Escaped Slave Turned Politician (03:38)
Newly freed blacks were optimistic during the Reconstruction era. The Fifteenth Amendment barred racial discrimination in voting, and more than 1,500 black politicians were elected to office, including Robert Smalls of South Carolina. Show host Henry Louis Gates meets his great-great-grandson.
First Black Congressmen (04:21)
Freedman Hiram Revels was elected to represent Mississippi in the United States Senate in 1870. He was soon joined in Congress by Joseph Rainey, Richard Cain, Blanche Bruce and several other African-Americans who were elected during Reconstruction.
Right to Education (03:16)
For the first time, black men and white men served side by side in statehouses across the South. In South Carolina, where blacks made up nearly 60 percent of the population, voters sent a black majority to the House of Representatives.
Black Higher Education (02:08)
To meet the demand for black teachers, governments, black churches, and missionary organizations established black colleges and universities. Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee was founded in 1866, and its Fisk Jubilee Singers became the voice of black Reconstruction.
Conditions Improve (03:12)
Black people could buy land, start businesses, and become economically independent. Former slave John Roy Lynch was appointed as a justice of the peace in Natchez, Mississippi in 1869.
Historic Church (02:36)
Freed slaves created fraternal organizations. They were now free to worship as they wanted, and churches became the cornerstone of the black community. At Mother Emanuel in Charleston, South Carolina, Rev. Richard Cain helped revive a congregation that had been banned under slavery.
White Backlash (04:54)
The more that black Americans achieved under Reconstruction, the more they put their lives at risk. Southern Democrats used violence and terror tactics to disrupt Republican control and plot their return to power. Congress launched an investigation, the Ku Klux Klan Hearings, in 1871.
Federal Government Response (03:31)
Black Congressman Joseph Rainey demanded a Congressional response to Klan violence and intimidation; it came in the form of a series of enforcement acts and the deployment of federal troops to the South. Amos T. Akerman was appointed attorney general of the newly created Department of Justice.
White Supremacy (04:32)
Racist propaganda helped southern oligarchs recruit poor whites to their cause and remain in power. The gains of blacks were viewed as threats to all white men. Robert E. Lee’s death in 1870 sparked an outpouring of southern nostalgia and grief.
Party in Decline (02:07)
President Ulysses S. Grant easily won reelection in 1872, but the election revealed growing fault lines within the Republican Party. Liberal Republicans began arguing for states’ rights, and they ran their own candidate for president. The Grant administration became embroiled in scandals.
Colfax Massacre (04:51)
Support for Reconstruction waned in the North and black politicians became targets of scorn, ridicule, and racist propaganda. Democrats were emboldened in the South. White vigilantes slaughtered black Republicans in Louisiana in 1873, resulting in only three convictions.
Democrats Seize Power (05:39)
The Panic of 1873 struck a mighty blow to Republicans. They suffered massive losses to Democrats, who promised to fix the economy end Reconstruction in the South. Southern Democrats railed against what they called forced integration. Robert Brown Elliott championed a civil rights bill before Congress.
Civil Rights Setbacks (02:37)
The Civil Rights Act of 1875 passed, but a clause addressing education was stripped from the bill. In 1876, the Supreme Court made a ruling in United States v. Cruikshank that hurt efforts to protect blacks from racist violence.
Fallen President Honored (02:00)
Grant pulled back intervention in the South to increase his party’s chances in the North. A crowd gathered on April 14, 1876 for the unveiling of a statue commemorating Abraham Lincoln. Frederick Douglass made a memorable speech.
Election of 1876 (05:05)
There was an understanding in that blacks had all the rights they should expect. Rutherford B. Hayes ran against Samuel Tilden in the presidential election, and both candidates pledged to end Reconstruction. A dubious agreement followed the controversial election.
Credits: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War - Episode 2 (01:01)
Credits: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War - Episode 2
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