Columbian historian Eric Foner quotes W.E.B. DuBois in calling Reconstruction a “splendid failure.” After studying the events of the late 19th century, defend whether or not you agree with his position. What are the long-term implications?
Eric Foner, in his article “The New Vision of Reconstruction,” refers to a W. E. B. DuBois quote and calls Reconstruction a “splendid failure” (Foner, 1983, p. 6). His perspective seems to be that although Reconstruction ultimately failed, it inspired a vision of equality and peace that remains a theme in America today. After reading about the Reconstruction period, I agree with Foner’s position.
The main principles behind the idea of Reconstruction were to create a society in which men were equals regardless of race and should enjoy the same basic freedoms, such as the right to be free from slavery and the right to vote in political elections. In addition, revitalizing industry and reuniting the nation were of particular importance. Unfortunately, the equality sought by a portion of the country through Reconstruction was not to be had. “With the advent of Radical Reconstruction in 1867, the freedmen did enjoy a real measure of political power. But black supremacy never existed” (Foner, 1983, p. 2). Radical Reconstruction further attempted to give freed slaves a better life by ensuring that they would become US citizens and would be allowed certain rights under the law. Radicals even went as far as to give “Congress the right to reduce the representation of any state that did not give black people the right to vote” (Schultz, 2012, p. 280). These movements met with opposition at every step from Southern residents and organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. Ultimately, the attempts made during Reconstruction were a failure. Freed slaves experienced treatment that was only slightly different and the tensions throughout the nation remained high.
Although Reconstruction did not succeed as well as many Americans hoped, in...