Was Virginia Remade?

            Reconstruction under federal government supervision lasted in Virginia until January 1870. Reconstructing the Union and constructing a new Virginia were processes that lasted long beyond the official end of military government. It was a time of difficult adjustments and also of some significant accomplishments as Virginians of all backgrounds attempted to rebuild in the radically new conditions that the defeat of the Confederacy and the abolition of slavery produced. Late nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century characterizations of Reconstruction as a time of widespread corruption and the domination of state and local governments by unscrupulous northerners (called carpetbaggers), their rapacious local accomplices (called scalawags), and illiterate and easily manipulated former slaves were serious distortions of a complicated reality.

            Freedpeople demanded full citizenship after the Civil War, but many whites in Virginia and the South objected. The compromises and eventual capitulation of the national government failed to secure a successful transition to equality and freedom for African Americans.

            The chaos and tensions that existed in postwar Virginia foreshadowed the emergence of the Jim Crow era, which codified racial segregation, and the 1902 Virginia Constitution, which denied African American men the right to vote. Not until the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century were many of the rights and privileges that emancipation had promised finally realized.