The First and Second Reconstructions held out the great
promise of rectifying racial injustices in America. The First

Reconstruction, emerging out of the chaos of the Civil War had as its
goals equality for Blacks in voting, politics, and use of public
facilities. The Second Reconstruction emerging out of the booming
economy of the 1950's, had as its goals, integration, the end of Jim

Crow and the more amorphous goal of making America a biracial
democracy where, "the sons of former slaves and the sons of former
slave holders will be able to sit down together at the table of
brotherhood." Even though both movements, were borne of high hopes
they failed in bringing about their goals. Born in hope, they died in
despair, as both movements saw many of their gains washed away. I
propose to examine why they failed in realizing their goals. My thesis
is that failure to incorporate economic justice for Blacks in both
movements led to the failure of the First and Second Reconstruction.

The First Reconstruction came after the Civil War and lasted
till 1877. The political, social, and economic conditions after the

Civil War defined the goals of the First Reconstruction. At this time
the Congress was divided politically on issues that grew out of the

Civil War: Black equality, rebuilding the South, readmitting Southern
states to Union, and deciding who would control government.1 Socially,
the South was in chaos. Newly emancipated slaves wandered the South
after having left their former masters, and the White population was
spiritually devastated, uneasy about what lay ahead. Economically, the

South was also devastated: plantations lay ruined, railroads torn up,
the system of slave labor in shambles, and cities burnt down. The
economic condition of ex-slaves after the Civil War was just as
uncertain; many had left former masters and roamed the
highways.2

Amid the post Civil War chaos, various political groups were
scrambling to further their agendas. First, Southern Democrats, a
party comprised of leaders of the confederacy and other wealthy

Southern whites, sought to end what they perceived as Northern
domination of the South. They also sought to institute Black Codes, by
limiting the rights of Blacks to move, vote, travel, and change jobs,3
which like slavery, would provide an adequate and cheap labor supply
for plantations. Second, Moderate Republicans wanted to pursue a
policy of reconciliation between North and South, but at the same time
ensure slavery was abolished.4 Third, Radical Republicans, comprised
of Northern politicians, were strongly opposed to slavery,
unsympathetic to the South, wanted to protect newly free slaves, and
keep there majority in Congress.5 The fourth political element, at the
end of the Civil War was President Andrew Johnson whose major goal was
unifying the nation. The fifth element were various fringe groups such
as, abolitionists and Quakers. Strongly motivated by principle and a
belief in equality, they believed that Blacks needed equality in

American society, although they differed on what the nature of that
should be.6

The Northern Radical Republicans, with a majority in Congress,
emerged as the political group that set the goals for Reconstruction
which was to prevent slavery from rising again in the South. At first,
the Radical Republicans thought this could be accomplished by
outlawing slavery with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. But

Southern Democrats in their quest to restore their rule in the South
brought back slavery in all but name, by passing Black Codes as early
as 1865. Both Moderate Republicans and Radical Republicans in Congress
reacted. Joining together in 1866, they passed a bill to extend the
life and responsibilities of the Freedmen's Bureau to protect newly
freed slaves against the various Black Codes. President Johnson vetoed
the bill, but Radical and Moderate Republicans eventually were able to
pass it.7

The Black Codes and President Johnson's veto of all

Reconstruction legislation that was unfavorable to the South caused

Moderate and Radical Republicans to change their goals from just
ending slavery to seeking political equality and voting rights
for Blacks.8 The new goals, were based on humanitarian and political
considerations. Northerners had grown increasingly sympathetic to the
plight of the Blacks in the South following numerous well publicized
incidents in which innocent Blacks were harassed, beaten, and killed.9

The extension of suffrage to Black males was a political move by the

Republicans in Congress who believed that Blacks would form the
backbone of the Republican Party in the South, preventing Southern

Democrats from winning elections in Southern states, and uphold the

Republican majority in Congress after the Southern States rejoined the

Union. As one Congressman from the North bluntly put it, "It prevents
the States from going into the hands of the rebels, and giving them
the President and the Congress for