Reconstruction Years

After the Civil War ended, the United States rebuilt the southern states through a series of laws. During the Civil War, there was tremendous damage done to the South. Crops, farms, plantations, and infrastructure like the railroads were burned and torn apart by the Union Army. The Reconstruction Years were from 1865 until 1877. Some historians believe that reconstruction started when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

Abraham Lincoln

Never-the-less the Reconstruction Years tried to repair the economic and social damage of the Civil War to the Confederate and Union states. Reconstruction was officially over when the Republicans and Democrats came up with the Compromise of 1877. The compromise gave the Presidency to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in return for the end of federal military presence and Republican rule in the South.

Reconstruction of the United States Facts for Kids

  • The Reconstruction Years after the Civil War ran from 1867 until 1877.
  • After President Lincoln was assassinated, the presidency went to Andrew Johnson, a southerner. He sought even more leniency for southern states.
  • President Johnson vetoed many laws passed by Congress that he viewed were too harsh on southern states.
  • Reconstruction Act of 1867 split southern states into five military districts. The military then oversaw construction projects and protected the newly freed slaves.
  • Congress passed three new amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which included the 13th, 14th, and 15th These new amendments made slavery illegal made freed slaves and black people citizens, and allowed all males the right to vote no matter what skin color.
  • The first southern state reinstated to the Union was Tennessee, and the last southern state reinstated was Georgia in 1870.
  • Black Codes were designed by southern state governments to roll back the rights granted to freed slaves and black people by the new amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
  • President Lincoln’s plan for reconstruction was lenient to the southern states. Under his plan, southern people needed to take an oath to the Union and ensure equality for all black people.
  • The Compromise of 1877 ended the Reconstruction Years. Republicans and Democrats agreed to remove the military from southern states for Rutherford B. Hayes election to the presidency.

 The Lincoln’s Plan

There was a division within the country about what to do with the Confederate States. Some believed the right thing to do was to forgive the Confederate States. Others believed harsh punishments were needed to ensure there was not another uprising.

President Lincoln’s Plan was geared toward leniency. He was willing to give pardons to any southerner that took an oath to support the Union. After 10% of voters took the oath, a state would be readmitted to the Union. In addition, Lincoln’s plan built on his Emancipation Proclamation and required newly admitted states to make slavery illegal. Lincoln was assassinated before his plan took effect.

Battle between President Johnson and Congress

After President Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Johnson was made President of the United States. His views for reconstruction were even more lenient than Lincoln’s plan. Johnson was from the South and wanted the southern states to simply rejoin the Union.

Congress wanted to punish the former Confederate States. Johnson vetoed a number of Reconstruction laws during his presidency. Eventually, the Reconstruction Act of 1867 was passed into law. The law broke up the southern states into five military districts which were overseen by the military. The military oversaw the construction of schools, roads, and helped farmers replant their fields.

Equality for Freed Slaves

There were several important amendments to the U.S. Constitution during the Reconstruction Years. These new amendments were to guarantee freed slaves equal rights. The first was the Thirteenth Amendment, which made slavery illegal.

The Fourteenth Amendment made black people citizens of the United States and gave equal protection by law. The last the Fifteenth Amendment gave all male citizens the right to vote no matter what race or ethnic background.

New Governments

The former Confederate States formed new governments during the Reconstruction Years. Many northern businessmen and politicians entered the southern states and ran for office. These individuals also controlled much of the federal funding to rebuild the former Confederate States.

Many times these individuals named Carpetbaggers were corrupt and used inappropriate business tactics to fatten their wallets. Some southerners aided in the Reconstruction Years and switched political parties from Democrat to Republican. These individuals were known as Scalawags and often targeted by newly formed anti-black groups like the Klu Klux Klan.

The first southern state reinstated into the Union was Tennessee in 1866. The very last state was Georgia in 1870. To be reinstated, the southern state had to ratify the three new amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Black Codes and Jim Crowe Laws

As southern states rejoined the Union state and local governments passed recent state laws. These new state laws were designed to stop black people from owning land, working specific jobs, voting, and going to school. These recent laws were called Black Codes and would later be strengthened in southern states with the passing of Jim Crowe laws in the latter portion of the 19th century.

Compromise of 1877

The Reconstruction Years ended with the Compromise of 1877. The compromise included giving the presidency to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in exchange for the removal of federal troops in the southern states. This action allowed southern states to govern under state rights. After the compromise, southern states rolled back liberties and equality to freed black people.


  1. What anti-black people group was formed in the southern states to help prohibit the equality of black people?
    Klu Klux Klan
  1. Which new amendment to the U.S. Constitution eliminated slavery in the United States?
    13th Amendment
  1. What new laws were created by southern state governments to roll back the rights and equality of black people?
    Black Codes
  1. The 15thamendment to the U.S. Constitution gave what right to all male citizens of the United States?
    Voting rights
  1. What was the last southern state reinstated into the Union during the Reconstruction Years?