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Reconstruction

The Radical Republican Governments in the South

The radical Republican governments in the South attempted to deal constructively with the problems left by the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. Led by so-called carpetbaggers (Northerners who settled in the South) and scalawags (Southern whites in the Republican party) and freedmen, they began to rebuild the Southern economy and society. Agricultural production was restored, roads rebuilt, a more equitable tax system adopted, and schooling extended to blacks and poor whites. The freedmen's civil and political rights were guaranteed, and blacks were able to participate in the political and economic life of the South as full citizens for the first time.

The bitterness engendered by the Civil War remained, however, and most Southern whites objected strongly to the former slaves' new role in society. Organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan arose. Their acts of violence kept African Americans and white Republicans from voting, and gradually the radical Republican governments were overthrown. Their collapse was hastened by the death of the old radical leaders in Congress, such as Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner, and by the revelation of internal corruption in the radical Republican governments; the Grant administration was compelled to lessen its support of them because of growing criticism in the North of corruption in the federal government itself.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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