U.S. History/Post-Civil War


Mr. Troy,

I am going to be writing a paper this week about Political, Economic, and social changes in the United States after the civil war and during reconstruction. For Political, I will be writing about the end of slavery and the living conditions for "free" blacks. For Economic I will be writing about the costs of war and the impact it had on our country (especially the South). For Social, (which is the one I'm struggling on finding information on), I will be writing about the relationship between the North and the South.

The last topic, as I said, is the one I'm struggling with most. I'm having trouble finding specific information about relationships with people in the North and South. Could you shed some light on this, and the first two topics as well, if possible? Thanks so much!

Hi Tyler,

First off, for the most detailed information on your topic, there a number of good books on the subject, including the following:

Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877
by Eric Foner

The Strange Career of Jim Crow    
by C. Vann Woodward

Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Civil War
by Richard Taylor

Reconstruction after the Civil War
by John Hope Franklin

Masters without Slaves: Southern Planters in the Civil War and Reconstruction
by James L. Roark

If you can get any of these at your library, they may be quite helpful.

The political changes after the war were quite stark.  Radical Republicans held military control of most of the South.  Most southern white were denied the right to vote because of their participation in the rebellion.  Blacks were granted the right to vote and many went from being slaves to government officials quite rapidly.  Many of the white government officials of that time were northern Carpetbaggers that came from the north with the goal of either changing the local order, or simply enriching themselves.  There were a number of attempts to grant property or to give education and training to the former slaves to allow them a chance to gain an equitable stake in society.  That political change, however, proved to be short lived.  Within a few years, northerners were ready to end military occupation and allow southern whites to return to the control of their States.  The numbers of black officials in government fell off quickly.  This was sped along by efforts by the white majorities in the South to disenfranchise black voters through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests, and other methods.

Economic changes after the war saw great loss for southern whites, but little gains for southern blacks.  Many wealthy plantation owners lost most of their wealthy by supporting the Confederacy and losing all their slave property.  Many were forced from their estates by high property taxes imposed by Reconstruction governments after the war.  However, most of that property ended up going to northern carpetbaggers or other interests friendly to the Republican governments, not the former slaves.  

The social changes following the War might have actually been worse for the former slaves.  There was a feeling of change for a few years during reconstruction, but after the southern whites took back control of State and local governments, new laws kept blacks in a position of virtual slavery.  Peonage and Sharecropping laws kept black workers in constant debt to white land owners.  They were often cheated of out their pay and because whites controlled the Courts, had nowhere to turn for redress.  If they tried to leave, the while landowner could have them arrested for trying to escape without paying debts and they could be arrested, put on a chain gang, and forced to do the labor for free.  Prior to the war, black slaves certainly had a subservient place in the social order, but they tended to live with the whites on the plantations and worked closely with them.  In the decades following the War, slaves lived under strict segregation laws which limited contact with whites in many situations except if they were working as domestic servants.  Blacks were often forced to live in their own segregated slums in the worst parts of town and to travel to their work each day.

As far as relationships between the people of the north and south, once Reconstruction ended, the north really stopped focusing on the South and left it to the locals to resolve the issues any way they wished.  It was not until the civil rights movement of the 20th century that many of these issues were again addressed in a serious way.

I hope this helps!
- Mike  

U.S. History

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Michael Troy


I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.


I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.


J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

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