Failure of Reconstruction
THEMATIC FOCUS American and National Identity (NAT)
The development of and debates about democracy, freedom, citizenship, diversity, and individualism shape American national identity, cultural values, and beliefs about American exceptionalism, and in turn, these ideas shape political institutions and
society. Throughout American history, notions of national identity and culture have coexisted with varying degrees of regional and group identities.
Unit 5: Learning Objective L
Explain how and why Reconstruction resulted in continuity and change in regional and national understandings of what it meant to be American.
Southern plantation owners continued to own the majority of the region’s land even after Reconstruction. Former slaves sought land ownership but generally fell short of self-sufficiency, as an exploitative and soil-intensive sharecropping system limited blacks’ and poor whites’ access to land in the South.
Segregation, violence, Supreme Court decisions, and local political tactics progressively stripped away African American rights, but the 14th and 15th amendments eventually became the basis for court decisions upholding civil rights in the 20th century.