Reconstruction Era

Amendments to the Constitution 

  • 13th Amendment: Abolished slavery in all jurisdictions of the United States as of December 6, 1865.
  • 14th Amendment: Granted citizenship to all born or naturalized in United States, thus granted citizenship to all formerly enslaved people.
  • 15th Amendment: Prevented the federal government and any state from denying citizens the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. It was the third and last Amendment passed during the end of Reconstruction.


Confederate General Lee’s army surrendered to the Union on April 9, 1865; the final phase of surrender took place in Shreveport on June 11, 1865. 

At the end of the Civil War, which was mostly fought in the south, the southern states were in ruin, in terms of both economy and infrastructure. The period following the Civil War is therefore referred to as “Reconstruction.” 

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded to the Presidency after Lincoln was assassinated, followed Lincoln’s policies of amnesty to the South. However, Congress eventually took over in directing the policies of reconstruction with stricter terms. During this period, Federal troops were stationed throughout the southern states. 

After the Civil War, most freedmen had little choice in terms of work; many ended up living and working on the same plantations where they had been enslaved, doing the same work they had done before, and working for the same people who had formerly been their owners. 

Violence against African Americans erupted during and after Reconstruction. White supremacy groups like the Knights of the White Camelia and the White League, both founded in Louisiana, as well as the more secretive Ku Klux Klan, were particularly notorious for their intimidation tactics.

Scrip TokensThe “scrip” system developed on plantations throughout the south. In this system, workers were paid in credit rather than U.S. currency. This credit could only be used at the plantation store. Sharecropping also became common in the South, although it was not typically used in the production of sugarcane. Sharecroppers worked a portion of the land for themselves and paid “rent” to the landowner in the form of a percentage of the crop produced. Both the scrip system and sharecropping practices kept agricultural workers tied to the plantation system, with no chance for personal advancement.

Black legislators during Reconstruction knew that education would be the key to success for African Americans. Through legislation enacted during the Constitutional Convention of 1868 in Louisiana, land grants were available that helped start Southern University. Other private and public schools were started during the end of Reconstruction including Straight University, Gilbert Academy, Dillard University, Leland College and Grambling College. 

Rosenwald schools were established by Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald as America’s first successful public-private partnership. Together they raised funds and coordinated the building of schools to educate Black children in rural communities. Between 1912 and 1934, their efforts were responsible for the building of 5,300 schools in fifteen southern states. West Baton Rouge Parish had two schools supported by the Rosenwald fund.