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United States History since 1877

To what extent did the Era of Reconstruction create a New South?

What impact did the Agrarian Revolt have on American politics at the end of the 19th century?

What are some of the high points and low points of the 1920s?

What role did the United States play in World War I? What caused the United States to shift from isolationism to world engagement?

How are the outcomes of World War I connected to the origins of World War II?

What are at least two causes for America's entry into World War II?

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1. To what extent did the Era of Reconstruction create a New South?

The Reconstruction Era is the common name for the period in United States history covering the post-Civil War era in the entire United States between 1865 and 1877. Although many policies attempted to redeem the south, many agree that it failed. The work of redeemers failed. For example, in response to the Radical governments in the South, amidst the rumors that Blacks, scalawags and carpetbaggers were ruining the South and plundering its remaining assets, a group of old line conservatives, former Democrats, arose to "redeem the South," to save it from being reconstructed and to restore the South to its pre-war Southern democracy.

(1) Conservative Southerners who resisted the reconstruction governments worked to restore the old Southern way of life regarding the relationship between the races, by overturning the results of the Reconstructed Governments.
(2) Drawing the Color Line - policy of race rather than economics
(a) Poor whites aligned themselves with other whites rather than with poor blacks against the wealthier whites who controlled Southern politics and economics.
(b) As a result Democratic Party Dominance emerged again, creating a Solid South. (http://afroamhistory.about.com/od/reconstruction/a/preconstruction_2.htm)

One arguments for its failure instead emphasized that suppression of the rights of African Americans was a worse scandal and a grave corruption of America's republican ideals. They argued that the real tragedy of Reconstruction was not that it failed because blacks were incapable of governing (another proposed reason for its failure), especially as they did not dominate any state government, but that it failed because whites raised an insurgent movement to restore white supremacy. White elite-dominated state legislatures passed disfranchising constitutions from 1890-1908 that effectively barred most blacks and many poor whites from voting. This disfranchisement affected millions of people for decades into the 20th century, and closed African Americans and poor whites out of the political process in the South. (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=224731)

Indeed, the Legacy of reconstruction leans towards failure: "It is hard but not impossible to say good things about Reconstruction. The goals were land, ballot, education for Freedmen. Congress never supported land confiscation; even Radical governments in South were unable to achieve that. There was no "Marshall Plan" for the South, but on the other hand, the South was not brutalized. The only criminal executed was Henry Wirz of Andersonville Prison. No fines, few imprisonments; military occupation was relatively mild. The restorative measures were not unreasonable: Renunciation of secession; Slavery abolished; Leadership of aristocracy undermined. Radicals didn't understand the degree to which Southern conservatives could conspire to flout laws. Corruption in the South was bad, but was typical of the time. Leadership was insufficient to meet challenges. Some feel radicals were not radical enough. There was hope-many understood the problems, but goals were unrealized. Black leadership in the South did not fully understand the land problem. Many were middle class, not connected to agriculture?http://www.sagehistory.net/reconstruction/topics/recon.html).

The aftermath and legacy of Reconstruction reflects the failure of creating a new south.

1. The leadership of the old plantation-slave-owning aristocracy was undermined.
2. The Republican Radicals didn't understand degree to which Southern conservatives could conspire to flout laws.
3. Corruption in the South under the "Black republican" governments was bad, but typical of time.
4. The political leadership was insufficient to meet challenges. Some historians feel the radicals were not radical enough; others still thing they went too far too fast.
5. There was hope during Reconstruction-many understood the problems and worked at them, but many goals were unrealized.
6. Black leadership in the South did not fully understand the land problem. Many were middle class, not connected to agriculture. The former free Southern Blacks didn't fully appreciate the problems of the Freedmen.
7. The Constitution and the laws often offered legal barriers to what should have been done.
8. All the doctrines about "conquered provinces," "political suicide" and confiscation of land, etc., flew in the face of the illegality of secession.
9. Blacks in 1875 were in essentially same situation as 1865. Yet note considerable achievements-former slaves had participated in government in high levels. New constitutions they helped write were more progressive than many in North. Many owned land and had voted in elections. They had become part of the body politic. (http://www.sagehistory.net/reconstruction/topics/recon.html)

10. Aftermath

11. After Reconstruction segregation soon spread to everything public. The Supreme Court in 1883 struck down the Sumner Civil rights Act of 1875 Act on grounds that the Fourteenth Amendment protected blacks from discrimination by the states, but not by individuals-thus making "Jim Crow" laws possible and legally acceptable.
12. A Richmond Times editorial stated: "God Almighty drew the color line and it cannot be obliterated. The Negro must stay on his side of the line, and the white man on his."
13. Lynchings were reduced after segregation was enforced.
14. President Rutherford Hayes told blacks that their interests would be best guaranteed when southern whites regained control over their state governments so that they would have no desire to continue harassing former slaves, a policy which Frederick Douglass termed a "sickly conciliation." http://www.sagehistory.net/reconstruction/topics/recon.html
15. For a while, blacks were not totally disfranchised in the postwar South, but by 1900 few blacks were permitted to vote, a result of poll taxes, literacy tests, and the all-white Democratic primary
16. In "Plessy v. Ferguson" (1896), the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a policy that would stand for 58 years: segregation was legal so long as the separate facilities were of equal quality.
17. Restoration of white rule in the South hampered public education for blacks, who relied on church groups and foundations. Among black institutions of higher learning were Hampton in Virginia and Tuskegee in Alabama, founded by Booker T. Washington.
18. The "New Era of Good Feelings" between North and South was based on the notion that "time s the only cure." Fraud, intimidation, every kind of chicanery was used to keep Blacks in South suppressed. Although many Blacks participated in elections during and after Reconstruction, disenfranchisement in the South was nearly total by 1900. Although separate but equal was harmful, it did provide some good ...

Solution Summary

By responding to the questions, this solution addresses various topics on World War I, World War II, Agrarian Revolt, high points and low points of the 1920s, and others.

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