failure, therefore, was the federal government's failure to fulfill its own goals and create a biracial democracy in the South. As a result, the nation's adjustment to the consequences of emancipation would continue into the twentieth century. The Reconstruction era left some significant legacies, including the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments, both products of an extraordinary chain of postwar political crises. Although neither amendment would be used to protect minority rights for almost a century, they remain monuments to the democratic zeal that swept Congress in the 1860s. The Reconstruction years also hold a significant place in black history. During this brief respite between slavery and repression, southern blacks reconstituted their families, created new institutions, took part in the transformation of southern agriculture, and participated in government, for the first time in American history. The aspirations and achievements of the Reconstruction era left an indelible mark on black citizens, as is vividly conveyed in an excerpt from a federal document. In the 1880s a congressional committee investigating southern labor conditions solicited the testimony of James K. Green of Montgomery, Alabama, a black politician during Reconstruction and subsequently a carpenter and contractor. At the end of the war, Green reported, "I knew nothing more than to obey my master, and there were thousands of us in the same attitude, that didn't know the Lord's prayer, but the tocsin of freedom sounded and knocked at the door and we walked out like free men and we met the exigencies as they grew up, and shouldered the responsibilities." Green's proud memory of blacks' achievements reflected one kind of postwar experience. Consigning the Reconstruction era to history, other Americans of the 1880s turned their energies to their economic futures –to their railroads, factories, and mills, and to the exploitation of their bountiful natural resources.