Were the goals of Radical Reconstruction feasible ones?
Reconstruction was a period from 1865 – 1877 that involved the federal will to bring the south into submission and protect African American civil rights. The main goals consisted of the passing of the 13th amendment which allowed for four million slaves to be freed (Pollard, 2012). The 14th amendment which allowed for the citizenship of the freed slaves and the 15th amendment, which prevented race from determining the right to vote.
The goals of Radical Reconstruction were feasible. Reconstruction was “important for reunifying the country and establishing the first constitutional steps toward equality” (Bowles, 2011). The amendments sought to create a bi-racial society in which black and whites could live equally. Although it may not have been entirely successful, Reconstruction was the vehicle that brought about change.
• Is it possible to transform a society drastically by government action, or might attempts to do so prove counterproductive?
I think that transformation in itself is a gradual process. Change cannot happen overnight. However, the implementation of amendments and other laws to attempt equality was the right thing to do. If government action was not taken, change would have never occurred. It was the catalyst for change.
One reason for the failure of Radical Reconstruction was violation of the amendments created to unify and failure to uphold them (Bowles, 2011). The formation of the vigilante groups, the Ku Klux Klan, and other laws targeted to intimidate blacks added to the demise of the reconstruction. As cited in Harper’s Weekly, “It was safer for a free-tongued American, who held to the rightful equality of all men, to travel in Central Africa than in South Carolina under the flag of the United States” (The Ku-Klux, 1871, April 1). This gives us an idea of the conditions which existed even after the amendments were in effect.
• Would a more gradualist approach to extending rights to and establishing freedom for African Americans have been more successful? What would be the costs and dangers of such an approach?