Civil War and Reconstruction
Trends and Themes of the Era
- After Lincoln’s election, sectional differences
over slavery and the question of states’ rights versus federal power
erupted in the Civil War.
- After the war, Lincoln favored a mild Reconstruction of
the South, though Congress was dominated by Radical Republicans
who favored a harsher reconstruction plan in order to punish the
South for secession and for slavery. After Lincoln’s assassination,
Congress overwhelmed Andrew Johnson, who had taken over as president,
and instituted punitive Reconstruction policies.
- Blacks in the South, freed during the Civil
War, gained considerable rights during radical Reconstruction. Through
both legal and illegal means, Southerners fought against the granting
of these rights. After the failure of radical Reconstruction, Southerners
used the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision
to institutionalize segregation and the discrimination of blacks.