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Virginia Studies 8 (VS8) Notes

VS8a The Effects of Reconstruction on Life in Virginia

The years following the Civil War were hard ones for Virginians. This period of U.S. history is known as Reconstruction. During Reconstruction Congress passed laws to help rebuild the nation and bring the southern states back into the Union.

What problems did Virginia face during Reconstruction?

Virginia’s economy was ruined by the war. The first major problem faced by the state was a lack of money to pay its debts. Virginia owed over 45 million dollars. It had borrowed this money before the war to build canals, roads, and railroads. To make matters worse, the money printed by the Confederacy was now worthless and southern banks had closed their doors.

The war had left much of Virginia in ruins. State leaders wanted to rebuild but they had no money. Buildings, bridges, railroads, and plantations lay in ruin. Crops had been destroyed and there was no money to replant or hire workers to replace the newly freed African Americans. This presented another problem. Millions of freed African Americans were in need of housing, education, clothing, food, and jobs.

What steps were taken to resolve some of the state’s problems?

Virginia, as well as the rest of the South, needed help with its millions of freed African Americans. To handle this problem, the Freedmen’s Bureau was created. This government agency provided food, schools, and medical care for freed African Americans and others in Virginia.

A new system of agriculture called sharecropping was also developed during Reconstruction to help solve the farming problems caused by the war. Farmers needed workers but they did not have the money to pay them. The solution was to rent land to poor white farmers and freed African Americans. These workers lived on the property and grew crops. At harvest time they paid their rent by giving the landowner a share of their crops.

VS8b Segregation and Jim Crow Laws

The Civil War put an end to slavery but other issues continued.

During Reconstruction, Northern troops occupied the South. Along with the Freedmen’s Bureau, they tried to enforce the new constitutional amendments. As a result, African Americans began to have power in Virginia’s elections. Many black leaders were elected to local and state offices. Other black leaders organized community groups. Men of all races could vote.

However, there were concerns by white citizens. They wanted things to return to the way they had been before Reconstruction. Slowly the freedoms and rights promised to African Americans were taken away.

After Reconstruction, southern states passed the “Jim Crow” laws which had an effect on African Americans and American Indians. These laws established segregation (the separation of people, usually based on race or religion) and reinforced the prejudices held by whites. Under these laws African Americans experienced discrimination (the unfair difference in the treatment of people) in the following ways:

1. “Jim Crow” laws made it almost impossible for African Americans to vote or hold public office.
• All voters had to pay a poll tax of $6.00.
• Election officials were allowed to give voters a Literacy Test. They had to pass it in order to vote.
2. “Jim Crow” laws created segregation (the separation of races, usually based on race or religion).
• African Americans were forced to use separate poor quality services such as restaurants, drinking fountains, and restrooms.
• African American and white children had to attend separate schools.

These laws angered African Americans. Many formed groups to fight against “Jim Crow” laws. They wrote letters, held meetings, and organized protests. These laws also caused many African Americans to work together to improve their lives and their communities. They began to start their own businesses and train to become doctors, lawyers, and teachers so that they could better serve the needs of their community.

VS8c Virginia’s Economic Development after the Civil War

Virginia’s economy began to grow, or develop in many areas after the Civil War. These changes in transportation, cities, industry and technology helped to improve the economy of Virginia.

Railroads were one reason cities, businesses, industry, and agriculture expanded. Railroad centers attracted factories and factories attracted people, businesses, and jobs. Whereas getting to waterways had been essential to the transporting of products, railroads were now becoming more accessible. Railroads also supported economic expansion as they crisscrossed Virginia and the nation.

With more people, businesses, and factories moving to towns and cities, small towns grew into cities and the need for more and better roads increased.

Other regions of Virginia also grew after the war. Coal deposits were discovered in Tazewell County. This helped to stimulate the growth of the mining industry. The discovery of coal also affected the economy of other parts of the state. Railroads carried the coal east to the growing seaports of the Coastal Plain region where it was shipped to the rest of the world.

Tobacco farming and tobacco products became an important industry in Virginia. With the help of the railroads, tobacco once again became a cash crop that could be sold and shipped in large amounts. Because there was a greater supply of tobacco, industries that produced tobacco products, such as pipe tobacco and cigarettes grew as well.