Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog post #3

Eric Foner’s “The Making of Radical Reconstruction” talks about the ever-expanding influence of the radical republican and reconstruction policies. Reconstruction is a period in American history from 1866-1877 after the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished. The focus of reconstruction was the reuniting of the South and North, finding compromises with citizens in the South and discussing the freed slaves status of citizenship and how it would compare to whites. In this reading Foner discusses reconstruction theory which is that white men in the south were far more concerned with salvaging as much of the past way of living, in the hopes bringing it into or recreating in the new type of civilization that the northern radical republicans. And although they never fully got everything back to the way it used to be they did everything in their power to slow it down. One of their biggest fears was the passing of the 14th amendment which was suppose to give equal rights to all citizens and give them the ability to vote. But even after the passing of the law African-Americans were still not allowed to vote. They did not like this law because they did not hand over any power to colored people who could then make even more change. I feel like this kind of stuff stills goes on to a lesser degree in our modern day. Politicians are still finding ways to keep African-Americans at a disadvantage in a more discreet way.

One thought on “Blog post #3”

  1. This is a nice, succinct summary of the chapter with some original thought and analysis, but the central conflict you identify between former slaveowners/white southerners and Republicans in Congress gets a little lost, perhaps due to an incomplete sentence at the end.

    Historically and factually, yes, white southerners did everything in their power to prevent the passage of suffrage for formerly enslaved men in the 1860s, but could not—the last section of the chapter is titled “The Coming of Black Suffrage,” and you should know from class that the 15th Amendment (1870) guaranteed the right to vote for Black men.

    What happened after that—i.e., during and after Reconstruction—is where it really gets complicated. But it was only after the defeat of Reconstruction, and the re-institution of white rule in the South, that white southerners were able to impose literacy tests, grandfather clauses, etc. to keep Black people from voting—and even then they were never totally successful. No conflict, no history.

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