e after a long and bloody Civil War. With

e Reconstruction era is a defining time in American history, in terms of the way it influenced American identity socially and economically. At the conclusion of the Civil War, the North was given an opportunity to shape the future of an economically and ideologically devastated South for the foreseeable future. A Republican dominated Congress, in opposition to president Johnson, began to adopt policies to rebuild the South,  reestablish Southern states into the Union, and most notably, to enfranchise African Americans after emancipation. Ultimately however, Northern abandonment of the Southern black population led to the ultimate historical failure of racial Reconstruction and the rise of white supremacist groups, discriminatory black codes, and the handicap of black citizens from social progress. To understand the eventual collapse of Reconstruction one must first understand the state of the United States, especially in the South, after the Civil War in 1865. The Southern economy had been completely destroyed by the collapse of the cotton industry, whose primary engine was institutionalized slavery, and inflation of Confederate currency had left all money in the South nearly worthless. Banks in the South were heavily bankrupted by the war and did not recover fully until after 1890, meaning farmers couldn’t receive loans to buy land. Emancipation had removed one of the most vital parts of Southern economics and left the South humiliated and desolate after a long and bloody Civil War. With the Union Congress back in control, dominated by Northern Republicans, debates over how the undertaking of Reconstruction should be enacted began. President Lincoln, desperate to repair the sectional and political American divides, proposed his “10 percent plan” which more extreme Republicans believed was far too permissive to the former Confederacy, but to the benefit of conservative Republicans the plan died along with its author in 1865.  With radical Republicans now in control of Congress after the midterm election of 1866, a bill to split the South into five military districts passed through Congress in 1867, overriding the weak executive leadership of President Johnson. General Ulysses S. Grant allocated each military district to be controlled by one of his generals and the military leadership was to force state legislatures to pass the fourteenth amendment, grant universal male suffrage, and amend their state constitutions to outlaw slavery in order to be admitted back into the Union. This outraged the South who despised Northern “carpetbag” government and the establishment of martial law. The unpopularity of Reconstruction efforts in the South was a catalyst for the rise of violent attacks on black groups in the South. Another important aspect of early Reconstruction was the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands created in 1865, also known as the Freedmen’s Bureau. The government program was essentially responsible for allocating land and dealing with all matters of nearly four million slaves who had been displaced by the war. It was backed by the Union troops in each of the military districts and attempted to establish schools, medical aid, employment, and also to ensure that the rights of the freedmen were not being abridged by hostile Southerners. The Bureau’s efforts however, could not stop the huge outbreaks of violence against former slaves who attempted to vote or hold political office and many freedman continued to work for their former masters. While the Bureau’s attempts at providing assistance in the South were vital in improving the situation of black Americans, they were too short lived to ensure that the freedman, who were mostly ignorant of life outside of slavery, could be able to independently succeed without assistance and protection in the hostile South, but despite this the Bureau pulled monetary assistance from states in the deep South in 1869, just five years after it was devised. The rise of white supremacist groups also marked Reconstruction’s failure to improve the social status of black Americans. Mob violence during the Reconstruction from belligerent white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, White League, the Knights of White Camellia, and the Red Shirts served not only to terrorize and suppress the freedmen and Republican leaders in the South, but also to ensure that the rights granted in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments were never truly exercised by black Americans in the South. While legally, these Reconstruction amendments granted black people equal rights, in reality these rights were never truly obtained by Southern freedmen. The primary goal of these groups was not only to enforce beliefs in white racial superiority but to essentially return freedmen to the social and political conditions of slavery. Lynching, the lethal and nonlethal intimidation of black citizens, is estimated to have killed thousands of black citizens in the South during the postbellum period and served to threaten a majority of blacks in the South from voting, running for political office, or seeking economic independence from former masters. With suppression of the black vote, these groups often ensured that white Southern Democrats were elected for state and federal legislatures, who loosened the Republican grip on the South. Northern Republicans, weary of the long and costly investment of Reconstruction in the South, did little to enforce laws stopping the Klan from terrorizing black communities and Republicans in the South. The Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1866 in Tennessee to harass black groups, evolved in 1867 and 1868 to become a growing politically motivated terrorist group in opposition to Reconstructionist policies. Their primary objective in 1868 was to dominate southern votes for the Democratic candidate Horatio Seymour over Ulysses S Grant in the 1868 presidential election in which they succeeded in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Louisiana. The Klan became the most notable of many similar groups being established at the time in other states with goals of disrupting Republican dominance in Southern politics, primarily through violence. Members of these groups, particularly in the Knights of the White Camelia, were linked closely to the Democratic party in the Southern states and leaders of the KWC were often Democratic politicians and leaders. Supporters of these groups often came from wealthy Southern aristocracy as well, doctors and lawyers were usually high ranking members. Examples of violence from white supremacist groups is numerous but perhaps the most prominent example is the Coushatta Massacre which took place in 1874. The massacre was enacted by