Hi there Eksolutions,
I understand about trying to make questions more focused when you
don't know much about the subject. Been there, done that...
Perhaps beginning with a time line isn't a bad idea, so let's start
with 1863, right in the middle of the Civil War, and go through the
1870's, just to see where that leads us.
Excellent time lines can be found on the web like this highly detailed
one from the Hyperhistory Article Display site:
and this brief overview type from North Park Univiversity in Chicago:
RECONSTRUCTION TIME LINE
1863: Lincoln's 10 Percent Plan. This was a plan for reconstructing
those Confederate states under Union control. He offered to pardon
Confederates who take an oath to support the Union. When ten percent
of a state's citizens eligible to vote in 1860 swore allegiance and
that state has abolished slavery, that state would be readmitted to
1864: The Wade-Davis Bill. Congressional Republicans outline their
plan for reconstructing the union. The Wade-Davis Bill requires each
state to abolish slavery, repudiate their acts of secession, and
refuse to honor wartime debts. It also stipulates that a majority,
rather than 10 percent, of voters in 1860 take an oath of allegiance
before a state could be reorganized. Finally, it specifies that anyone
who wanted to vote in a constitutional convention in a former
Confederate state must swear that he had never voluntarily supported
We can already see two factions developing here: the moderates lead
by Lincoln and the "Radical Republicans" who wanted to exact a little
1865: Freedman's Bureau created to protect rights of former slaves
and provide education and medical care for them. Bureau oversees
labor contracts between ex-slaves and employers.
Lincoln is assassinated and Vice President Andrew Johnson becomes
Johnson grants amnesty to former Confederates. His plan is to readmit
states after they convene conventions to formally disavow all articles
of secession, abolish slavery and forgive war debt.
Black Codes. Adopted by former Confederate states, deny former slaves
right to buy or rent land.
13th Amendment formally abolishes slavery.
1866: Black Codes strengthened despite President Johnson's veto.
Civil Rights Act of 1866 is passed, again despite Johnson's veto.
Lists the rights of citizens of the United States, including right to
make contracts, sue, give evidence in court, and purchase and sell
14th Amendment is proposed to states. It would guarantee the
citizenship of African Americans. Also cancels all Confederate debts,
prohibits any government from providing compensation for the loss of
slaves, and prohibits former Confederate officeholders from holding
public office. Although the amendment does not guarantee African
Americans the right to vote, it reduces the Congressional
representation of states that denied suffrage.
Southern states refuse to ratify 14th Amendment
Ku Klux Klan is begun.
1867: The First Reconstruction Act is passed, dividing the Southern
statesinto districts subject to Martial Law if they do not ratify the
Some 703,000 African Americans are registered as voters. In five
states-- Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South
Carolina--black voters make up a majority.
1868: 14th Amendment is ratified.
Ulysses S. Grant elected President.
1869: 15th Amendment proposed; would guarantee blacks the right to
1870: 15th Amendment passed.
1876-77: In return for southern conservative support for Republican
Rutherford Hayes's inauguration as president, the Republican party
agrees to withdraw all federal troops from the South, officially
As you can see from the timeline, the most obvious continuing effects
have to do with the Constitutional Amendments passed to address the
specific problems of the day. The Hyperhistory Article Display has a
collection of good essays addressing specific issues related to
different aspects of Reconstruction:
Arguably, the most important of those Amendments was the 14th, which
has had a strong effect, not only on civil rights, but in the
subsequent industrialization of the US after the Civil War and in the
corporate business world of the 19th and 20th centuries. (The 14th
Amendment is known as the "Equal Protection Amendment", and offers
everyone equal protection under the Constitution.) In 1886 in a case
between Santa Clara County in California and the Southern Pacific
Railroad, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are "persons"
within the definition of the 14th Amendment, and so are also entitled
to equal protection. This is a perfect example of one of those cases
in history when a law originally passed to provide protections to
society's weakest members was altered to provide protection to the
wealthiest, and as such, is probably THE most lasting evidence of
influences the Reconstruction. There is an excellent anonymous essay
on the 14th Amendment and corporate personhood here:
During Reconstruction our present-day political parties came into
their own. In the north there were the Republicans and in the south
there were the Democrats. That was the way things stood from
Reconstruction all the way into the late 20th century. The word
"Dixiecrat" was coined to distinguish those traditionally Democratic
southerners from other Democrats.
