Why Was Reconstruction a Failure?

Subject: 🗽 American History
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 825
Topics: Reconstruction, Civil War
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The end of the American Civil War became an era of optimism and harmony; according to Foner (2021), during Reconstruction, the northern and southern United States had a chance to overcome devastating losses due to the war. From an economic point of view, the South was admonished, creating factories with little or no industrial zones. Thus, prompting the northern opportunists to take advantage of the situation by creating personal wealth and neglecting economic growth and development. The African-Americans were emancipated but discriminated against because the social transformation promised in subsequent constitutional amendments was still insufficient. Anxiety increased in the southern parts of America and, in retrospect, also showed social rifts leading to increased pressure from civilians, politicians, and human rights groups to work together to begin rebuilding and building the American nation. However, through in-deep analysis, one can acknowledge compelling and detailed reasons why the rebuild failed. For example, the poor implementation of the proposed social transformations was a significant failure of Reconstruction, plus the economic stalemate in the South had created another divide between the North and South of the United States.

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Poor Implementation of Proposed Social Changes

Inadequate implementation of the social changes proposed in the constitution amendment was a significant failure for Reconstruction. These changes targeted Southern states to define African Americans’ newly created rights and responsibilities. With the changes came opportunities for people of color, such as the ability to testify in court. However, these options had some drawbacks and emerged from constitutional reforms, thereby allowing continued slavery, and acted as a formidable legal oppressor of new African American freedoms (Nash, 2010). Alarm bells were sounded to boost the economy of the South through increased production amid growing labor shortages on plantations. As a result, African Americans were required to have employment contracts with their former employers to guarantee employment. At their discretion, employers had the legal right to impose physical harm or punishment if an employee breached the contract. During this period, people of color had little or no labor rights compared to whites. These differences have created huge inequalities without legal consequences. They, therefore, played a significant role in the sinking of the intended Reconstruction.

Economic Crashes Caused More Division

The economic shutdown in the South led to further divisions between the northern and southern provinces, leading to the failure to improve the situation, thus prompting the formation of civil rights movements. Most northern business opportunists saw the possibility of making money in the poor economy. Opportunists planned to establish their organizations in desired industries to work for formerly enslaved people and take advantage of the misfortunes of the South (Civil war and Reconstruction, n.d.). It was an idea that seemed to have the potential to benefit the southern states. However, only a tiny portion of the income from the plantations and factories was reinvested in the region. Instead, substantial sums of money were returned from southern states to northern states, or the company as a whole, in what was seen as an economically disastrous move.

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The confederacy lost an estimated 2.98 billion dollars in the war and never recovered to fuel industrial growth and investments (Histrory.com Editors, 2009). Soon enough, the opportunists of the North were discouraged by the economic depression and had to invest their money in the west. As a result, the black-dominated southern states were left with empty financial resources and little potential for economic growth. Moreover, the government’s inability to focus on improving the South’s economy hugely undermined the idea of rebuilding. Instead, economic hardship continued for those living in the South, which the ongoing civil war had already ravaged.

Another major failure of Reconstruction was the social turmoil after the civil war. Violence against African Americans increased as former clans threatened a significant portion of black communities (Says, 2017). These original clans felt it was right to take matters into their own hands. At that time, killing was a common act of violence, with thousands of racist murders committed in the early postwar years.

Personal Opinion

Reconstruction was a complete failure, both socio-economically and politically, as it created a new political division. Reconstruction also failed to promote racial justice, justice, and equality within the country, further dividing the country as the South was offended by the North (Reconstruction South, 2004). Still, the importance of Reconstruction was: first, it helped unite the nations that ended the military war. Second, it was a time that led to the establishment of black identity and a heightened cultural consciousness, allowing blacks to experience a period of isolation which later developed into the human rights movement.


To summarize this essay, Reconstruction was almost a complete failure. Constitutional amendments to protect the rights of people of color seemed a good step in the right direction. However, low economic activity in the South prevented it from recovering from the hardships caused by the civil war. The South’s unreliable factories fueled social unrest, and the ensuing violence brought it to its knees economically, socially, and politically.

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Did you like this sample?
  1. Civil War and Reconstruction. (n.d.). The Palmetto State, 44–62. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv6wgm7d.9
  2. Foner, E. (2021). South Carolina’s black elected officials during Reconstruction. At Freedom’s Door, 166–176. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv1htpdtc.15
  3. History.com Editors. (2009, October 29). Reconstruction. History.com. https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/reconstruction
  4. Nash, S. E. (2010). Splendid Failure: Postwar Reconstruction in the American South. Alabama Review, 63(3), 232–234. https://doi.org/10.1353/ala.2010.0017
  5. Reconstruction South. (2004). African American Studies Center. https://doi.org/10.1093/acref/9780195301731.013.46404
  6. William B. (2017, August 2). Reconstruction in the South. The Journal of the Civil War Era. https://www.journalofthecivilwarera.org/forum-the-future-of-reconstruction-studies/reconstruction-in-the-south/
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