The Reconstruction era was the period in American history which lasted from 1863 to 1877, when the Union won the American Civil War and attempted to reform society in the former Confederate States of America to abolish slavery and guarantee African Americans equal political and economic rights. Although the federal government amended the United States Constitution to ban slavery and guarantee citizenship under the Reconstruction Amendments, attempts to enforce black civil rights faced violent opposition from many whites in the Southern United States. The period ended with the restoration of white-supremacist state governments which curtailed African-American civil rights through racist Jim Crow laws and segregation until the Civil Rights movement.
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- The Negro voter ... had, then, but one clear economic ideal and that was his demand for land, his demand that the great plantations be subdivided and given to him as his right. This was a perfectly fair and natural demand and ought to have been an integral part of Emancipation. To emancipate four million laborers whose labor had been owned, and separate them from the land upon which they had worked for nearly two and a half centuries, was an operation such as no modern country had for a moment attempted or contemplated. The German and English and French serf, the Italian and Russian serf, were, on emancipation, given definite rights in the land. Only the American Negro slave was emancipated without such rights and in the end this spelled for him the continuation of slavery.
- W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America (1935), p. 611
- But Booth’s assassination of Lincoln was also part of a larger plot to throw the North into chaos. Thus the killing could be called equal parts terrorism and tyrannicide. What is clear is that Lincoln died a martyr to many Northerners and that his death complicated efforts to heal the Union. What followed has become known as Reconstruction, the period from 1865 to 1877 during which Northern Republicans, driven by anger over Lincoln’s assassination and the need to make wartime sacrifices meaningful, sought to “reconstruct” the South as an egalitarian society. Among historians, it is now commonly understood as nothing less than a revolution. Therefore the violence of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists was essentially a counterrevolution, one of the best historical examples of terrorism used in a fundamentally “conservative” cause, that is, with the goal of halting radical change. Most disturbingly, Reconstruction-era terrorism helped facilitate its perpetrators’ victory.
- Randall D. Law, Terrorism: A History (2016), p. 123