Reconstruction was the time period between 1866 and 1877 when radical republicans were working to establish equality and opportunity to the south and helping them rebuild their states government and economy. Radical republicans had the views of a republican but what made them different was they supported the rights of blacks. In 1876, the year reconstruction ended was an important year for America; it was the 100 year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence which symbolized freedom and new opportunities for Americans. Ironically that year, the election of 1876 crushed the hope for black Americans when republican, Rutherford Hayes was elected president. The compromise of 1877 granted Hayes presidency if he promised to remove the last federal soldiers from the south which left the blacks with nothing to stop the Ku Klux Klan and no one to prevent them from facing literacy and poll tests. When it comes down to it the north and south both contributed to the end of the reconstruction era but, the South was responsible for the total end of reconstruction.

In the South, a major problem that blacks faced was violence. A prime example is the Ku Klux Klan who terrorized blacks and their families in order to keep them from achieving any form of superiority over whites. Document A is a letter written by Albion Tourgee who is a white northerner and carpetbagger. In his letter, Tourgee explains how Senator John Stevens was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in grand jury room of courthouse and how he is scared he is going to be next because the KKK are targeting whites too. Also included in document A, there is a picture of two people being hung and a donkey labeled “KKK”. The two people in the picture represent a scalawag and a carpetbagger who have just been hung by the donkey (the KKK). Scalawags were southern whites who supported carpetbaggers and freedmen and carpetbaggers were northerners who went south after the civil war to help freedmen and reconstruction. This shows the violence the Ku Klux Klan brought upon blacks and whites like Tourgee which is one main reason why the south was responsible for the end of reconstruction through acts of violence and threats.

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Not only did blacks face physical violence, the south also targeted African American voters and government officials. Blacks were given literacy and poll tests to make it harder for them to vote because in the south, blacks had the majority with about 100,000 more voters. Abram Colby was a black who was attacked for voting. He wrote a testimony in a joint house and senate committee in 1972 (document B) about how he was threatened to vote for whites and attacked. This shows how white supremacy groups also used violence to make sure blacks were inferior to them. Also in document B, the picture shows two whites holding a gun to a black man’s head to get him to vote for the white’s candidate.  When white supremacy groups such as the KKK couldn’t change the law, they used other tactics to prevent blacks from voting such as literacy and poll tests. As if it wasn’t hard enough for a black to vote with the tests they had to pass, they were threatened, beaten and bribed by whites when they actually could vote.

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Black’s hopes for equality and opportunity was ended by the South and their violent actions, threats and bribes. The Ku Klux Klan was the most everlasting white supremacy group which killed and threatened blacks and their rights. Whites in the south also made it nearly impossible for blacks to express their political opinions because they were scared of getting killed. These reasons are why the South was responsible for the end of the Reconstruction era.

Works cited:

Document A

letter:

Albion Tourgee, Letter on Ku Klux Klan Activities. New York Tribune, May 1870.

picture:

Independent Monitor, September 1, 1868. Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

Document B

testimony:

Abram Colby, testimony to a joint House and Committee in 1872.

picture:

Harper’s Weekly, October 21, 1876.

 

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