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Content Reading Guide: Reconstruction Ends
During Reconstruction, radical and moderate Republicans turned on President Andrew Johnson and wanted him out of office. However, the only way they could remove him was if he did something worthy of impeachment. Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton; Congressed impeached him claiming he overstepped his power in firing Stanton. In reality, Congress just wanted to fire Johnson and were looking desperately for any excuse to do so. The House of Representatives impeached Andrew Johnson. The only way a President can be fully impeached and fired is if the Senate also agrees to the impeachment. The Senate did not agree, so Johnson stayed in power.
Ulysses S. Grant was a Civil War hero who fought for the Union in the Civil War. In 1868, Grant won the Presidency. Over 500,000 African Americans helped him get elected. This occurred due to the new 15th Amendment, which stated that nobody can be denied the right to vote due to their race. By 1870, all former Confederates were back in the Union. However, the South was devastated economically. Small farmers were ruined and property was no longer valuable. Hundreds of thousands of men died leaving families without financial stability. Many Southern towns were destroyed and burned to the ground during the Civil War.
The Republicans become divided into various subgroups during Reconstruction. Scalawags were white Southerners who joined the Republicans. They were small farmers who did not want the plantation owners to have power. Carpetbaggers were Northerners who moved to the South to help rebuild. Many felt they were corrupt and wanted merely to get paid for their services through taxpayer money. African American males now had new voting rights found in the 15th Amendment.
African American churches grew and ministers took prominent roles in African American communities. Due to the oppressive practice of slavery, 95% of former slaves could not read. In the South, Reconstruction funded new public schools to increase literacy among the former slaves.
The racist, terrorist, hate group known as the Ku Klux Klan arose in this era. Their goal was to advance their racist agenda and end Reconstruction. 20,000 men, women, and children died from the ruthless terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan. Congress passed the Enforcement Acts in 1870 and 1871 to try and halt the evil actions of the Ku Klux Klan. Due to this, Federal troops could be sent against Klan members. Despite these efforts, the hate group gained a massive following in the South.
The Bank failure of 1873 and a bad economy took focus off of the Reconstruction effort. In the election of 1876, Samuel Tilden, a Southern Democrat, won the Popular Vote. Yet, Rutherford B. Hayes, a Northern Republican, won the Electoral College vote. Southern Democrats agreed to accept Hayes without opposition, if the Northern Federal troops were evacuated from the South. This was called the Compromise of 1877. Without the 5 military zones, there would be no real way to enforce a Reconstruction plan to protect the rights of the former slaves. Reconstruction ended and the African Americans of the South were abandoned by the North.