The reconstruction Essay-Era: A High Price for Freedom
The Reconstruction-era offered numerous opportunities to African-Americans, by attempting to secure the rights for ex-slaves, but the opportunities presented even more obstacles to them. The thought of freedom intrigued the African-Americans at first, but many of them quickly changed their minds after experiencing it. Henry William Ravenel, a slaveowner, proclaimed, “When they were told they were free, some said they did not wish to be free, and they were silenced with threats of being shot (Firsthand 24).” The Reconstruction-era effected the white settlers and their crops, as well, posing yet more obstacles for the already-struggling African-Americans. The hardships endured throughout this period of history were very immense and the struggle toward freedom and equality held a heavy price for all.
After the Civil War, many of the ex-slaves moved away from their masters with their families in hopes of owning their own land, but very few found success. Many of the slaves found that they had a harder time being free than they did during slavery. The African-Americans now had to fend for themselves but most lacked the money, land, and jobs to do so. Some of the ex-slaves decided to stay and work for their masters for money, food, and shelter, but many were not fortunate enough to have that option. Many African-Americans died because they could not support themselves or their families on their own. The ex-slaveowners were also in a bad position at this point because they lack the manpower to manage their land.
Henry William Ravenel, a former slaveowner, stated “Our Finances are in such a condition that universal discontent and real suffering exists (Firsthand 21).” The suffering endured by the white settlers provoked rage in a number of them and soon a group by the name of the Ku Klux Klan came into existence.
The Ku Klux Clan was a group consisting of white settlers that committed hate crimes against African-Americans, including acts such as hangings, lynching, and overall abuse of African-Americans. Some said the purpose of the Klan was to “keep the negroes from rising,” “keep fusses down and colored men and white women apart (Firsthand 15).” A man by the name of Jim Williams, the captain of a black militia unit, was brutally hung by members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1871 and this act led to the arrests of many Klan members, and the prosecution of Klan leaders (Firsthand 3). The arrests opened the public’s eyes to these atrocities resulting from Reconstruction and the existence of the Ku Klux Klan.
Throughout the Reconstruction period, there are recurring recollections of the Ku Klux Clan murdering and beating African-Americans but the significance of the murder of Jim Williams is that it exposed this hateful congregation of men and their intentions, helping to alleviate the African-Americans’ position at that point.
Aside from the Ku Klux Klan, other White Southerners did not support the idea of Reconstruction either. One White Southerner, named Caleb G. Forsey, stated, “I think freedom is very unfortunate for the negro; I think it is sad; his present helpless condition touches my heart more than anything else I ever contemplated, and I think that is the common sentiment of our slaveholders (Firsthand 37).” Caleb G. Forsey’s statement illustrates the helplessness of the ex-slaves to live and function on their own and shows that some of the ex-slaveowners felt slight compassion for their former slaves.
Other white settlers held much different views of the Reconstruction period, however, which lead to disputes between the two races. Reverend James Sinclair, another White Southerner, stated, “The poor whites are to-day very much opposed to conferring upon the negro right of suffrage; as much so as the other classes of whites. They believe it is the intention of government to give the negro rights at their expense…as the negro is elevated, they must proportionately go down (Firsthand 39).” This quote helps to emphasize the struggle African-Americans encountered living in society. The African-Americans’ safety was in question among white settlers holding the belief of being overrun by the African-Americans.
Even during the final stages of the Reconstruction-era, lynching of African-Americans was still taking place.
It is recorded that there were two hundred fifty people lynched .