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  1863-1866 | 1867-1877


Reconstruction Timeline: 1867-1877


March 1: The North Carolina legislature holds a whiskey party when it adjourns before the state's first election with black candidates. "We have lost all hope of escaping the vengeance of the Northern people," one state senator writes, "and are preparing for the worst."

March 2: The new session of Congress begins to pass additional reconstruction laws, overriding President Johnson's vetoes and beginning a more hard-line attitude toward the South. Known as Radical Reconstruction, the new policies divide the South into military districts and require the states to adopt new constitutions, introduce black suffrage, and ratify the Fourteenth Amendment.

July 31: President Andrew Johnson tells Ulysses S. Grant that he intends to fire Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who has been a consistent opponent of the president and is close to the Radical Republicans who dominate Congress. Stanton has refused to resign and Congress has supported him through the Tenure of Office Act, which requires the consent of Congress to removals. At the same time, Congress has weakened the president's control of the army through the Command of the Army Act, which requires that all military orders of the President have the approval of the general of the army (Grant). Johnson believes the Tenure of Office Act is unconstitutional, and hopes to defeat the effort to force Stanton upon him by employing the popular Grant.

August 11: Johnson orders Grant to take over the War Department temporarily.


January 14: Grant resigns his position as interim Secretary of War after Congress insists upon Stanton's reinstatement. President Johnson believes that Grant has betrayed him; Grant now openly breaks with Johnson.

Winter: Black and white lawmakers begin to work side by side in the Southern states' constitutional conventions, the first political meetings in American history to include substantial numbers of black men.

May 16: Having infuriated the Republicans, Andrew Johnson becomes the first president to be impeached by a house of Congress, but he avoids conviction and retains his office by a single vote. He will not get the Democratic nomination in the upcoming presidential election.

May 21: The Republican National Convention at Chicago nominates Grant for president and Schuyler Colfax of Indiana for vice president; Grant adopts the conciliatory slogan, "Let us have peace."

June 22: Arkansas is readmitted to the Union.

June 25: Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina are readmitted to the Union.

July 14: Alabama is readmitted to the Union.

July 9: The Democrats nominate Horatio Seymour, former Governor of New York, for president, and Francis P. Blair, Jr., formerly one of Grant's commanders, for vice president.

July 28: The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, defining citizenship to include all people born or naturalized in the U.S., is finally ratified.

September: Black elected officials are ousted from the Georgia state legislature; "The Negro is unfit to rule the State," the Atlanta Constitution declares. The black legislators appeal to President Grant to intervene to get them readmitted, which takes a year.

November 3: Grant is elected president, winning an electoral college majority of 214-80 over his Democratic opponent. But the popular majority is only 306,000 in a total vote of 5,715,000. Newly enfranchised black men in the South cast 700,000 votes for the Republican ticket.


The Freedmen's Bureau tallies nearly 3,000 schools, serving over 150,000 students, in the South.

February 26: Congress passes the Fifteenth Amendment, which attempts to address Southern poll violence by stating that the right to vote can not be denied on the basis of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." It is sent to the states for ratification.

April: In its 5-3 Texas v. White decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declares Radical Reconstruction constitutional, stating that secession from the Union is illegal.

September 24: Black Friday on the New York gold exchange. Financiers Jay Gould and Jim Fisk attempt to corner the available gold supply, and try unsuccessfully to involve President Grant in the illegal plan.

Fall: Violence against blacks continues throughout the South; in October, Georgia legislator Abram Colby is kidnapped and whipped.


January 10: Grant proposes a treaty of annexation with Santo Domingo in an attempt to find land for freed slaves to settle. Under Grant's plan, freed slaves will be able to relocate to the Caribbean island (the Dominican Republic today). The treaty is opposed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Charles Sumner, and will never be confirmed.

January 26: Virginia is readmitted to the Union.

February 3: The 15th Amendment is ratified.

February 23: Mississippi is readmitted to the Union.

March 30: Texas is readmitted to the Union.

July 15: Georgia is the last former Confederate state to be readmitted to the Union.


October: Congress hears testimony from victims of Klan violence. Grant cracks down on anti-black violence in South Carolina.


May 1: Meeting of the Liberal Republican Convention at Cincinnati. Leaders of the group include many prominent Republicans unhappy about vindictive Reconstruction policies and corruption in government, which they call Grantism. New York newspaperman Horace Greeley receives their nomination. Greeley's earlier radicalism, high tariff views, and well-known eccentricity repel many who oppose Grant. The Democrats, on July 9, also nominate Greeley.

May 22: Grant signs an amnesty bill he had advocated. Although the final legislation is less generous than Grant had wanted, now only a few hundred former Confederates are excluded from political privileges.

June 5: The Republican Convention meets at Philadelphia. It will renominate Grant on the first ballot.

September 5: The New York Sun charges that Vice President Colfax, Vice-Presidential nominee Henry Wilson, James Garfield, and other prominent politicians are involved in the operations of the Crédit Mobilier, a corporation established by the promoters of the Union Pacific railroad to siphon off the profits of transcontinental railroad construction. Ultimately, two congressmen will be censured for their part in the swindle and many other politicians will be damaged in reputation.

November 5: Grant is reelected with an electoral college majority of 286-66, and a popular majority of 763,000.


Winter: Articles begin to appear in the New York Tribune, accusing black lawmakers in South Carolina of corruption.

April 13: The Colfax Massacre. The White League, a paramilitary group intent on securing white rule in Louisiana, clashes with Louisiana's almost all-black state militia. The resulting death toll is staggering: only three members of the White League die, but some one hundred black men are killed. Of those, nearly half are murdered in cold blood after they surrender.

September 18: The panic of 1873 begins with the failure of a Wall Street banking firm, spreads to the stock exchange, and eventually leads to widespread unemployment.


Fall: The political tide has finally turned in the Democrats' favor; they win control of Congress as stories of black political corruption, continued Southern violence, and a terrible economic depression occupy public attention.


March 1: As one of its last acts, the Republican-led Congress passes the Civil Rights Bill of 1875, prohibiting segregation in public facilities. The law will stand only until 1883, when the U.S. Supreme Court will strike it down.


March 4: Following a bitterly disputed presidential contest between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden, in which both candidates claim victory, Hayes is declared president. In a back-room political deal, the Republicans agree to abandon Reconstruction policies in exchange for the presidency.

Reconstruction policies officially end. The South codifies and enforces segregation. Violations of black civil rights will not command national attention again until after World War II.

1863-1866 | 1867-1877  

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