Sources of Freedom Exercises

This chapter concentrates on the history of Reconstruction. Opening with an explanation of Special Field Order 15 from General Sherman that set aside "40-acres and a mule" for the freedmen, the chapter explores what freedom meant to the blacks and how the white American society responded to emancipation. The meaning of freedom for the blacks was many, and they relished the opportunity to express their liberation from slavery. Land became a contentious issue as blacks were ultimately denied free access to land. Highlighting this is theĀ Voices of Freedom, which features a petition from freedmen to Johnson in regards to land. Likewise, due to the devastation caused by the Civil War, many white farmers faced new poverty as tenant farmers and sharecroppers.

The politics of reconstruction is explored next, viewing Lincoln’s ten percent plan as moderate, Andrew Johnson’s plan as too lenient, and the Radical Republican’s plan as ground breaking. With Johnson’s many presidential pardons to ex-Confederates and the South’s implementation of Black Codes, the Republicans in Congress fought back with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Military Reconstruction Act. Johnson resisted and was impeached by the House, but avoided being removed from office by the Senate. The Fifteenth Amendment finished the Radical Republican’s reconstruction agenda, but split the feminist movement due to its failure to give the vote to women.

The chapter then looks at how reconstruction shaped Southern politics as blacks held over 2,000 public offices. The white Southerners, however, felt threatened by black suffrage and the Ku Klux Klan began a campaign of terror and violence. After the Klan was abolished through the efforts of President Grant, the South took matters into their own hands and began to "redeem" the South from perceived corruption, misgovernment, and northern and black control. Reconstruction ended in 1877, after a compromise was met between the Republicans and Democrats on the 1876 presidential election.

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