The Civil War in Primary Resources: An Exhibition by the Special Collections Library


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The Reconstruction Era (1865-1877) was a period of sociopolitical transformation in which the federal government ended legal slavery, extended equality to Black people, and reintegrated seceded states into the Union. Congress established military rule in former Confederate states until they swore loyalty to the Union, paid war debts, and accepted the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. During this period, Black Southerners enjoyed their greatest civil liberties to date such as holding political office, forming activist organizations, and using their votes to establish equitable tax laws, public schools, and economic development across the region.

Unfortunately, this freedom was short-lived. White Southerners aggressively challenged these improvements through political channels and vigilante terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. With a surge of political violence across the South, federal investment in protecting Black civil rights waned. Reconstruction officially ended with the Compromise of 1877, in which Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew federal troops from the South to win the presidency. The result was a new era of politically-sanctioned disenfranchisement and segregation that lasted until the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. This cultural revolution revived the legacy of Reconstruction as Black Americans fought for the political, economic, and social equality their country had long denied them.


U.S. Civil War 1861-1865


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