In his seminal work The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Dubois famously wrote that the Civil War “left the Negro still a slave, bound to cotton fields and kitchens.” For Dubois and many other African Americans, the war was not just about freeing slaves from physical bondage, but also about ensuring that they would have full equality before the law. Reconstruction was supposed to be the process by which this would be achieved.
Unfortunately, reconstruction was ultimately unsuccessful in achieving its goals. Part of the reason for this was opposition from white southerners, who saw reconstruction as a humiliating imposition by the victorious north. But equally important were the divisions within the African American community itself.
On one side were those like Dubois, who believed that African Americans needed to take an active role in shaping their own destiny. On the other side were those like Booker T. Washington, who believed thatAfrican Americans should focus on economic self-improvement and leave politics to the white man.
Reconstruction in the North or South: Who Killed Reconstruction? “After the Civil War was over, the slave was set free; he stood in the sun for a moment before returning to slavery.” (W.E.B. Dubois). Because of the 13th amendment, all slaves were finally liberated after the Civil War. Other laws were passed, including: The 14th amendment granted black Americans citizenship and prohibited voting restrictions on basis of race The 15th Amendment had made it illegal to bar someone from voting due to their race So, who killed Reconstruction?
W.E.B. Dubois would say that it was the slave holders in the South, and he has a point. They were the ones who refused to let go of their power, and they riled up white Southerners with talk of “black crime” and “white supremacy.” But ultimately, it was the Northerners who abandoned the cause of Reconstruction, leaving the South to its own devices.
Reconstruction was a time where the country was trying to put itself back together again after such a devastating war. W.E.B. Dubois said that Reconstruction was “the brief moment in the sun” for African Americans because it was a time of hope and progress. Unfortunately, Reconstruction did not last long and it ended up being a failure. So, the question is, who killed Reconstruction? Was it the North or the South?
There are many reasons why Reconstruction failed. One reason is that there was a lot of violence against African Americans during this time period. The Ku Klux Klan was formed in 1866 and their main goal was to intimidate blacks and keep them from voting. They would often use terror tactics such as: burning down houses, beating people, and even lynching. In 1868, there was an election where Ulysses S. Grant was running for president. The Ku Klux Klan tried to stop African Americans from voting by threatening them and their families.
Another reason why Reconstruction failed is that the economy was not doing well during this time period. After the Civil War ended, the South’s economy was in ruins. They had to rebuild everything and it was a very costly process. The North also wasn’t doing too well economically because they were still trying to recover from the war as well. So, both the North and the South were struggling financially which made it difficult for Reconstruction to be successful.
The Reconstruction Amendments were implemented in 1866 after the Civil War to ensure equal rights for all people, especially black men. The northern states’ economic prosperity attracted hundreds of thousands of southern blacks who were slaves. Many troops set out from the South to help Freedmen and Reconstruction; they are known as carpetbaggers.
In the South, many people opposed these new ideas, making it difficult to put them into practice. Because it ended in 1877, rebuilding the United States was a difficult task. Reconstructing or reorganizing something is called reconstruction. Both North and South contributed to the end of Reconstruction; but resistance by southern individuals did more to bring it to an end. Northern indifference was one reason why Reconstruction had come to an end.
The carpetbaggers were not there to help the Freedmen, but to get rich quick. W.E.B Dubois was a famous civil rights activists that studied race relations in the United States and he argued that African Americans should focus on gaining political power and economic independence rather than social equality.
Social inequality was still very prevalent during this time, which made it difficult for Reconstruction to be successful. Although both the North and South contributed to the end of Reconstruction, southern resistance did the most to end it because of W.E.B Dubois’s ideals and social inequality.
Weary of the “Negro Question” and “sick of carpet-bag” governance… North began to rebel against Reconstruction measures (Littell). Blacks were seen as uncivilized by the North, according to an article by Heather Cox Richardson, titled The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901. They thought it would take time for them to acquire the white people’s ways.
W.E.B. Dubois argued that the “Negroes were not children… but men, who had fought for their country in a terrible war” (Littell). However, the North did not want to hear this because they wanted to get rid of the carpetbaggers and scalawags. They were also afraid of another Civil War happening. So, they let the South have their own way and pulled troops out of there. This is how Reconstruction ended; however, some people say it was killed by the Ku Klux Klan or other terrorist groups. W.E.B Dubois would say that it was killed by the North because they gave up on the Freedmen too easily and let the South have their way.
Northerners began to focus on their own problems, such as the Panic of 1873, which resulted in millions of job losses; even the president turned his attention away from Reconstruction’s issues. The resistance of the south also had a significant effect on its conclusion. Albion Tourgee, a North Carolina judge who was an active part of the Reconstruction movement, wrote about the Ku Klux Klan’s activities in the south in a letter. The writer believed that the KKK was targeting carpetbaggers like himself, so he addressed it to one such person.
He said that the Klan was targeting men who, “had never owned a slave or known any of the bitterness of the war.” The Klan wanted to restore white supremacy and they used violence to do so. They wanted to scare blacks into submission and keep them from voting.
The Ku Klux Klan was not the only group that was using violence; southern states also passed Black Codes which made it difficult for blacks to find work and own property. All of these factors led to the end of Reconstruction. W.E.B Dubois, an African American historian, believed that Reconstruction was a time when “the slave went free, stood a brief moment in the sun, then moved back again toward slavery.”
He thought that northerners lost interest in Reconstruction too soon and that if they had stayed involved, things could have been different for African Americans. Reconstruction was a time of hope for blacks, but it ultimately failed. W.E.B Dubois was right when he said that northerners abandoned the south and allowed white supremacy to return.