Radical Republicans and African Americans During Reconstruction

Subject: History
Pages: 2
Words: 552
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College

Reconstruction is a crucial period in the history of the US South, dating from 1865-to 1877. It is associated with significant changes in the Southern states after the defeat of the slaveholders in the US Civil War in 1861-1865, as well as the abolition of slavery. President Lincoln pursued a course of moderate Reconstruction aimed at reconciling the national harmony between the North and South. During the Reconstruction, the Radical Republicans and the African-American Rights Movement were more successful than defeated.

Radical Republicans in Congress favored significant restrictions on planter land ownership and the division of land in the South between freed slaves and white farmers, recognizing the equality of white Americans and African-Americans. In particular, African Americans themselves and former slaves demanded the confiscation of the planters’ land. For their part, the Southern farmers who had lost the Civil War sought to maintain their dominant position in Southern economics and politics. They were supported by many white Southerners who shared racist prejudices against African-Americans. In the 1860s, militia units, which involved many people of the African-American population, also played an essential role in implementing reconstruction measures and countering racist terror in the South (Guelzo 56). In June 1866, Congress passed the 14th amendment to the constitution, which prohibited state authorities from limiting the rights of African Americans during elections (Guelzo 56). In the elections to Congress, many former slaves took part in voting and supported the Radical Party, which strengthened its positions in the South for some time.

The participation of African-Americans in the elections of constitutional conventions, which drafted new constitutions for the Southern states, also played an important role (Shi and Tindall 5). During Reconstruction, measures were taken to give African-Americans the right to primary, secondary, and higher education. A layer of farmers and entrepreneurs among African-Americans began to form (Shi and Tindall 4). The completion of Reconstruction in the USA was the compromise of 1877, which symbolized the reconciliation of the elites of the North and the South (Guelzo 56). The Southern Democrats recognized the Northern candidate, Republican B. Hayes, in the presidential election of 1876 (Suryanarayan and White 573). It is also one of the achievements of the Republicans during Reconstruction, not to mention the acceptance of the rights of African-Americans.

Specific federal voting rights have given African-Americans the tools that immigrants have long used to realize the American Dream. In the United States, real political power is vested in the voters. Thanks to the vote and over time, legal and political equality for African-Americans has brought advances in almost every sphere of life (Suryanarayan and White 573). The emergence of an African-American middle class is considered an important social achievement, as is the emergence of many African-American entrepreneurs, scientists, and masters of literature and art (Shi and Tindall 3). The number of African-American high-school graduates has almost tripled, and poverty rates have almost halved during the Reconstruction. Although Americans continue to face racial issues, these issues are fundamentally different from those dealt with by the Radical Republican party during Reconstruction. The recognition of the rights of African Americans is one of the criteria for the progress the country has made. The other criterion is the emergence of a broad consensus that the shameful history of slavery, segregation, and barriers must become a matter of the past.


Guelzo, A. C. (2018). Reconstruction: A Concise History. Oxford University Press.

Shi, David E. and George Brown Tindall. America: A Narrative History. W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.

Suryanarayan, Pavithra and Steven White. “Slavery, Reconstruction, and Bureaucratic Capacity in the American South”. American Political Science Review, vol. 115, no. 2, 2021. Web.