12-08g - XII. Reconstruction: The Promise The Different...

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XII. Reconstruction: The Promise The Different Meanings of Reconstruction We can begin our discussion of the different meanings of Reconstruction with the group of people who were the most dramatically affected: the former slaves . As under slavery, different individuals reacted in different ways. Some, especially the older ones, were fearful of the economic insecurity that freedom would bring. Others were simply in the habit of taking care of the plantations, and could not conceive of any other occupation. But many welcomed freedom. Some openly expressed their resentment and contempt for their former masters by leaving the plantations, taking what they wanted with them. Others left the security of plantation life in search of family members who had been sold off. Still others remained on the land and adopt the lifestyle of most white southerners – that of small farmers. America of the late nineteenth century was still a predominantly agrarian society, and most of the ex-slaves realized that in order to make a livelihood they would have to learn to farm the land as free people, without an overseer to make them work. So the acquisition of land was a major preoccupation. Northern black people also came South at this time. Very few of them went into businesses at this time, and most became teachers and political leaders. Another significant group in the South during this period were northern White people. Often referred to by southerners as “carpetbaggers” , they were also known as Radical Republicans. Many of them were ex-soldiers who remained in the South after the war, or civilians who came south. Some went into politics, some into business, and some were educators. Like the other groups they had a variety of motives. Some of them wanted political power, while others sought both political and economic opportunities. Many of them wanted the southern states to become more modern and industrialized. Some wanted to educate the freedpeople, and bring social democracy to the South. Usually, they were affiliated with the Republican Party, and they sought the votes of both white and black southerners to support their policies.
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This note was uploaded on 11/08/2011 for the course HS 101 taught by Professor Jones during the Summer '10 term at Montgomery College.

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12-08g - XII. Reconstruction: The Promise The Different...

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