Reconstructionand the Issue of Equality:How Hope Was Not Fostered After the Civil WarReconstructionwas the term given to the stage of American history where the Civil War wasconcluded and the country was forced to rebuild itself after the tragedies of acountry turned against itself. Yet themajor condition of Reconstruction was the nature of racism: The original goal of Reconstruction was tocreate a country where both white and black citizens were literal equals,rather than socially dissimilar. Indeed, those who believed strongly in Reconstruction insistedthat: There had never been an age likethis one before and there would never be one again.
(McPherson: 1982) However,while the conditions of Reconstruction were suitable for the achievement ofthese goals, they did not come to pass. The overall conditions of racism in the country rose up, driving downthe hope that black citizens and progressive whites felt concerning the stateof racial relations. The states in theSouth were particularly opposed to the acceptance of blacks as their social andpolitical equals. Soon after the Civil War was concluded andReconstruction begun, new laws began to surface in U. S. politics.
These laws made it quite evident that manypeople wished to promote a condition known as separate but equal, whereblacks and whites were legally equal but could be kept physicallyseparate. These conditions were knownas the Jim Crow Acts, where the disfranchisement of the United States allowedfor the promotion of acts that kept blacks and whites completely apart. According to legal standards, there must becomparable facilities for both races, but these facilities need never be used byeither blacks nor whites, depending on which facilities were discussed. The separation went so far as to extend notjust to separate restrooms but all the way down to separate mirrors in public places! One black writer remarked on the situationthat: The extraordinary thing about the wallthat fear built is that it is of so recent an origin. There were no separatebut equal privies in slavery time. Nor, as C.Order now
Vann Woodward has shown in hisexcellent book, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, were there separate but equalrest rooms for a considerable period thereafter. (Foner: 1989) Thesecodes were protested many times by the black communities, which were rapidlygaining some form of power in the North but were basically little above freedslaved in the South. This was alsorepresented in the Black Codes, or a series of laws that were believed toestablish order in the African- American communities. These Black Codes were used to createlegally- binding states of wedlock for blacks living in relationships, or thosewho the white public presumed to beliving in such relationships.
Theselaws also created legal protocols for the ownership of children of blackparents. However, above all else theBlack Codes prohibited the marriage of white people and black people. In addition to this, the Black Codes alsoestablished the legality of actions taken by black citizens, and the actionsthat could be taken against them if it was found that they had somehow violateda law. The Black Codes first went intoeffect in South Carolina in 1865 and were quickly adapted by many other Southernstates. Perhaps the worst part of Reconstruction,however, was the fact that the U.
S. government did not go to any steps topromote or preserve the situation created to aid the back citizens ofAmerica. (Stampp: 1967)While the black citizens finally believed that they would be treated asequals in the eyes of the law, and were indeed even promised this through the deeds of Reconstruction, the overallstate of the matter was that there was absolutely no enforcement of theseprogressive laws. The final say in thematter was that the white citizens of the United States determined the extentof the Reconstruction, and in many places the whites were racist and not infavor of promoting inequality.
Thefinal result of this was that racism was fostered in face of governmentstatutes that were supposed to completely destroy such behaviors. In conclusion, Reconstruction in the UnitedStates created a situation that greatly encouraged the black citizens tobelieve that equality had finally come to pass. However, rapid changes in the behavior of the white citizensestablished separate but equal laws that destroyed this hope. BibliographyFoner, E. (1989) Reconstruction: America’sUnfinished Revolution, 1863-1877.
NewYork: HarperCollins. McPherson, J. M. (1982) Ordeal by Fire: TheCivil War and Reconstruction. NewYork: Viking.Stampp, K.(1967) The Era .