During the reconstruction America was divided into two parts, north and south, and often times people wonder which part of the country is the reason the reconstruction was crushed. The reconstruction was the time period between 1865-77 when radical republicans were working to establish equality to freedmen in the south and help then establish state governments and rebuild their economy. A radical republican was someone with the views of a republican but they also supported rights for black people. The year 1876 was a big one for America, it was the 100th anniversary of the country’s symbol of freedom, the Declaration of Independence. A major election took place in 1876 that ironically resulted in no freedmen celebrating the freedom of the Declaration of Independence. Rutherford Hayes, a republican was running against Samuel Tilden, a democrat. Tilden won the popular vote but not the electoral vote. Freedmen dreams of becoming equal were crushed when Rutherford Hayes was elected president. Hayes was granted president in the Compromise of 1877, all he had to do was promise to remove federal soldiers in the south. This left freedmen with no help in stopping the Ku Klux Klan and no help in being given a fair opportunity to vote. Although the north and south both contributed in their own ways to the end of the reconstruction era, the south put an end to new opportunities for freedmen after the Civil War.
To end the reconstruction the south used acts of violence and intimidation. The KKK targeted carpetbaggers, or northerners who went south after the war to help the freedmen, and scalawags who were southerners that supported the carpetbaggers. The KKK attacked, threatened and killed anyone who supported the reconstruction. They feared freedmen becoming superior over the white population. Document A is a letter written by Albion Tourgee who was a scared, white northerner and carpetbagger. He explains the murder of radical republican Senator John Stephens who was violently murdered in a courthouse by the KKK. Also, there is an image of two people being hung and a donkey labeled, “KKK”. The two people in the picture are supposed to represent a scalawag and a carpetbagger that were just hung by the KKK or the donkey. The Ku Klux Klan was extremely violent to both black and white people. The south used this violence to try and end the Reconstruction.
Another way the south tried to end the reconstruction was to try and prevent freedmen from voting. When the KKK could not change the law that allowed freedmen to vote, they resorted to other ways to stop them. Before they could vote, freedmen were given literacy tests that were challenging because they could not learn when they were enslaved. They also used fear tactics to scare freedmen and reduce the republican vote. Document B is a testimony written by Abram Colby, a black freedman, who was beaten and attacked to change his vote. Freedmen like Colby were scared to express their political views after being threatened because they did not want to risk their lives. The image in Document B shows white men holding a gun up to a freedman’s head before he voted. This shows that white supremacy groups used violence and intimidation to create fear in the freedmen and change their vote. So even if a freedman passed the literacy test, he was most likely bribed and beaten into changing his vote.
The south was primarily responsible for the killing of the Reconstruction era. They used violence and threats to unfairly win the Election of 1877 which caused any hope of equality for a freedman to be crushed. White supremacist groups played a big role by killing and attacking freedmen until they were to scared to show up and vote. And when freedmen showed up to vote they scared and threatened them, causing a sway in votes. By the time the Reconstruction ended the north was focused on other issues, so it was the south who killed the reconstruction.
Letter- Albion Tourgee, Letter on Ku Klux Klan Activities. New York Tribune, May 1870.
Image- Independent Monitor, September 1, 1868. Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.
Testimony- Abram Colby, testimony to a joint House and Committee in 1872
Image- Harper’s Weekly, October 21, 1876.