The most widely known band of Republicans were the "Radical
Republicans" who disagreed with their moderate and conservative fellow
party members both before and after the Civil War. Prior to 1860,
Radical Republicans condemned slavery as morally wrong and took an
uncompromising stand in opposition to its spread westward. During the
war, they argued for emancipation of all slaves. After the defeat of
the Confederacy, Radicals insisted that southern states not be
restored to the Union until full civil and political rights had been
extended to the former slaves. Their greatest legislative achievements
were the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment
guaranteeing that freed African Americans would become citizens, and
the Fifteenth amendment guaranteeing these citizens the right to vote,
the Reconstruction Acts, the Enforcement Acts, and the Civil Rights
As a result of this realignment of powers and political parties during
and after Reconstruction, the Republican party in the north became the
seat of power for many decades. This uniting of power in the
northeastern states resulted in what many term the Gilded Age of
America, roughly from 1870 to 1910. This was the era of the Robber
Barons, Industrialists and entrepreneurs like John D. Rockefeller, Jay
Gould, J. P. Morgan, Leland Stanford, Andrew Carnegie, Collis
Huntington...the list of familar names goes on and on.
The seat of this economic boom was the northeastern industrial states,
and the main result was that a national economy, based on northern
industries, was created. This economic boom-time in the north was
accompanied by economic chaos and destruction in the south. There is
an excellent discussion of the economic history of this era by
Clarence B. Carson at Liberty Haven:
Carson sums up his essay with a critique of the effects of
Reconstruction policies, and doesn't leave much room for questions by
"It was these and other interventions that contributed so heavily to
the ills most historians have identified in the latter part of the
nineteenth century: the greatly accelerated, hasty and shoddy railroad
building, the lopsided thrust to industrialization, the financial
shenanigans, the surge of farmers into Western lands that could not
support them, and the booms and busts that followed upon expansions
and reductions of the money supply. Economic freedom does no more than
provide opportunities; government intervention thrusts economic
development along political lines that are dangerous to the well-being
of the populace."
Another significant result of the concentration of economic power in
the northeast that relates directly to the Reconstruction was the
depopulation of farms and communities in the south. With increased
industrialization in the north, a booming labor market was created.
In the south, the economic chaos produced a huge number of unemployed
blacks. Jobs in the north attracted them, and so there was a
significant northward migration as a result of the Reconstruction.
Industrial cities grew, and with the influx of poor and working-class
people, the wealthier, former inhabitants of the central cities moved
to quieter surroundings, resulting in the development of suburbs,
while at the same time contributing to the deterioration of living
conditions in the central cities.
Civil rights issues began to assume greater importance during and
after Reconstruction and continue to be important. The 14th
Ammendment initially was a civil rights amendment, giving equal
protection under the law to blacks. The atrocities of the KKK also
contributed to the national cry for civil rights, and the entire
modern Civil Rights Movement that culminated in 1964 with the passage
of the Civil Rights Act of that year. There is a wonderful web site
operated by the National Park Service on historic places of the Civil
Rights Movement. The introduction to the site gives a good concise
history of the Reconstruction's role in the Civil Rights movement.
Here is a paragraph from the intro:
"Following the Civil War this country moved to extend equality to
African Americans with the passage of the 13th Amendment to the
Constitution (1865) which outlawed slavery, the 14th Amendment (1868)
which made citizens of all persons born in this country and afforded
equal protection of the laws to all citizens, and the 15th Amendment
(1870) which provided the right to vote to all citizens, regardless of
race (In 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified giving women the right
to vote). This promising start soon faltered during the tensions of
Reconstruction (1865-1877) when federal armies occupied the South and
So, in general and *very* briefly, the Civil War and Reconstruction
were pivotal in the formatioin of our modern day political parties,
the Civil Rights Movement and several Constitutional Amendments that
continue to affect our lives today, especially the 14th Amendment.
I hope this brief overview and the included links, along with the
search terms I used below, can act as a good foundation to help you
understand this pivotal part of American history better! If you need
clarification or more info on any point, don't hesitate to use the
Request Clarification button!
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