Essay on Life in the South After the Civil War

Submitted By mrtrocksss
Words: 793
Pages: 4

After the Civil War, the government was controlled by the Radical Republicans. Supported by most Northerners and African Americans, they felt Lincoln’s initial plans were too forgiving and they favored a more extreme approach to governing. Their feeling was that the South had to be taught a lesson and could only be readmitted to the Union if they swore loyalty to the Union, denounced secession, banned slavery, and ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. Only pardoned whites would be allowed to vote or hold office. Lincoln was willing to compromise with the Republicans and he was well liked and respected by most of the nation, North and South. This changed after his assassination, when Andrew Johnson took office. Because Johnson’s views were much more extreme, believing the Southern leaders should be humiliated and opposing equal rights for African Americans, he did not have the support of the people or the Republican Party. His only supporters were Southern Whites, who opposed the Radical Republicans. Although even among the Southern Whites, there were some supporters of the Republicans, such as pro-Union business leaders and non-slaveholding farmers.

The Republicans pushed through the Civil Rights Laws, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and military occupation of the South. The Southern states were in strong opposition to this and Johnson tried to go around Congress, but failed and he was impeached, though not convicted. Most of the country supported the Republicans and they remained in control throughout Reconstruction, with Grant defeating Johnson in the election of 1868. Most Southern whites felt threatened by this legislation which gave African Americans their rights and were opposed to military occupation. As a result, they lashed out against the African Americans. White Leagues were established throughout the South denouncing the Civil Rights laws using violence against former slaves. With organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, many African Americans were assaulted and murdered without any real reason – there was no pattern to the violence; it was just random acts intended to frighten and control the African Americans.

White Southerners wanted to keep the African Americans under their control. They believed in White Supremacy and felt that only they really knew how to deal with the African Americans and the fate of the freed people should be left up to the South. The Southerners felt that they knew what was best for the African Americans and that they should be in charge of their lives. They felt the African Americans were happy being peaceful laborers with all their needs provided for by whites and that trying to turn them into self reliant citizens would have devastating consequences for the Southern economy. The African Americans were not considered as their equals and should therefore not be given their same rights as whites – they would never be the intellectual or social equal of the whites. Because of this, they saw the future for African Americans as one controlled by whites.

Black Southerners, obviously, felt just the opposite. They were ready to take their stand next to whites as their equals and wanted to have all the same rights…