Reconstruction was not a success because while one of its aims was to protect the civil rights of African-Americans, the mentality of the South did not change much, which is evident in the enforcement of Jim Crow laws. For instance, some states enacted difficult voting prerequisites. In addition, the Ku Klux Klan was able to operate in the South. Moreover, there was not enough capital for rebuilding after the war because the eradication of slavery had led to the per capita income of the region dropping by almost fifty percent. Furthermore, the collapse and the inefficacy of the Freedmen’s Bureau meant that many black people were free, but they had no property. Most of them were deprived and landless. As one freedman noted, the setting free of blacks did not give them “a dollar,” “a foot of land,” or even the means to get the next meal.
Several groups had a stake in Reconstruction. The first was the Southern whites. They wanted blacks to be akin to the old free southern blacks, which meant free but without any rights. They almost reached this goal with the help of Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan. Consequently, after Reconstruction collapsed, many people treated blacks as second-rate citizens. Further, the Southern blacks also had a stake in Reconstruction. Many of them were former slaves freed after the Emancipation Proclamation. They needed lands so that they could make a living. However, that was not going to happen, even though the radicals in the Congress did not have much power, because many people, even in the North, did not want to lose their property rights. The Northerners were also stakeholders in Reconstruction. They wanted to get rid of the last vestiges of slavery in the South. The Northerners managed to suppress the power structure in the South for some years, but that stopped with the end of Reconstruction. Lack of goodwill by President Johnson played a large part in the aforementioned process.
From the long-term perspective, while Reconstruction aimed at stopping slavery, it did not succeed in much else. In the South, Jim Crow laws came into effect. Moreover, many blacks remained economically disenfranchised. This is because many of them had no land, and they had to sign disadvantageous contracts with their former masters. The devastation the war brought left a permanent impact on the Southern economy as the region lost almost half of its per capita income. Reconstruction also contributed to the present North-South divide in American political life.
In conclusion, Reconstruction was a failure as it barely achieved any of its goals. The stakeholders of Reconstruction were the Southern whites, the blacks, and the Northern whites. Lastly, the era had the effect of embittering the whites in the South, who responded to Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan. The blacks, in their turn, remained economically disenfranchised due to the aforementioned process. The North-South divide in American politics became apparent and remains to this day.
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