Reconstruction: The Foundations of Economic Citizenship

Frank Samson

in The Oxford Handbook of African American Citizenship, 1865-Present

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195188059
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

Reconstruction: The Foundations of Economic Citizenship

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Recognizing true democracy requires citizenship rights and economic security for all its members, former abolitionists feared American democratic institutions would retain the stain of slavery if plantation owners triumphed and impoverished freed people were left dependent on former masters. African Americans, from the poorest field hand to the educated urban elite, understood with their abolitionist allies that the Emancipation Proclamation would be virtually meaningless unless black Americans possessed economic property and the means to protect it through the ballot. Economic security and voting rights for freedmen underpinned the politics of the Reconstruction period. Among Northerners, this debate had two sides: those who sought to provide emancipated slaves land to become independent farmers and those who opposed confiscating slaveholders' land. The latter group argued free blacks were being given the opportunity to accumulate property from future savings derived from wage work.

Keywords: citizenship rights; economic security; Reconstruction; plantation owners; African Americans; slaveholders

Article.  6141 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Behaviour

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