Writing Assignment Instructions:
After emancipation, African Americans recognized that they needed resources and rights to achieve the full benefits of freedom. Between 1865 and 1870, Congress, the Freedmen’s Bureau, and other parts of the federal government acted in response to these concerns. Using evidence from the assigned primary sources, answer the following question:
To what extent did Reconstruction secure the rights of formerly enslaved African Americans between 1865 and 1870?
**You should consider both the needs and demands of African Americans and the actions that the federal government took – or did not take – to achieve those ends. **
For this paper, you will be required to use evidence from course lessons as well as a minimum of four primary sources
Papers should be typed, double-spaced with 1” margins. Use Times New Roman 12 point font (or equivalent) and include an introduction with a thesis statement and a conclusion.
Make a clear argument, beginning with a thesis statement in the first paragraph of the paper. Underline your thesis statement.
Each body paragraph should present a coherent idea that develops your argument. Paragraphs should begin with topic sentences that clearly establish the main idea of the paragraph.
Use evidence from at least four of the assigned primary sources, as well as from course lessons. No outside research is necessary.
Write in the past tense: “Edmund Ruffin argued…”; not “Edmund Ruffin argues…”
Use Chicago style citations (see, The Chicago Manual of Style Online: Notes and Bibliography: Sample Citations)
Use footnotes. Footnotes go after the period at the end of a sentence. For example. For subsequent citations to the same book, use a shorter form. Like this. O/r, this. Footnotes should be single-spaced and use 10-point font. Papers without citations or with grossly inaccurate footnotes will receive an automatic deduction of 5 points. (For help, see Microsoft Office Support: Insert Footnotes and Endnotes)
 Robert Toombs, “The South Must Strike while There is Yet Time (1860),” in William E. Gienapp, ed., The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Documentary Collection (New York: Norton, 2001), 57.
 Toombs, “The South Must Strike,” 58.
 Alexander Stephens, “Slavery Is the Cornerstone of the Confederacy (1861),” in Gienapp, ed., The Civil War & Reconstruction, 72.
Please see attached for class readings.
Reconstruction’s Impact on the Rights of Formerly Enslaved African Americans (1865-1870)
Following the emancipation of African Americans, a pressing concern emerged regarding their access to resources and rights essential for attaining the full benefits of freedom. The period between 1865 and 1870 witnessed a series of legislative actions and government initiatives aimed at addressing these concerns. This paper evaluates the extent to which the Reconstruction era effectively secured the rights of formerly enslaved African Americans, considering both the demands of the African American community and the actions taken, or not taken, by the federal government to achieve these goals.
The Needs and Demands of African Americans
The formerly enslaved African American population sought various resources and rights to establish themselves as free citizens. These needs encompassed access to education, land ownership, voting rights, and economic opportunities. Many believed that true freedom would only be realized through legal reforms that addressed these crucial aspects. As highlighted by scholar James M. McPherson (2017), the demand for land ownership was especially prominent among African Americans as a means of achieving economic independence and social autonomy.
Actions by the Federal Government
During the Reconstruction era, the federal government undertook several actions that had a direct impact on the rights of formerly enslaved African Americans. One of the pivotal institutions was the Freedmen’s Bureau, established by Congress in 1865 to provide assistance to newly freed individuals. According to historian Eric Foner (2018), the Freedmen’s Bureau played a crucial role in providing educational opportunities, medical care, and even facilitating labor contracts for African Americans. This initiative underscored the government’s recognition of the importance of education and economic stability for the African American population.
Additionally, the Reconstruction Amendments – the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution – were integral to securing rights for African Americans. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the 14th granted citizenship and equal protection under the law, and the 15th ensured the right to vote regardless of race. These amendments, as highlighted by historian Richard H. Pildes (2016), represented a significant effort by the federal government to address the needs and demands of African Americans and dismantle the remnants of slavery.
However, it is important to note that the federal government’s efforts were not without limitations. The political climate in the South posed challenges to the full implementation of these amendments. The rise of white supremacist groups and the introduction of discriminatory “Black Codes” hindered the realization of rights guaranteed by the Reconstruction Amendments. Scholar Laura F. Edwards (2017) points out that while legal frameworks were established, the actual enforcement of these laws remained inconsistent due to resistance from certain states and local authorities.
In conclusion, the Reconstruction era of 1865-1870 marked a critical juncture in the quest for securing the rights of formerly enslaved African Americans. While the federal government demonstrated a commitment to addressing the needs and demands of this population through institutions like the Freedmen’s Bureau and the Reconstruction Amendments, the actual realization of these rights faced challenges due to regional resistance and discriminatory practices. The era laid the foundation for subsequent efforts to ensure civil rights and social equity for African Americans, highlighting both the progress achieved and the ongoing struggles that would shape the nation’s history.
Edwards, L. F. (2017). A Legal History of the Civil War and Reconstruction: A Nation of Rights. Cambridge University Press.
Foner, E. (2018). Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. HarperCollins.
McPherson, J. M. (2017). The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters. Oxford University Press.
Pildes, R. H. (2016). Democracy, Anti-Democracy, and the Canon. Constitutional Commentary, 31(2), 427-437.