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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

American History: The Civil War and Reconstruction: Aftermath of the Civil War

Guide for Library Research on the Civil War and Post-Civil War Reconstruction

The Ten-Percent Plan

The Ten-Percent Plan

The Ten Percent plan was a Reconstruction plan for the south put forward by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. The basics of the plan were that a state would be readmitted when 10 percent of its 1860 voting population had taken an oath of allegiance to the Union and accepted the end of slavery. Only high rank Confederates such as army officers and government officials would be exept from a full pardon for their role in the conflict. The plan was deeply unpopular with Radical Republicans in Congress who felt it was much too lenient towards the Confederates.

Radical Republicans

Thaddeus Stevens Speech to House of Representatives on Johnson Impeachment by Harpers Weekly

Thaddeus Stevens Speech to House of Representatives on Johnson Impeachment by Harpers Weekly

 

The Radical Republicans were a faction of the Republican party that sought to impose a harsh version of Reconstruction over the former Confederate states following the Civil War. They were also very supportive of establishing and protecting the civil and voting rights of the newly freed Black population of the south. Following Lincoln's assassination and particularly during the Andrew Johnson's presidency, the Radical Republicans largely influenced the direction of Reconstruction. The high point of their power was the impeachment of President Johnson which failed by one vote. They splintered as a political movement within the Republican party once Reconstruction ended in 1877.

Thaddeus Stevens

Thaddeus Stevens

Thaddeus Stevens
April 4, 1792 – August 11, 1868

Thaddeus Stevens was one of the main leaders of the Radical Republican faction in Congress during Reconstruction. Stevens was an opponent of slavery before the war and after the war sought to secure the rights of the newly freed population in the former Confederacy. He was a political enemy of President Andrew Johnson and played a major role in bring about the failed impeachment proceedings against him.

13th Amendment

13th Amendment Engraving on Exhibit at Lincoln Heritage Museum

13th Amendment Engraving on Exhibit at Lincoln Heritage Museum

The Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constituion was ratified in December 1865. It abolished slavery in the United States.

14th Amendment

14th Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution was adopted in July 1868. The amendment addresses issues of equal protection and due process under the law. The amendment formally defines citizenship in the United States and protects citizens civil rights from being denied by the federal and state governments. Ratification of the amendement was a requirement for readmission into the Union and the amendment itself was bitter contested before it was finally adopted.

15th Amendment

Print Celebrating the Passage of the Fifteenth Amendment in February 1870

Print Celebrating the Passage of the Fifteenth Amendment in February 1870

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in February 1870. It prohibits federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on race.

Slaughterhouse Cases 1873

Slaughterhouse Cases 1873

The Slaughterhouse Cases, a collection of three similar cases that were decided by the Supreme Court in 1873 was the first time the 14th amendment was interpreted by the Court. They ruled that a citizen's rights as protected by the Constitution were limited to what the Constitution spelled out and did not include rights given by many individual states. So in the cases here, where a variety of slaughterhouses contested the right of their states to create a business monopoly, the Court ruled that it was not unconstitutional for the states in question to do so.

Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

On the night of April 14 1865, while watching a play at Ford's Theatre with his wife, Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head by actor John Wilkes Booth. He died the next day, April 15 1865. Lincoln was the first President of the United States to be assassinated.

Reconstruction

Reconstruction

Reconstruction refers to the period immediately after the Civil War from 1865 to 1877 when several United States administrations sought to reconstruct society in the former Confederate states in particular by establishing and protecting the legal rights of the newly freed black population. Historians consider Reconstruction to be a total failure as the former Confederate states did not recover economically from the devastation of the war and the Black population was reduced to second class status with limited rights enforced through violence and discrimination.

Freedmen’s Bureau

Freedmen’s Bureau

The Freedmen's Bureau was a government agency that operated during the period of Reconstruction. It was officially titled the Bureau of Refugees, Feedmen and Abandoned Lands and was created by President Lincoln in 1865 with the intention to aid the newly freed population in the south. The Bureau operated as part of the Department of War (now called the Defense Department) and was originally intended to last one year. Its mission however was expanded to include duties such as education and employment of the newly freed population. The Bureau continued to function until 1872 when Congress shut it down.

Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Impeachment of Andrew Johnson by the Senate 1866

Impeachment of Andrew Johnson by the Senate 1866

 

In 1866 the Radical Republican Congress sought to remove President Andrew Johnson from office. This was part of the power struggle between Johnson who sought highly lenient policies towards the former Confederate states and the Radical Republicans who wanted a harsher version of Reconstruction as well as more forceful protection of the rights of the newly freed southern black population. Ultimately the impeachment, which was not popular or supported by the general public, failed by one vote.

