Reconstruction Part III: The Reaction of White Southerners
The South had lost the Civil war, but they refused to act like a losing country. Southerners fought against the North’s efforts to change the life in their region. Union troops were everywhere, and the Southerners hated them.
Former Confederates gradually earned back the right to vote, and they used their power to elect Democrats. Democrats in the South promised to redeem, or recover, the South and
restore “Home Rule.” Redeemers, Democrats who believed this, said it was okay to resist or
ignore national laws. Democrats said the states were not “morally bound” to follow the new Amendments to the Constitution. Redeemers were the people who made the Black Codes law, and also the people who passed the Poll Tax and the Grandfather Clause to keep freedmen from voting and to keep African Americans out of office.
“The Secret Societies”
Some Southerners turned to violence. Secret societies, such as the Knights of the White Camelia, the White Brotherhood and the Ku Klux Klan spread fear throughout the South. The
Klan, or KKK, was begun in 1866 and said to be an organization of “chivalry, humanity, mercy and patriotism.” But it acted to maintain white supremacy in the South. By 1870, KKK groups were active in every Southern state. They wore white robes that were meant to frighten African Americans into thinking they were ghosts of Confederate soldiers. The robes also hid their faces.
The KKK launched raids against Republicans in office, both white and black. An Arkansas Congressman was killed – so were 3 members of the South Carolina legislature. Black
Republican leaders were dragged from their homes, beaten, whipped, even lynched (hung from a
tree). The KKK burned black schools and churches, and the property of any prosperous freedman.
The more people in the South who were angered by Reconstruction, the more powerful the KKK became. It took the law into its own hands. Upper-class Southern whites rarely tried to stop the Klan – either they were afraid or supported the Klan. Republican state officials were too afraid of the Klan’s power to stop them, saying it was not their job.
The End of Reconstruction
Finally, the Southern refusal to accept Reconstruction wore down the North. The Southern Republicans faced so much violence and threats that the Republican Party lost power. The North would not send enough soldiers to help the freedmen vote in elections.
In the 1876 Presidential Election, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes ran against Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. The election was so close Congress had to decide who would win. After many months, the Democrats finally agreed to let Hayes win if the North would pull all the soldiers out of the South. They agreed.
Pulling soldiers out of the South eased some of the hatred between Northerners and Southerners. It also took away the only people in the South who were willing to fight for the rights of freedmen. Without the troops or Republicans to stop them, white Democrats passed laws that took away almost all the rights of African Americans. Jim Crow laws were passed,
making it legal to segregate, or separate, white people and African Americans. This system that restricted opportunity and equality would continue into the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights movement. Many Southern African Americans moved to escape poverty and racism. Some went to the west; thousands went to cities such as New York and Chicago.
Reconstruction Part III Questions:
Write definitions for the following words:
c. Ku Klux Klan:
e. Jim Crow Laws:
1) What laws did the Redeemers pass in the South?
2) What did the Ku Klux Klan do?
3) Did anyone try to stop the Ku Klux Klan?
4) What did Democrats have to agree to in order to get the Northern troops to leave?
5) What happened to African Americans in the South when the troops left?