25 Reconstruction Era Images That’ll Change Your View Of American History

Published June 28, 2017
Updated November 6, 2019
Published June 28, 2017
Updated November 6, 2019

During Reconstruction, African-Americans were able to engage in civic life in ways that they wouldn't be able to again for another 100 years.

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25 Reconstruction Era Images That’ll Change Your View Of American History
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After the defeat of the Confederate Army at the end of the American Civil War, the South entered a long period known as Reconstruction. During this time, the Northern federal government took control of the South in an effort to rebuild industry, suppress further rebellion, and ensure the rights of former slaves under the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.

Throughout Reconstruction, between the end of the Civil War and the enactment of Jim Crow segregation laws starting in the late 1870s, African-Americans in the South were able to exercise their rights and participate in society in ways that they couldn't before — and, in many ways, wouldn't be able to again after Reconstruction for almost another hundred years.

However, while the Reconstruction era lasted, oversight of government organizations in the South helped reduce the suppression of African-American voters and, due to laws that prevented many former Confederate officers and soldiers from holding office, gave African-Americans the opportunity to serve as government officials all across the South.

Nevertheless, many African-Americans still faced violence and even death at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. Federal troops, however, were able to drive the group underground, until they reemerged at the turn of the century, well after Reconstruction had ended.

Reconstruction came to a close in 1877 when President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew federal troops from the South. Without the federal government enforcing civil rights for African-Americans, the South soon came back under the control of White Southern Democrats, who enacted a series of segregationist laws that removed African-Americans from the political process and placed them at the bottom of a legal caste system.

Above, you'll find some of the most striking images from the Reconstruction era of 1865 to 1877, a brief respite between two long periods of racist suppression in America. It was a time when African-Americans in the South were momentarily afforded, at least superficially, legal rights as citizens of the United States.


After seeing these photos from the Reconstruction era, see some of the most powerful photos of segregation and read these facts about American history you probably never knew.

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