The Legacy of Reconstruction
Reconstruction changed the lives of southerners, especially those of the many slaves who first tasted freedom during this period. Southern society changed in order to adjust to emancipation, but former slaves were still relegated to inferior and submissive positions through economic, political, and social restrictions of their rights. The social and political atmosphere of the postwar South would endure long into the 20th century.
Reconstruction Myth: The Reconstruction Myth is the false belief that during Reconstruction, Radical Republicans intended to exploit the South by forcing it into economic and political submission. Such beliefs were promoted by movies such as Birth of a Nation, and Gone With the Wind.
Solid South: After Reconstruction, the South became solidly Democratic. Once they gained control, the Democrats cut back expenses, wiped out social programs, lowered taxes, and limited the rights of tenants and sharecroppers. These white southerners remained a major force in national politics well into the 20th century.
sharecropping: It was the farm tenancy system that arose from the cotton plantation system after the Civil War. Landlords provided land, seed, and credit. The croppers contributed labor and received a share of the crop’s value, minus their debt to the landlord. This along with the crop lien system held back African Americans economically.
crop lien system: Through this system, the white southern landowners possessed a tight hold over African American farm production during much of the Reconstruction periond. Black economic rights were eroded away with this crop lien system and along with sharecropping. A cycle of dependency and debt would be the result of these systems.
segregation: Segregation was the practice held in the South after legislation made explicit discrimination in law illegal. In response to that legislation the concept of "separate but equal" dominated the policies Southern policy makers. This practice of keeping the races separate would not officially broken up until the mid-twentieth century.