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Reconstruction Period Research Forum

Understanding Reconstruction 's History

Understanding Reconstruction from our ancestor's point of view can lead to an understanding of the types of records they may have helped create.

Survival was a struggle and too many were victims of lynching, imprisonment, intimidation at the voting polls, and loss of land. While some sought help through any means available, others moved to areas of the country and state that would provide a better life (or so they thought).

What were conditions like in the parts of the (southern) states your ancestors called home? Was it occupied by Federal Troups? Was it home to a branch of the Freedmens Bureau? Did they leave records of those conditions? Was there a 'congressional investigate' into the conditions for freedmen in your ancestor's home town? Were there riots? How did your ancestors provide a living for their families? Did they buy land? Were they forced into labor agreements with former slave holders? Did they participate in post-civil war politics?
As you look for genealogical facts, look to understand the stories that led to the facts!

By 1875, Reconstruction in Texas was virtually over. What happened next is history - and only the beginning of the end.


RECONSTRUCTION. For nine years following the Civil War,qv Texas was in turmoil, as its people attempted to solve political, social, and economic problems produced by the war. Emancipation changed the labor system, and the end of slaveryqv forced a redefinition of the relationship between blacks and whites. The change in labor and the costs of the war threatened to undermine the economic power of those who had dominated antebellum economic life, which was focused on the plantation. The weakening of the antebellum elite threatened not only their economic and social position but also their political power. In 1865 Texans confronted a situation in which new directions could be taken in economic development, political alignments, and social order. The period of Reconstruction presented the old order with a critical challenge.

One of the major forces that threatened change in the state was the United States Army. Federal troops began entering the state in late May 1865. Their commanders believed that their duty, at least in part, was to ensure loyal government and to protect the rights of the blacks who were free as a result of the war. Gen. George A. Custer,qv stationed at Austin, expressed the military view when he recommended that the army retain control of the state until the government was "satisfied that a loyal sentiment prevails in at least a majority of the inhabitants." ¹

Copyright , The Texas State Historical Association, 1997-2002


State Libraries and Historical Societies usually have a wealth of information on the flavor of Reconstruction on their turfs. The Texas State Library is no exception.

"When the newly elected 11th Texas Legislature met in August 1866, the members refused to ratify either the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, or the 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship to African Americans..." ²


¹ Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "RECONSTRUCTION," (03 Dec 2005).

² "The 1860s: Reconstruction." Forever Free. Texas State Library & Archives Commission. (03 Dec. 2005)

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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