Despite they were illiterate or because theyweren’t
Despite many hardships that remained from the antebellum state ofthe union, reconstruction was a socially and constitutionally revolutionaryperiod. The attempts to deter black voters were greatly outweighed by thenumbers of blacks voting, as well as the laws that were passed to protectthe rights of American citizens, black and white alike.The years after the war saw a rise in the number of human rights lawsthat were passed, most of which were primarily focused on blacks, butincluded whites as well.
In document D, Gideon Welles stated that thenational government didn’t hold the power to grant suffrage to anyone, norhad it shown any interest in the matter. Because of this, the stategovernments were able to enact black codes which restrained citizens, bothblack and white, from voting because they were illiterate or because theyweren’t of a high enough economic status. This later changed as blacksbecame more active in government and voiced their upset to the nationalgovernment, as shown by Document C. Because of petitions like these, thenational government banned the black codes, allowing blacks from everystate to vote.
Political cartoons such as Document G showed the progressthat was being made with black voters, despite the lack of secret ballots. With all the newly freed slaves as well as freedmen, land was in desperateneed in order to survive and to support a family. The Petition to theCommissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau and the President (Document E)cried out for the opportunity to legally own land, and showed the progressionof the American government in supporting the freedmen and their wellAfter the Thirteenth Amendment was passed in order to ban slavery,many more revolutionary Constitutional changes were put in place. Theestablishment of a national bank helped to strengthen the ties betweennorth and south by using a standard currency with a set worth, as SenatorJohn Sherman claimed in his speech to Congress in 1863 (Document B). Ina slightly less revolutionary viewpoint, the black codes were enacted, whichtried to return freedmen to their indentured state and also attempted toimpede the path of black suffrage by establishing a mandatory literacy testwhich had to be passed in order to vote. The Fourteenth Amendment, whichgranted citizenship to freedmen followed, and soon afterwards, The CivilRights Acts of 1866 were established, which invalidated the black codes andhelped to revolutionize the post war era by eliminating the anti-freedmenlaws. Finally, the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified in 1869, and prohibitedthe denial of suffrage due to skin color.
In many ways, the reconstruction wasn’t revolutionary. Blacks werestill greatly discriminated against, and weren’t given equal monetaryopportunities. The crop lien systems and crop sharing systems of farmingfurther deterred their interests by returning a sense of servitude to the landowner, and set back their funds even more. This benefited the white men,as they were the majority of the land owners, and changed the socialstanding of blacks very little. Unlike the social changes, the constitutionalchanges were very revolutionary. Because of the radical laws that wereratified in order to protect blacks, they were free to the same opportunitiesas whites.
Many freedmen held public office in once slave states, ownedAlthough the social aspect of the post-Civil War era changed little, theConstitutional aspect greatly altered the future of our country, and helped tochange how we relate to each other in modern society. Without the lawsratified in this period, our country might not have become what it is today,and that is revolutionary in itself.Bibliography: