Few periods in American history have aroused as much debate as the years immediately after the Civil War, those commonly referred to simply as Reconstruction. The victorious North had to determine how to treat the vanquished South and how to make a nation whole once again. The divisive issues of freedom and civil rights became even more complex than before the War and dominated national politics. Also at stake was the balance of power among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Before it was all over, a president was impeached (though not convicted), and a rigorous plan for Reconstruction was enacted, then allowed to fade as white Southerners regained power and instituted repressive Jim Crow governments. This resource provides an overview essay on the period, six essays on various aspects of Reconstruction, a section of biographies of important players, and selected and introduced primary documents.
What was Lincoln’s view of the South and his plan for its postwar fate? How did Southern whites perceive their return to the Union? What motivated the Radical Republicans? Why did they impeach Johnson? What did the Reconstruction Amendments accomplish? How did former Confederates return to power, and so quickly? These questions and more are addressed in this handy reference source. It is the perfect starting place for student and general reader research and provides a well-rounded introduction to this critical period in American history.