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When 10 percent of the voters in a state had taken the oath of loyalty, the state would be permitted to form a legal government and rejoin the Union. In Mississippi, Johnson appointed William L. Sharkey, a Union Whig, as provisional governor to guide Reconstruction in the state and to organize an election of delegates for a state constitutional convention. To kill a Negro they do not deem murder. Trying to explain this defiance, Thomas pointed to prejudices seared into white minds and hearts during the era of slavery. One of the first necessities of Reconstruction was to define the legal status of former slaves.
How would Mississippi define citizenship? Which civil rights would the state legislators give to freedmen? Instead of embracing change Mississippi passed the first and most extreme Black Codes, laws meant to replicate slavery as much as possible.
Origins of Reconstruction
Blacks could not own a gun or preach the Gospel without first receiving a special license. On one level, the Black Codes made a political statement. White Mississippians meant to limit the political power of blacks by denying them civil rights. On another, deeper level, these codes revealed an economic struggle between former masters and freed slaves. Ex-masters wanted to force blacks to work as they had during bondage. Freedmen desired something else.
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They sought land to rent or own; they wanted self-sufficiency and independence from the old ways of plantation agriculture. Though most blacks wanted physical and economic distance from their terrible past, few achieved this goal. Blacks who saved money to purchase land seldom found a white man who would sell it to them.
This white defiance had unintended consequences. Declining land prices and a failing cotton market threatened the livelihood of white planters. Proud men who had withstood wartime destruction and postwar uncertainties faced spiraling debt. Over planters near Natchez, one of the wealthiest cotton regions in the world, forfeited their land to pay debts or back taxes.
Something had to give. In time, when neither whites nor blacks could achieve their economic aims, landowners and laborers compromised by creating the sharecropping system.
Reconstruction in Mississippi, | Mississippi History Now
Planters provided land, animals, seed, and fertilizer; freedmen provided labor. They split the crop. This was hardly an ideal arrangement, but it resolved an economic impasse between land and labor, white and black. Former masters were guaranteed a constant source of labor, and former slaves could work a separate plot of earth, though they did not own it. Testimony from officials like Thomas and the oppressive Black Codes convinced Congress that Mississippi and other states needed a more thorough Reconstruction.
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Congressional, or Radical, Reconstruction ensued. In Mississippi this period contained great achievements and embarrassing failures. One of the greatest successes was black participation in democracy, both as voters and office holders. At least black Mississippians held public office during Reconstruction, compared to only 46 blacks in Arkansas and 20 in Tennessee. Mississippi sent the first two and only black senators of this period to Congress. The first senator, Hiram R.
Revels , was a free black from North Carolina who served as a chaplain to black troops during the Civil War. Revels moved to Natchez in and founded schools for freedmen throughout the South. The second African-American senator was Blanche K. Bruce In Bolivar County, Mississippi, Bruce encouraged black political participation as the county sheriff, tax collector, and superintendent of education.
Reconstruction in Mississippi, 1865-1876
This local political base catapulted Bruce to a U. Senate seat in Other black and white Mississippians promoted a biracial political society. Former slave owner James Lusk Alcorn showed that not all white planters opposed progress. But Radical Reconstruction infuriated southerners committed to white supremacy. As Republicans implemented political equality, terrorist groups used intimidation and violence to halt progress. The foremost of these organizations was the Ku Klux Klan. Scholars discuss the effects that the changes brought about by the Civil War had on the identities of American citizens.
Scholars discuss the evolution of the definition of freedom for emancipated slaves after the Civil War. Scholars discuss the different visions for Reconstruction held by Congress and President Johnson. Scholars discuss how African Americans and whites initially worked together within Reconstruction governments. Get our complete unit on this important history, available in print, ebook, and free PDF. The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy. Add or Edit Playlist.
Introduction: A Contested History Scholars discuss how and why the history of Reconstruction is so contested. Part Two: Defining Freedom Scholars discuss the evolution of the definition of freedom for emancipated slaves after the Civil War.