Changes after Reconstruction

The end of the Civil War in 1865 marked new beginnings for the South. One of the major changes that occurred included economic diversification.

In order to sustain the economy of the South, Southerners’ embarked on economic activities that would help them compete with the North. This led to the emergence of crop diversification from cotton which was the only source of livelihood before and during the war to other plantation crops such as tobacco, sugarcane, rice among others. This contributed to the emergence of export agriculture and the diversification of transport networks. Further, industrialization materialized through mining, lumbering, paper production, food canning and hydroelectric production. These activities were vital towards uplifting the economic status of the South.

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The end of the Civil War saw the emergence of a new resilient political class in the South. These leaders were known as Redeemers due to their input in liberating the South from the North and their immense contribution in diversifying agriculture in the region. After the collapse of the confederation government, the leadership style in the South changed from a military stance to a laissez faire government. However, the government was not able to fund education programs and thus, private bodies and individuals such as George Peabody donated funds for the programs. The Redeemers who were majorly white Southerners practiced racial superiority however they tolerated their African Americans counterparts who managed to acquire a few seats in the political class.

Race relations in the South were harmonious up to 1890s when Redeemers became more outright about their intent to continue marginalizing African Americans. Since the end of the Civil War marked the end of slavery in the South, to substitute for their labor needs slave masters turned into landlords. Therefore, blacks were required to work in order to pay for their rent and to participate in sharecropping as part of their payment for working in the farms. This was marked with social separation between blacks and whites as whites sought to infringe on the voting rights of blacks through segregated laws such as poll tax. To counter this, African American leaders such as Booker T Washington preached for tolerance and urged blacks to concentrate on economic empowerment while others like Du Bois advocated for an uprising through movements such as the Niagara Movement.