In The New View of Reconstruction, Eric Foner says that even though Reconstruction failed to meet the goals of Radical Republicans, painlessly rebuild the South, and give the freed blacks complete rights and opportunities, Reconstruction did give African Americans some new chances and a brief taste of a free society. Political, social, and economic progress was made by blacks through the 14th and 15th amendments. Good things came out of the chaotic period of Reconstruction. The South actually was made more democratic than ever before.
Public schools for blacks were established, blacks were granted full citizenship, family ties were strengthened, and blacks were able to hold political offices. Many whites in the North and South supported civil rights amendments and wanted to help the blacks and Foner believes that Reconstruction was a “splendid failure”. LaWanda Cox, however, disagrees. In Reflections on the limits of the Possible, she states that even Lincoln might not have been able to make the period of Reconstruction successful. It was a time of economical hardships for both blacks and whites in the South.
A combination of poor crops and not enough land for the African Americans made many go into subsistence farming, which led to poverty. There was much distrust in Congress and many different opinions that would make it difficult for Lincoln to settle. The economy of the South during and following the Civil War depended on King Cotton which crippled them severely. . Johnson, who wasn’t fit for the task, did what he could, though not much was splendid about his job of doing it, as the word “failure” tells.
However, Foner argues that though there were a lot of bad sides to Reconstruction, what’s important is not how little was accomplished, but how far the former slaves moved toward freedom and independence in a short time, and how large a role African Americans played in shaping Reconstruction. During Reconstruction, blacks won a certain amount of legal and political power in the South, and even though they held that power only temporarily, they used it for a time to strengthen their economic and social positions and to win a position of limited but genuine independence.
Although Reconstruction had not accomplished radical goals, Eric Foner still believed that Reconstruction had been a time of real progress because blacks got to see their future as free citizens even temporarily, and it showed them the possibility of being hard working Americans. The Freedman’s Bureau gave black men the right to vote, and it also educated many Africans Americans. It gave blacks a glimpse of what freedom could be, which motivated them to work even harder for their rights. Even though the reconstruction seemed to be a failure, it was actually a great step toward a new America.