Civil War and Reconstruction

The war ended with Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. The official news did not reach Texas until June 19, 1865 –now celebrated as Juneteeth – when General Gordon Granger and Union forces came to order the emancipation of all slaves in Texas. Reconstruction had begun.

Reconstruction was a difficult time for Texans. Residents had to pledge their loyalty to the United States, abolish slavery, and declare that secession from the union was illegal. Many former slaves found only limited opportunities for building new lives.

Freedmen became the targets of widespread violence. Texan voters did not ratify the Thirteenth Amendment (abolishment of slavery) or Fourteenth Amendment (declaration of citizenship for African Americans). Instead, Texas and other southern states placed limits on African Americans that severely limited their rights.

Texas was readmitted to the Union in March of 1870, but that did not end the tension. Texans were hostile toward the Republican Party and Reconstruction policies. A former Confederate officer was elected as governor in 1872. Texas remained a largely agricultural economy. The sharecropping system arose to replace slave labor. Sharecropping kept African Americans in poverty and under the power of white male landowners.

Old conflicts with Native Americans led to new violence. The Indian Wars pushed the remaining tribes in Texas off of their land and out of the state. Many Native American leaders were killed or imprisoned.

Texans approved a new constitution in 1876, which severely limited the power of the governor. The Constitution of 1876 remains the basic law in Texas today. Reconstruction officially ended in 1876, but restrictions and hardships for minorities continued in Texas for many years to come.

Source: Civil War and Reconstruction
Courtesy Texas Our Texas, Texas PBS

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