Reconstruction Act of 1867

Reconstruction Act of 1867

In 1867 Congress passed a variety of Reconstruction Acts that were meant to govern how the former Confederate states would be readmitted to the Union. The south was divided into five military districts. The conditions given for a state to be readmitted to the Union were that an extended loyalty oath be taken before any voter was allowed to register to vote and then that the state in question was required to hold a state level constitutional convention. The convention would specifically have to ratify the 14th amendement as well as a provision that allowed for black men to vote to be allowed to vote.

Panic of 1873

Black Friday 1873

Black Friday 1873

The Panic of 1873 was an economic depression that lasted from 1873 to 1879.

Compromise of 1877

Compromise of 1877

The Compromise of 1877 was a poltical deal between the two political parties in which Democrats agreed not to object to the election of Republican Rutherford B. Hayes over Democrat Samuel Tilden on the condition that military rule in the remaining three states of the south still under occupation (South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana) was ended. Hayes removed the troops after becoming President. This marked the formal end of Reconstruction.

Jim Crow Laws

Jim Crow Laws

After the end of Reconstruction, racial segregation laws were enacted. These laws became popularly known as Jim Crow laws. They remained in force from the end of Reconstruction in 1877 until 1965. The laws mandated racial segregation as policy in all public facilities in the southern states. The facilities were supposed to be "separate but equal" but in effect were inferior, creating a situation of economic and social disadvantage. In 1913 President Woodrow Wilson extended segregation to the military and to federal workplaces. 

Black Codes

Black Codes

In 1865 and 1866 southern states pass "Black Codes" which were laws to restrict the freedom of Blacks in the region. In the north these codes were viewed as a way to get around the 13th amendment and to allow slavery to exist under a different name. The defining feature of the post-Civil war Black Codes were vagrancy laws which allowed for the newly freed Black population to be arrested and sentenced to hard labor. In 1866 the Radical Republican congress reacted by placing the south under military rule as part of their program of Reconstruction and to pass various laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the 14th Amendment. Military reconstruction would last until 1877.

Ku Klux Klan

Ku Klux Klan March in Washington D.C. 1925

Ku Klux Klan March in Washington D.C. 1925

 

The Ku Klux Klan or KKK is a violent extremist group. It has had three different manifestations in three different eras. The first era, when the group was founded, was in the aftermath of the Civil War, particularly during Reconstruction. The Klan operated as a vigilante group that targeted newly freed black populations and Republican politicians in the Reconstruction governments of the former Confederacy. Though it was officially disbanded in 1869, it continued to function well into the the early 1870s. The Federal government passed a variety of laws and acts to dismantle the Klan in that period which had some success. The KKK did not resurface again until the beginning of the 20th century.

Carpetbaggers and Scalawags

Carpetbagger by Thomas Nast

Carpetbagger by Thomas Nast

 

Carpetbaggers was the term used to refere to Northerners who moved to the south during Reconstruction to profit from the situation in the territory. The name was a referece to the carpet bag luggage that many of the Northerners used.

Scalawags were Southern whites who supported the Republicans and the various policies of Reconstruction in the south. The name was originally a reference to low-grade farm animals.

40 Acres and a Mule

40 Acres and a Mule

As part of the bill that created the Freedmen's Bureau, the Union Congress in the concluding months of the war began to debate on how to establish a system in which black ownership of land and property in the south could be encouraged. This policy became popularly known as "Forty Acres and a Mule". However under pressure from President Johnson and from the passage of Black Codes, the issue of ownership of land shifted to a a question of wage labor instead.

Sharecroppers

Black Sharecroppers Picking Cotton in Georgia by T.W. Ingersoll 1898

Black Sharecroppers Picking Cotton in Georgia by T.W. Ingersoll 1898

Sharecropping was a situation where a landowner provided a farmer with land and equipment including seed and tools to farm the landowners property. In exchange the sharecropper gave up a chunk of his harvest (usually one-third to one-half) to pay off his debt for using the land and for equipment provided. This system became widespread in the south following the Civil war and remained in force largely until the middle of the 20th century. Sharecroppers largely remained trapped on the land by debt and in crippling poverty.

Civil Rights Act of 1871

US Grant Attacking the Head of KKK 1871

US Grant Attacking the Head of KKK 1871

Following the Civil War as part of the Reconstruction period, various Civil Rights Acts (sometimes called Enforcement Acts) were passed to extend rights of emancipated slaves, prohibit discrimination, and fight violence directed at the newly freed populations. The Act passed in 1871 in particular was intended to combat the Ku Klux Klan specifically by suspending the writ of habeas corrpus. (Habeas corpus is the right to seek to take legal action to seek relief from unlawful imprisonment.) President Grant used the authority granted to him by this act to dismantle the KKK which did not resurface until the beginning of the 20th century.