Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies this nation has faced is the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. While it's true that the Civil War claimed over 800,000 lives, the effects of Reconstruction have lasted even into present times.

There were a lot of factors that contributed to the poor results of the aftermath of the war. For one thing, the carpetbaggers swarmed the South and took advantage of people who had already lost a great deal. Taxes went up prohibitively. The entire South was in disorder and shock. In this vacuum of normality, the people of the South saw themselves being governed by Republicans and Freedmen-two classes of people who were the enemy just months and years before. (Frederickson) Naturally, a lot of resentment was building, not just over the humiliation of defeat, but because of the excessive burdens placed on them and their perceptions that they were not being fairly represented. By the 1870's, the federal government was ready to relinquish its control over the South, and the Democrats began to take action almost immediately.

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Even before this, freedmen didn't have true equality. As Richardson notes, even negroes (this word is used only in the context of the time we are referring to) with money were limited in where they could live, how they could travel, and who they could associate with. In essence, the defeated, resentful southerners could not be forced by law to embrace full equality for blacks. Besides, most of society, both North and South, considered the freedmen of inferior race and would never consider actual full equality for negroes in society. Even more abhorrent to white society was what they termed miscegenation, the mixing of the races through marriage, etc. Indeed, it is a wonder the Civil War was ever fought, given the attitudes of society of that time.

There never were forty acres and a mule for the freed slaves, nor was there quality education or de facto equal treatment under the law after the first decade past the Civil War. In fact, the conditions for blacks went from unmet to virtually intolerable over the next several decades. That is why W.E.B. Dubois called the Reconstruction a splendid failure-because it actually was an opportunity for our nation to effect a splendid success, and it never occurred.

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