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Reconstruction’s Failure Argumentative Essay Sample

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Reconstruction’s Failure Argumentative Essay Sample

Historical Context: The Civil War may have settled some significant national problems, but it created many more. Yes, slavery was abolished, secession had been refuted, and the supremacy of the national government confirmed. But the cost of Union victory—in lost lives, destroyed property and sectional bitterness—was staggering, and created huge new problems and tasks. Perhaps the most challenging task facing our exhausted nation was the future status of the four million newly freed slaves. After the death of President Lincoln and the failure of President Johnson, Congress, in 1867, took charge of the effort to “reconstruct” our divided nation. A large part of “Congressional Reconstruction” was an effort to establish and protect the citizenship rights of the freedmen.

The former Confederacy was divided into five military districts, each governed by a Union general. The Southern states, in order to rid themselves of these “military dictatorships,” were required to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing equal rights for all citizens—including former slaves. At the same time, large numbers of former Confederate soldiers and supporters were disfranchised—denied the right to vote. By 1870 all of the former Confederate states had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment and were readmitted to the union. In each state, the voting rights of freedmen were protected while voting was denied to many white Southerners.

And so, with many whites not voting, and union troops remaining in the South to protect them, freedmen seemed to be enjoying some level of equal rights and full citizenship. But this did not last long; by 1877 Reconstruction had ended. All Southern state governments were restored, and the citizenship rights of the freedmen rapidly eroded. African-American voting rates plummeted. Soon these former slaves fell into a “second class” citizenship characterized by a system of state-enforced segregation and discrimination.

Directions: The following essay question is based on the accompanying documents in Part A. As you analyze the documents, take into account both the source of the document and the author’s point of view. Be sure to:

Carefully read the document based question.
Consider what you already know about the topic
How would you answer the question if you had no documents to examine? Now, read each document carefully, underlining key phrases and words that address the document based question. You may also wish to use the margin of your paper for notes

Answer the questions that follow each document
Based on your knowledge of the topic and on the information found in the documents, formulate a thesis that directly answers the question. Organize supportive and relevant information using the attached 5 paragraph outline worksheet. Completely write out your thesis statement in the appropriate place Completely write out each paragraph topic sentence

The outline should be able to prove your thesis
The information in the outline should be logically presented The outline should include both information from the documents and from your outside knowledge of the subject

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