members of the White League after a riot in against radical Louisiana Republican leader and carpetbagger Marshal Twitcher. The result was the death of six Republican politicians and twenty freedmen but had a much larger effect of exemplifying the violent means in which Southern terror groups employed to gain political power and influence. Perhaps the most obvious example of the failures of racial Reconstruction in the South is the emergence of the Black Codes in 1865 in response to emancipation. Black codes were laws that were designed to regulate the behavior of freedmen in Southern States and differentiate the roles of blacks and whites in order for Southern planters to maintain racial superiority and return black Americans to the social status of the slavery era. Often black people were outlawed from residing within towns of whites, being able to travel without permission from a boss, which was usually the slave’s former master, and barred from assembly and protest in groups unless allowed by a mayor or political leader. Black Codes also restricted the ways in which freedmen had the right to sue in courts and serve in juries and cemented deep foundations for segregation and racial conflict between whites and blacks in the South. These Black Codes not only laid the roots for complete reinstitution of white Southern dominance over the black community in the South after Northern withdraw but it also supported the birth of the institution of the sharecropping system which exploited African American labor in conditions nearly identical to slavery. A factor that also plays an important role when analyzing the failures of Reconstruction is the institution of sharecropping. Sharecropping is the economic labor system of farming where a landowner rents their land to a tenant and the tenant is forced to give a percentage of the yield of that crop to the landowner as payment for use of the land. This system was especially entrenched within the South during late Reconstruction because it appealed to wealthy Southern elite as a way of implementing the benefits of cheap labor to augment the loss of slavery and to continue the Southern reliance on cotton in order to rebuild the Southern economy. Sharecropping was used as a means of trapping freedmen into long work contracts, often with their former masters, which usually placed them in debt to their bosses and created a cycle of continued contract extensions to pay off debts that could never be reasonably paid off by the small yields of crops on rented land. This system was not regulated or halted by the North and served as slavery by another name. Although slaves had been freed and given numerous rights, the daily reality of most colored people in the South never changed after emancipation. Black historian and civil rights activist WEB Du Bois in his book, Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880,  describes how little the black experience changed from slavery to reconstruction. “Resisting with growing exploitation, until they fought slavery to save democracy and then lost democracy in a new and vaster slavery.” The increasing racial subjugation of the freedmen was also evident within the Supreme Court cases of the time. The enforcement of white racial superiority through landmark cases such as the Slaughterhouse Cases, and US vs Cruikshank showed the federal government’s failure to provide comprehensive reconstruction. The Slaughterhouse Cases were cases brought to the Supreme Court about the seemingly unimportant issue of the rights of Louisiana butchers to cut meat within Louisiana towns despite health codes that prevented it due to the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court ruled that no state could make laws that shall abridge the privileges and immunities of the citizens of the US which greatly abridged Reconstructionist policy at the time because it set the precedent that most aspects of the Military Reconstruction Acts which protected the rights of freedmen but restricted Southern governments had become unconstitutional. The Supreme Court Case of US v Cruikshank in 1875  was also detrimental for the rights of the freedmen because the case was vital in determining if the Force Acts, acts passed by Congress to protect freedmen from violence from groups such as the KKK,  were Constitutional. The Court ruled that individuals could not be prosecute under the Force Acts which essentially nullified its enforcement, further leaving blacks in the South without political protection or rights. These Court rulings showed the vast decline in Northern dedication to the equality of the freedmen from the beginning of Reconstruction to the end and how its collapse doomed the black population of the South to subservient status for the foreseeable future. The final killing blow to the hopes of racial equality in the South via Reconstruction came during the Election of 1876. A presidential race between the Republican candidate Rutherford B Hayes and Democratic candidate Samuel Tilden led to a close race in both electoral and popular vote, where several Southern electoral votes were too close to call. Fearing conflict over the presidential seat, Hayes made an agreement with the Democratic party named the Compromise of 1877. The Democrats would award Hayes the presidency if he agreed to evacuate Northern troops from the military districts of the South. Hayes takes the deal and ends the Reconstruction period, as well as hopes of Northern intervention to boost racial conditions of the colored South. The Compromise is integral in understanding the political shift in power back towards the Southern Democrats, in part due to the suppression of the black Republican votes in the South. It also demonstrates how a majority of the Northern public opinion lost interest in aiding African Americans in the South due to jaded feelings towards the expensive decade long program of Reconstruction. To understand the shortcomings of the North in creating a lasting and thorough Reconstruction program is to understand how racial equality ultimately failed during this era. The rise of violent Southern factions against Reconstruction policies and the reinstitution of black people to fit the same subservient social, political, and economic role in Southern society as they did during pre-Civil War slavery due to Black Codes, sharecropping, and federal court decisions are examples of this failure. Although Reconstruction was a vastly complex era and had both positive and negative results for American identity, racial Reconstruction allowed for black citizens to have a moment of opportunity and tolerance, but it was a fleeting moment which was promptly swiped from them by the beliefs in white supremacy and social restriction in the South leading to the historical failure of Reconstruction.