The first two years of Reconstruction are called presidential Reconstructionbecause Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, who had been vice president when Lincoln was killed, was in charge. Lincoln had been a Republican; Johnson was a Democrat who owned slaves. But he had backed Lincoln and decided to stick with the Union when the Southern states seceded. That took courage. He seemed the perfect person to bring South and North together again.
At the beginning of Reconstruction, things seemed to go well. Congress had created a Freedmen's Bureau to help the newly freed men and women . The bureau distributed food, clothing, and shelter to black people all across the South. Schools were soon opened for the former slaves. During the years of slavery, every southern state except Tennessee had made it a crime to teach slaves to read and write. So the former slaves were starved for knowledge. Parents often sat in classrooms with their children. As soon as they could read and write, the new learners taught others .
But it's hard to learn if you're hungry, and southern farms were in terrible shape. In 1865 the cotton crop failed. It didn't do much better the next year. The Freedmen's Bureau kept most people from starving. People helped each other, too. A former house slave found a job and brought five dollars to his old mistress each week. Northern soldiers kept order. But just looking at those blue uniforms upset many Southerners. And some whites couldn't accept the idea of a society where people were equal.