Fables of the Reconstruction

A letter writer stated in the Feb. 6 issue of Charleston City Paper that “Reconstruction was a terrible and horrible time, and those in power were evil….”

President Lincoln decreed that every former slave would get some land and a mule to work the land after the war was over. His successor, President Johnson, was a southerner (from Tennessee) and had no love for the black people. He rescinded that decree. The white southerners, after the war, carried on as if the war never happened and as if the blacks were not freed.

Although there were no more slaves de jure, there were plenty of slaves de facto. Blacks were kicked off the lands that Lincoln gave them or were used to work the land for the whites who took possession. Many blacks and people who supported them, or went south to investigate, were killed. President Johnson couldn’t care less. This got so egregious that Congress decided to enact laws resulting in what we now call Reconstruction. Johnson vetoed every one of them, but Congress overrode the vetoes. (This was the real reason for Johnson’s impeachment.)

So, if “Reconstruction was a terrible and horrible time, and those in power were evil,” what do you call the continuing maltreatment of blacks and the killings and massacres that occurred in the hiatus between the end of the war and Reconstruction? Drastic acts called for drastic measures.

Irving S. Rosenfeld

James Island

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