Use these links to return to the page you got here from or to investigate other issues related to this topic. If the Civil Rights Movement is new to you, you can visit our dictionary page from any page in the entire web site by clicking here.
The time after the Civil War was called Reconstruction. It lasted from 1865-1877. It started near the end of the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln proposed a plan for Reconstruction. This plan was to rebuild the South and bring states back into the Union.
Under Lincoln's plan, Southerners who took an oath saying they would support the Union would be granted a pardon. The terms of the Reconstruction plan allowed southern states to form new governments and constitutions, as long as 10% of their voters supported the Union. The 1860 presidential election would be the basis of the 10% of voters. Also, the new state constitutions could not allow slavery. Almost all Northerners thought that Lincoln's plan wasn't harsh enough, because they thought that Southerners should get more punishment for trying to secede from the Union.
Congress wanted people to take an oath of loyalty. They thought at least one half of all voters in a state should take this oath before Reconstruction could take place. This brought about the question of who should make Reconstruction policies, Congress or the President of the United States?
On April 9, 1865 the Civil War ended. Lincoln was assassinated a few days later and Vice President Andrew Johnson became the new president. Johnson came up with his own Reconstruction plan in May 1865. His plan offered pardons to every single southern white, not including the main Confederate leaders and rich Confederate supporters. The southern states that were defeated were to hold conventions and start new state governments. These new state governments had to abolish slavery and agree to be loyal to the country if they wanted to rejoin the Union. New state governments were started in the summer and fall of 1865.
The South eventually rejoined the North in 1870. The first of the 11 southern defeated states to be readmitted into the Union was Tennessee.
Political Power Won and Lost
During Reconstruction, Blacks earned the right to vote in the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 and 1868. Blacks had joined a political organization near the end of 1867. Even though voting was restricted to men, children and women participated at almost all of the political events. The Reconstruction Acts also required all people who were at the right age to vote, no matter if you were black or white, to have the chance to be elected delegates to state conventions that would write the new state constitutions. In 1867 and 1868 at the constitutional conventions, out of all the delegates, one-third of them were black. At the South Carolina convention, the majority were black. Blacks were even elected sheriff, mayor, and prosecuting attorney. They also filled many local posts and held many other jobs such as justice of the peace and superintendent of education.
The first black to be elected to the United States Senate was Hiram R. Revals, in 1870. Blanche K. Bruce was sent to Washington in 1874 and was the last black American to serve in the Senate until Edward Brooke was elected by Massachusetts in 1966. When Reconstruction ended, the political power Blacks had won ended, too. The Union Army stopped Southerners from not allowing Blacks to vote. After the Union Army left and Reconstruction was over, Blacks were again not allowed to vote by racist Southerners who thought Blacks shouldn’t be treated as equals.
Reconstruction governments needed help from the North to survive. By the 1870's most of the northerners began losing interest in Reconstruction. Slowly the United States soldiers were removed from areas where Reconstruction was in place. In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes was elected President of the United States. He agreed to remove the rest of the federal troops in Reconstruction governments. This was the end of Reconstruction. Eventually all of the rights that Blacks had won during Reconstruction were taken away by southern Whites who regained control of their state governments.
If you want to be absolutely certain you've looked at every page on our website, check out our site map.
This website is designed to be viewed using Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.