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Reconstruction After the Civil War

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The period of Reconstruction began during the Civil War and ended in 1877. This era is known for the advancements made in favor of racial equality. These improvements included the fourteenth amendment (citizenship and equal protection under the law to blacks) and the fifteenth amendment (voting rights for blacks) of the Constitution. Yet, with the end of Reconstruction in 1877, the Republican Party lost control of the southern governments and the Democratic Party took over. This shift in power was supposed to mark the beginning of the "New South" in which the virtues of thrift, industry, and progress would become the model characteristics of the South. However, the changes in the South from 1877-1900 reflected traditional attitudes and policies, such as power in the hands of a conservative oligarchy, the maintaining of agriculture over industry as the primary source of economics, and the return of white supremacy, rather than the vision of the New South.

With the change in political power from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party in 1877, the South again was back to mainly all white governments which eliminated any political gains blacks had made during Reconstruction. Another change caused by the new Democratic Party was a return to a powerful, conservative oligarchy, which had been the case before the Civil War. They called themselves the "Redeemers" but many people called them the "Bourbons" because they were aristocrats. This ruling class consisted of both the old planter elite and new leaders that were merchants, industrialists, railroad developers, and financiers. Despite their promise to economic development, they decreased spending, lowered taxes, and lessened state services. Many people formed groups and movements (the Readjuster movement) in protest of these choices by the "Redeemers," yet all of these movements failed and the "Bourbons" remained in control. Although the return of control to a powerful oligarchy was supposed to help the progress of the New South, their traditionalist beliefs and stingy economics only brought a return of a government similar to which ran the South before the Civil War.

A major goal of the New South was to improve the region's industrial economy. This objective helped the South increase its number of textile factories dramatically. Since cotton planters had to transport their shipments to northern factories in the past, these new factories helped the southern farmers tremendously. Other industries that experienced an increase in production after Reconstruction were the tobacco-processing industry (James B. Duke founded the American Tobacco Company), the iron plus steel industry that boomed out of Birmingham, Alabama, and the railroad companies that helped the South double its amount of trackage from 1880-1890. Despite these industrial advancements, the South would never reach the impact industrialization had on the Northern economy. Also, in those areas of improvement, such as textiles and railroads, a large amount of the financial resources came from the North. The South's major economic source was still agriculture and this was in bad shape too. Tenant farmers, including debt peonage and the crop-lien system, made up 70% of the Southern planters by 1900. Many African Americans who had just been freed from slavery made up this percentage. They now were apart of a binding economic slavery. Although the South had improved its industry, it had not

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