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Reconstruction: 1865–1877



Reconstruction of the South immediately followed the Civil War. Plans to bring the subdued Confederate states back into the Union began in 1865 with the war's conclusion and ended in 1877. In addition to peaceful readmission of the former rebel states, the goals of Reconstruction included integration of freed African Americans into society as citizens. A further aim was to physically rebuild infrastructure and property within the war-torn South. White Southerners resented federal government involvement throughout Reconstruction. Despite reconciliation and readmission of their states into the Union, many refused to accept African Americans as fully realized citizens and continued to restrict their civil rights.

At A Glance

  • President Andrew Johnson's plan for Reconstruction, modeled after President Abraham Lincoln's plan, was judged too lenient by Radical Republicans in Congress.
  • During the postwar years, Southern states passed black codes, which restricted the freedom of former slaves and ensured the availability of cheap labor.
  • Following years of conflict with Congress, President Andrew Johnson was impeached after defying the Tenure of Office Act.
  • The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were Reconstruction amendments that provided civil rights protections to formerly enslaved African Americans.
  • The Wade-Davis Bill, though vetoed by President Lincoln, served as a blueprint for less lenient, more stringent Reconstruction plans.
  • The Freedmen's Bureau, established in 1865, provided much-needed aid to former slaves and poor white people in the post–Civil War South.
  • During Reconstruction, Northern carpetbaggers and Southern scalawags took advantage of economic and political turmoil in the South for personal gain.
  • Following the Civil War, African Americans participated in politics, with many educated outside of the South elected to local, state, and federal public offices.
  • The presidential election of 1876 and Compromise of 1877 marked the official end of Reconstruction in the South.
  • Jim Crow laws were enacted across the South to restrict the civil rights and freedom of African Americans from 1877 to the 1950s.
  • The Ku Klux Klan, originally a social club for Confederate veterans, became a vehicle for violent resistance during Radical Reconstruction of the South.