The Reconstruction Era, a period spanning the early Civil War years until the start of Jim Crow racial segregation in the 1890s, was a time of significant transformation in the United States, as the Nation grappled with the challenge of integrating millions of newly freed African Americans into its social, political, and economic life.It was in many ways the Nation's Second Founding, as Americans abolished slavery and struggled earnestly, if not always successfully, to build a nation of free and equal citizens.During Reconstruction, Congress passed the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth constitutional amendments that abolished slavery, guaranteed due process and equal protection under the law, and gave all males the ability to vote by prohibiting voter discrimination based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.Ultimately, the unmet promises of Reconstruction led to the modern civil rights movement a century later.
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The Reconstruction Era began when the first United States soldiers arrived in slaveholding territories, and enslaved people on plantations and farms and in cities escaped from their owners and sought refuge with Union forces or in free states.This happened in November 1861 in the Sea Islands or "Lowcountry" of southeastern South Carolina, and Beaufort County in particular.Just seven months after the start of the Civil War, Admiral Samuel F. DuPont led a successful attack on Port
Royal Sound and brought a swath of this South Carolina coast under Union control.The white residents (less than twenty percent of the population), including the wealthy owners of rice and cotton plantations, quickly abandoned their country plantations and their homes in the town of Beaufort as Union forces came ashore.More than 10,000 African Americans -- about one-third of the enslaved population of the Sea Islands at the time -- refused to flee the area with their owners.
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