The History of Reconstruction
Background: Many Americans like to imagine the history of their nation as one of continual progress. While acknowledging that not all persons and groups enjoyed equal rights at all times, Americans often take it for granted that American history moves in only one direction: toward greater rights, greater freedom, and greater equality. This perspective makes it difficult for many Americans to understand the Reconstruction period and to place it in a broader historical narrative. The problem they face is that African Americans from roughly 1867 to 1875 enjoyed far more political influence and equal rights than they ever had before, or ever would again until the end of the modern Civil Rights Movement almost a century later. The fact that a group could be stripped of rights it once enjoyed is difficult for many Americans to accept, and so they often retreat into a false narrative, in which African Americans never gained any rights at all, and were abandoned to their fate as soon as slavery ended. In this model, the infamous Black Codes—which were in effect for less than a year—take center stage, and the various gains of Reconstruction get ignored.
Were the goals of Radical Reconstruction feasible ones?
Is it possible to transform a society drastically by government action, or might attempts to do so prove counterproductive?
Would a more gradualist approach to extending rights to and establishing freedom for African Americans have been more successful?
What would be the costs and dangers of such an approach?
Your initial post should be no fewer than 200 words in length, which does not include works cited or the questions being answered. It should address all of the components of the question in a way that demonstrates independent, critical thought and command of the required material. It should not merely repeat the material in the textbook or other sources, but should use that material as the basis for an idiosyncratic interpretation of the topic. All sources need to be cited using proper APA format. If you borrow wording from a source, the wording absolutely must be marked as a quotation.
In addition to your initial post, you should respond substantially, in posts of no fewer than 100 words, to at least two classmates and contribute to their analysis of the topic. When responding to classmates, you should refer to the material from one of the sources which you did not reference in your initial post. Identify important points which they may have missed which either support or challenge their interpretation. Explain how their views have made you rethink your own conclusions or offer perspectives which might help them regard the topic in a different way. Feel free to ask probing questions of your classmates, but, if you do, offer your own interpretation. That is, don’t just respond, “What do you think of X, Y, and Z?” Instead, respond, “What do you think of X? I think W because of V, U, and T. On the other hand some might point to S and R.” In short, the ideal response to a classmate would involve you encouraging a classmate to see things from a new perspective, even as you clarify and develop your own thoughts as well.
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