The reconstruction period roved to be among the most troubling times in the history of this bright nation. While racism and slavery were rampant at that time, the lives of many African Americans continued to be put at stake. Datelle Gene discusses the 1865-1877 reconstruction period and the effects it had on the lives of African Americans (Datelle 1). In essence, this paper gives a summary of Datelle’s “The Untold Story of Reconstruction” and identifies the historical ground at this time by highlighting a number of issues on racism.
The author’s main focus is on various issues that affected African American at this time. Among the most pertinent issues are those that pertain to the role that ex-slaves played in cotton fields, rights of free blanks in the North, laws on suffrage, and other key factors that were against African Americans at this time (Datelle 10). Moreover, the author also elaborates on the roles played by Abraham Lincoln and other leaders in helping reduce the pangs of racism. However, the increased calls to make free slaves acceptable in society continued to threaten the fights fought by our founding fathers.
In getting a dipper understanding of slavery and racism, the history of slavery and slave trade can easily be traced to the Portuguese. “Faced with the loss of this indigenous labor force, the Spanish again followed the Portuguese example and turned to the African slave trade to supply the labor they demanded the production of lucrative cash crops such as sugar.” (Keene 18). After the Portuguese slavery trade developed and the first slaves were taken to Europe, Europe saw an opportunity to expand its territories through colonialism and cheaply available slaves who would work in the vast farms used in the cash crop production. Additionally, as industrialization continued to take shape, a call to expand production and reduce the costs of labor was inevitable.
Slavery in America, however, can largely be attributed to the colonization of the Americans by Europe. According to Keene, “Colonization almost always involved the severe exploitation of native peoples, including dispossession of land and coerced labor. Eventually, Europeans turned to the international slave trade and the labor of enslaved Africans to draw the wealth from the mines and fields of the New World.” (1). With cotton production on the rise and a need for cheap labor, slavery became a threat to the sustainability of the U.S. Datelle (18) also records that “Cotton production and cotton finance dictated die harsh terms of black livelihood. The maligned sharecropping system was a financial system that reflected the risky nature of cotton.”
Even after the end of slavery, most African Americans continued to suffer from the wrath of the encroachment of racism. Dattel (15) notes that “Disdain of blacks was no isolated matter for the North. In 1862, Illinois soldiers voted three-to-one to maintain black exclusion and disenfranchisement. Blacks constituted 0.5 percent of the Illinois population. Both Illinois and Massachusetts rejected attempts to resettle contraband (slaves behind Union lines) in their states in 1862.” Efforts to help African Americans live freely did not come easy. South America was most affected as more people from the African American communities continued to suffer at these times. Nonetheless, with few representatives in elective posts and the civil service, a voice to air out the many grievances of African Americans was needed (Datelle 16). Abraham Lincoln played a great role in ensuring that most of the issues affecting this community were handled.
In essence, the Reconstruction period was a very key part of American history. The fate of the many African Americans who wished to get better lives continued to be put at stake even after the end of slavery. Nonetheless, hopes to have a better society continued to fade as more people faced threats from the increasing racism in the South. However, with laws enacted to help end the situation, hope for the black community envisioned.
Dattel, Gene. “The Untold Story of Reconstruction.” New Criterion 34.1 (2015): 12-18. MasterFILE Elite. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.
Keene, Jennifer D. Visions of America: A History of the United States. 2nd ed. Boston: Pearson, 2012. Print.