Crucial political and socio-economic processes took place during the 19th century in the USA. Topics of concern included the issue of slavery, which led the federation to crisis and Civil war. The ensuing consequence of these processes in the country was Reconstruction. Making attempts to change the situation, the country’s authorities faced a number of circumstances arising from an attempt to transform aspects of politics, economy, and society. The Civil war and Reconstruction forever changed the lives of Americans, and these topics are still the subject of research. The issues such as reintegration, the abolition of the slave system, and constitutional changes to equalize human rights will continue for centuries and are still acutely felt by society.
The Civil War (1861-1865) and the subsequent Reconstruction in the rebellious states of the South (1865-1877) were the results of an acute conflict between the northern and southern states over the issue of Negro slavery. Even though the official import of slaves to the United States was stopped in 1808, slavery remained the socio-economic basis of the plantation economy in the southern states for many decades.
A definite manifestation of the crisis in 1819 boiled down to a conflict between southerners and northerners in Congress (Foner 23). The balance of political power between North and South was also upset by the fact that until 1825 all presidents, except John Adams, were representatives of the southern states. These facts led to the political confrontation between the defenders of the Union (northerners) and its opponents (southerners). The Civil War was a turning point in the history of the American nation in all aspects. At this time, the United States of America suffered a significant number of human casualties when each side defended its interests.
The election of 1860 was won by the Republican Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), a resolute defender of the idea of a union state and an opponent of slavery, which significantly influenced the country’s fate. Reconstruction was discussed during the war, but it began after the Emancipation Proclamation was published in 1863. The Reconstruction Policy was implemented after the slave South was completely at the mercy of the federal army.
Thus, the Amendment of 1865 declared the abolition of slavery. The Amendment adopted in 1868 granted civil rights to former slaves, the Amendment of 1870 introduced an additional prohibition on restrictions on voting rights “in connection with race, skin color and previous being in slavery.” (Suryanarayan 571) Reconstruction began and ended at different times in various southern states; after all, the end of this process is generally considered the compromise of 1877.
However, the abolition of slavery in the USA did not mean the achievement of complete racial equality. This process was affected by the centuries-old cultural and economic distance between the former slaves and the white population. The racial prejudices of white Americans played a role in both the South and the North. The real result of the confrontation was the policy of segregation, the separate coexistence of races, when whole neighborhoods, cafes, and schools “for whites” and “for colored” appeared in the country (White 34).
Officially, the segregation practice was legalized by the US Supreme Court in 1896. What is more, after the army’s participation in government in the South was terminated in 1877. The democratic governments of the southern states did not restore slavery, but they passed discriminatory laws. As a result, the African Americans became second-class citizens, and the racist principles of white supremacy continued to dominate public opinion. The Democratic Party’s monopoly of power in the Monolithic South continued until the 1960s. A century later, after changes at the state level on people of color, they were still subject to racial prejudice, discrimination, and segregation.
To conclude, it was during the Civil War that the country’s authorities attempted to change society concerning people of color. Without this decision, it was impossible to preserve the federation, and at that time, the president’s task was to end the war, satisfying the interests of each of the parties. Unfortunately, at that time, society was not ready to accept people of color with all the rights and will not be ready for several more centuries.
These global changes in society and the constitution can be attributed to the consequences known as Reconstruction after the Civil War. Despite the fact that the slave system was done away with, people of color remained isolated, racial discrimination and subsequently legalized segregation flourished. The Negro rural population in the southern states eked out a miserable existence. People of color went to the cities in droves to improve their position, but there, their lot was only the most difficult and low-paid work. These events were accompanied by an economic crisis, a great depression, and later an economic upturn, triggered by the Second World War.
Racial discrimination was observed everywhere, not only in relation to people of color. Anglo-Saxon Americans had advantages over other nationalities, making up the bulk of the higher-paid workers. Immigrant workers from Ireland, Eastern, and Southern Europe, China, and Japan were in a particularly difficult situation. They were oppressed by both entrepreneurs and middlemen who recruited immigrants to work in the enterprises of various companies.
It took centuries for American society to undo negative attitudes towards people of other races, gender, beliefs, be more tolerant, and understand that all people are unique and important. These topics still remain quite acute, this is due to the historical and cultural characteristics of a multinational country. The roots of this change lie in the bloody time of the Civil War and its aftermath known as reconstruction.
Foner, Eric. The second founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction remade the Constitution. WW Norton & Company, 2019.
Suryanarayan, Pavithra, and Steven White. “Slavery, reconstruction, and bureaucratic capacity in the American south.” American Political Science Review, vol.115, no. 2, 2021, pp. 568-584.
White, Richard. The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896. Oxford University Press, 2017.