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Reconstruction, period (1865–77) when Americans tried to rebuild a stable Union after the Civil War. The deadlock inherited by President Andrew Johnson on Abraham Lincoln's death, over who should control Reconstruction, hardened with increasing congressional hostility toward restoring the South to its old position. Republicans wanted to press home the Union victory by following the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery (1865) with full civil rights for blacks, including the vote. While Congress was not in session, Johnson implemented Lincoln's policy of lenience by giving amnesty to former Confederates in return for a loyalty oath. He also condoned the Black Codes, which practically reintroduced slavery in another guise. Reconvening (1866) with a landslide victory, however, the Radical Republicans took control. Their first Reconstruction Act of 1867 divided ten southern states into five military areas, with a major general for each. Under army scrutiny, black and white voters were registered, and constitutions and governments were instituted. In 1868 six southern states were readmitted to the Union, followed in 1870 by the other four. By ratifying the 14th Amendment (1868) on black civil rights, Tennessee escaped the military phase. There were no mass arrests, no indictments for treason, and the few Confederate officials jailed were (except for Jefferson Davis) soon released. Apart from slaves, the property of the confederate leaders was untouched, although no help was given to rescue the ruined economy. On readmission, the southern governments were Republican, supported by enfranchised blacks, Scalawags (white Republicans), and Carpetbaggers (Northern profiteers). Constructive legislation was passed in every state for public schools, welfare taxation, and government reform, although the governments were accused of corruption and incompetence. The Freedmen's Bureau lasted only four years, but it did help to found Atlanta, Howard, and Fish universities for blacks. Southern conservatives, hostile to Radical Republican policies, turned to the Democratic Party; terrorist societies like the Ku Klux Klan crusaded against blacks and radicals. Full citizenship for blacks, though legally assured by the 14th and 15th (1870) amendments, was denied by intimidation, unfair literacy tests, and the Poll Tax. The Republican Party, secure in the North, abandoned the black cause. In 1877 when federal troops withdrew from the South, the last Republican governments collapsed, and Reconstruction was over.

See also: Civil War, U.S.

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