U.S. Reconstruction Period | Social Studies
The years following the Civil War are an important part of the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Social Studies subtest. America saw enormous change in culture and politics during this time.
These were the years of the “Old West,” cowboys, Indians, and railroads. This was also the age of big fortunes, large businesses, labor union struggles, and immigrant workers in the North. As events in the West and North entangled with those in the South, the Reconstruction Period began.
PBS.org states that the goal of Reconstruction was to readmit the South on terms that were acceptable to the North. This included full political and civil equality for African-Americans. Follow these Reconstruction highlights as you study for the TASC test Social Studies subtest:
Reconstruction Points of Importance
President Lincoln and the Abolishment of Slavery
- President Abraham Lincoln started planning Reconstruction in the South during the Civil War to bring unity to the nation as quickly as possible.
- In December 1863, President Lincoln offered a plan for Reconstruction that required the States’ new constitutions to prohibit slavery.
- In January 1865, Congress proposed an amendment that would abolish slavery in the United States.
- Almost a year later, on December 18, 1865, Congress formally abolished slavery by ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
A Shift in Political Power
- The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865.
- President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated less than a week later.
- Vice President Andrew Johnson continued President Lincoln's policies and announced his own plans for Reconstruction.
- President Johnson required Southern states to take a vow of loyalty to the Nation and abolish slavery before they could be readmitted to the Nation.
Struggle for Freedom
- Southern legislatures passed laws that restricted the civil rights of former slaves.
- Mississippi was the first state to institute laws that abolished the full civil rights of African-Americans.
- Other states quickly adopted their own versions of the laws. These laws resembled the old system of slavery, such as forced labor.
- The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands was organized to provide relief and assistance to former slaves. This included health services, educational services, and abandoned land services.
- However, most states continued using the black codes and, therefore, treated newly freed slaves as second-class citizens.
- In 1866, the Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress, which outlined a number of civil liberties, including the right to make contracts, own and sell property, and receive equal treatment under the law.
- Ending the era of Reconstruction, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment in 1867, which was designed to provide citizenship and civil liberties to the recently freed slaves.
Fun Fact: According to Howard.edu, after the era of Reconstruction, African-Americans became teachers and ministers, and more than 100 African-Americans held public office.