Reconstruction refers to the period following the Civil War of rebuilding the United States. It was a period characterized by great pain and endless questions. Some of the questions asked included who between Congress and the president would establish the terms and what the place of the freed blacks in the South was. This paper explores themes in U.S. history from Reconstruction to the present including equality, war, civil liberties, states vs. federal government, race, gender, and imperialism.
In 1865, the Union victory created equality for the four million black slaves on the south. However, the rebuilding process was met with a new set of challenges. In 1865 and 1866, when the U.S. was under the administration of President Andrew Johnson, southern restrictive “black codes” legislatures were formulated and implemented (Kaczorowski 865). The codes were to control the freed blacks’ behavior and their availability as a labor force. These codes enraged many from North America, and that led to the establishment of the Republican Party to fight for the freed blacks. It led to radical reconstruction where the blacks’ gained a voice in the government. The Southern legislatures established a union with the northern legislatures to help them pass a reconstruction act. It was majorly to ratify the 14th amendment with clearly stated that former slaves would be equally protected. In 1869, Congress approved the 15th amendment that integrated equality within American society. In 1876, the reconstruction period came to an end as the Republican-ruled the entire south and advocated for equality of the blacks. Two centuries later, both white and African Americans enjoy the equal services of the government.
Blacks’ slavery led to the Civil War according to U.S history (Kaczorowski 863). As the war began, slavery was legal within various districts around the country for example in the District of Columbia. The rights of blacks were infringed as they were forced to carry passes, pay unfair licensing fees when establishing a certain business, and would stay in-door at night. This situation forced southern legislatures to fight for the rights of the blacks. With time, the northern legislatures joined the black southern legislatures in the civil war to fight for the freedom of the vast black population. That led to rising and emergence of an anti-slavery movement that also pushed for the abolition of slavery within America. At the end of the Civil War, slavery was outlawed nationwide and the African American men would serve with valor in the American army and play visible roles in the country’s civic life. The population in the major cities such as Washington D.C was transformed by the migration of the former slaves. Also, real estate in the city boomed, and Washington became the modern city we know today.
Despite the abolition of slavery and the end of civil war, blacks were still faced problems such as poverty and inequality. This is because the white supremacists denied them their hard-won political rights and freedoms. This led to the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement to fight for the unfulfilled promises that the blacks fought for during the abortion of slavery and civil war. After fighting in the name of democracy in other countries, many of the black soldiers returned to the U.S. to fight for their rights and civil liberties and for the blacks. to achieve full citizenship. The Civil Rights Movement was all about legal action, nonviolent civil disobedience, and black militancy approaches aimed at achieving blacks’ civil liberties (Kaczorowski 863). With these strategies, blacks achieved their civil liberties evident in today’s America. For example, the African Americans now can vote freely in any election process.
State vs federal government issues were part of the disputes that led to the Civil War between 1861 and 1865. Many African Americans believed that the state governments had much power to make sensitive decisions of important issues such as slavery. For example, in some states, slavery was legalized, blacks were denied equal opportunities, and were deprived of their legal rights. As a result, most of the America Southern states seceded from the union. However, the northern states persuaded them to re-join the union in order to offer strong support. With time, the union achieved a solidified victory over the state governments. As such, the federal government had the most power to make important decisions and formulate policies. This is evident in the present-day U.S. where everyone has equal protection of the law. Moreover, no citizen is denied privileges and immunities of American citizenship.
Racism has existed in the U.S. since the colonial era when whites had legal privileges and rights over minority races. Minority races were denied acquisition to land, immigration rights, voting rights, right to education, acquisition of American citizenship. This was depicted during the blacks’ war against slavery. During slavery, blacks were denied the rights to access quality education, the right to free movement as their movements were restricted to certain areas, and the right to vote. With the rise of the southern legislatures, they advocated for the ratification of the 14th amendment that deprived blacks of their rights (Marable 146). With the support of the northern legislatures, the blacks achieved a victory over the racism act that had major concern in the U.S. As such, racism issues were eliminated. However, some racism cases as still being reported in the present-day U.S. For example, the majority of the present U.S white police officers often apprehend African Americans for minor offenses whereas whites who commit serious offenses are not apprehended.
Gender was another major concern in the U.S during the colonial era. The society was male-dominated, and thus, the female gender could not seize opportunities into various systems such as the political system. As a result, both the white and black abolitionists and women’s rights movements converged to begin a clash against gender discrimination. Women fought and struggled for a transformed nation and their victory led to the ratification of the 13th amendment. This not only enabled the women to seize some of the political seats but also ended the women maltreatment such as being forced to work only at their homes (Kessler‐Harris 32). With the women being elected to various political positions, women’s status has seen an advanced transformation from the colonial era to the present-day U.S.
American imperialism was a reality from the 1850s. During this time, various American businessmen decided to seek new international markets for their products. As such, the influence of social Darwinism increased in various parts of the world and this led to the belief that the U.S. is responsible for various countries’ democracy and industrialization. For example, the U.S. took control of the Hawaiian Islands and bought about industrialization on the islands. The American imperialism is displayed in the present world as they act as superiors by dominating larger part of the world’s technology, and have contributed to industrialization in some countries.
In sum, the U.S. has significantly transformed from the colonial era to the present day. Some of the key themes that highlight the transformation of the U.S. from the Reconstruction period to the present include equality, war, civil liberties, states vs. federal government, race, gender, and imperialism.
Kaczorowski, Robert J. “Revolutionary Constitutionalism in the Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction.” NYUL Rev. 61 (1986): 863., https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1465&context=faculty_scholarship
Kessler‐Harris, Alice. “Gender ideology in historical reconstruction: a case study from the 1930s.” Gender & History 1.1 (1989): 31-49., https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-0424.1989.tb00233.x
Marable, Manning. Race, reform and rebellion: the second reconstruction and beyond in Black America, 1945-2006. Macmillan International Higher Education, 2007., https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=f-1lDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA146&dq=U.S+history+race+reconstruction&ots=ND9G060hgw&sig=QPrrrVLX569f4Fy_KU-u5iRq3SE&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=U.S%20history%20race%20reconstruction&f=false