Reconstruction and Its Aftermath: The South During Reconstruction
Meanwhile, in the South… • White Southerners were shocked by the return of federal troops. • Having complied with Johnson’s plan, they thought Reconstruction was over. • Black Southerners, on the other hand, were relieved and began registering to vote in huge numbers. • With former Confederates barred from registering, the right to vote was limited to many whites, so blacks now made up a majority of voters. • Nearly all of them registered Republican.
Carpetbaggers and Scalawags • During Reconstruction, many of the Northern soldiers and businessmen who had visited the South decided to stay because of the new economics opportunities there. • Most of them were registered Republicans. • Even the white Southerners who had sworn loyalty to the Union, tended to register Republican to prove their loyalty and prevent the wealthy planters from taking back control. • Southern Democrats hated both of these groups calling Southern Republicans “scalawags” and Northerners seeking work in the South “carpetbaggers” after the type of luggage they carried.
Slow Economic Recovery • The new governments quickly ratified the 14th and 15th Amendments, and by 1870, every Southern state had been readmitted to the Union. • In the 1870s, Reconstruction governments began creating public school systems for both races, which had not existed in the South before the war. • Within a few years, more than 50% of white children and about 40% of black children were enrolled, although their schools were usually separate. • Although industry and trade led to the rebirth of some Southern cities, most of the South remained dependent on agriculture. • During and after the war, taxes, debts, and a lack of laborers led many white farmers to have to sell their land. • Some instead divided it into small plots that they rented to workers, and these “tenant farmers” would pay a share of their crop as rent instead of cash, a system known as “sharecropping.”
Sharecropping • At first, sharecropping looked promising to both black and white landless farmers. • They hoped in time they would earn enough money to buy land for themselves. • In reality, these farmers often fell into serious debt. • Most sharecroppers had to borrow money from the landowners to buy tools and supplies for farming. • Few ever earned enough from the sale of their crops to repay these debts. • Debtors were forced to work for the person they owed money to until they paid.
Resistance to Reconstruction • Most Southern whites refused to support Reconstruction governments for a number of reasons. • Many considered the governments illegal since so many former Confederates had been prevented from voting or running for office. • Others were angry at the governments for raising taxes to pay for schools and other improvements. • Still others were upset by the corruption in the new governments.
Racism Continues • Underlying all of these complaints was the fact that most Southern whites could not accept the idea of former slaves voting and holding office. • Many were white supremacists who believed in the superiority of the white race. • The most radical turned to violence, forming terrorist groups against African-Americans. • The most well-known of these was the Ku Klux Klan • Their original goal was to drive out Union troops and allow white Democrats to regain control of the South.
Ending the Terror…Temporarily • In 1870 and 1871, Congress took action to end the wave of terror by passing the Enforcement Acts. • These laws made it a federal crime to deprive citizens of their civil rights. • President Grant sent federal marshals into the South to crush the terror groups. • These officials arrested hundreds of men, temporarily reducing the violence. • As white Democrats reclaimed Southern governments, however, they were much more tolerant and even supportive of these groups.