slaves-integration. To solve this, suggestions by many the many was to rent land to the freed slaves and let them pay rent through sell of crops they produce. However, either these lands produced less or the contracts given to the slaves were extremely biased, and as a result, these freemen often found themselves indebted to their previous owners and forced to spend the rest of their lives paying-offs debts, another form of slavery. An excerpt from senate report 693, 46th congress, 2nd session proves this; a testament of former slave Henry Adams before the US senate about his early days as a freeman, “…we made five bales of cotton…did not get a pound of that. We made two or three hundred gallons of molasses…only got what we could eat…we split rails three or four weeks…got no cent for that”.
Additionally, renting out land as a form of integration did address the issue of unemployment among the black community. According to United States Census of 2010, from the Department of labor and statistics, unemployment rates broken down by race shows that the black community has the highest rates of unemployment. Moreover, statics from the department of Housing and urban planning shows that the percentage of poor and the number homeless black families is 23.3% and 1 in every 141 families respectively which is higher than the total percentage at 11% and 1 in every 403 families respectively. A report by Harvard’s Civil Rights Project titled, ‘A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools: Are We Losing the Dream?’ segregation for blacks in education in the 21st century is worse compared to 1968. In addition, these segregated in located in areas of poverty inhabited by Latinos and Black communities.
However, it is important to note that integration has also had some of its successes. First, of all the four million former slaves, a commendable number did finally get jobs and homes, through former masters who were honest in their contracts. Moreover, in as much as unemployment for the blacks is still a major issue, a good number of African-Americans are employment. Segregation in schools today compared to the 18th century, when reconstruction began shows a huge difference. In as much as integration did not address unemployment and poverty to expected levels, it has made noticeable efforts.
Secondly, the purpose of reconstruction was to protect former slaves. In as much as the 13th .14th and the 15th amendments were passed, African-Americans still lived in insecurity. According to a testimony by Abraham Colby, a former slave elected to the Georgia State legislature in 1872, the Klansmen offered him a bribe not go to the legislature. When he refused they whipped for 3 or more hours and then left for dead because of his political stand as a black man. It’s ironical because his tormentors were first-class citizens known in Georgia. In in testimony Colby said, ‘No man can make a free speech in my country. I do not believe it can be done anywhere in Georgia.’
However though, efforts carried out to protect former slaves are applaud able. The 13th, 14th and 15th amendments passed are some of the efforts. Amendment 13 in summary banned slavery. Amendment 14 ensured all children of former slaves became US citizens. And finally the 15th amendment gave African-Americans the right to vote. This were all efforts to ensure former slaves are incorporated in the US government and are protected.
Finally, integration did not address racial violence fully. This is because years after the Civil War, cities, states and governments south passed laws that restricted the freedom of African-American citizens. Often dubbed the ‘black codes’, these laws were passed in Opelousas, Louisiana just after the civil war. Basically, the laws were meant to ban African-Americans from accessing the town of Opelousas, renting property or living near the town, holding public meetings or even holding firearms. And even up to the 1950’s, white and blacks were not allowed to share public utilities. For instance, in 1933, the colored and the whites were not allowed to drink from the same fountain in Alabama. Moreover the Ku Klux Klan continued to kill African-Americans. This is according to Albion Tourgee’s letter on Ku Klux Klan Activities, New York Tribune 1870.
Fortunately, these ‘black codes’ do not apply not apply today. Racism in the 21st century is not as brutal as it was in the 18th centuries. Additionally, the Ku Klux Klan’s activities are no longer violence related. This is according to KKK Official Statement and Goal of 2014. As a result, racial discrimination continues to narrow.
In conclusion, we can say that in as much as efforts have been carried through reconstruction to address the problems integration of the black community in to the American society, protection of former slaves and racial violence caused by slavery and the Civil War, it is clear that the results give very little comfort. More still needed to be done. Even up to the 21st century, racism and discrimination still continues to be a major issue, like the case of George Floyd which resulted in protests across the US.