The following notes will help you prepare for questions about Reconstruction on the AP U.S. History Exam.

  • The nation entered a 12 -year period known as Reconstruction following the end of the Reconstruction. It was, in many ways, as tumultuous as the war itself, beginning with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C. in April 1865. His successor, Andrew Johnson, was not nearly as capable of a leader and narrowly escaped impeachment.

  • Reconstruction was also a time of tremendous progress for some African Americans. The Reconstruction Amendments, which banned slavery, granted citizenship to African Americans, and barred voting discrimination, offered hope for equality. A few African Americans were elected to positions of political leadership. However, a compromise between the northern and southern states in 1877 that helped resolve the disputed 1876 election not only ended Reconstruction, it set the nation on a path of discrimination that would continue for nearly 100 years.

black codes : laws passed in the South to discriminate against African Americans; precursors to Jim Crow

carpetbagger : Northerner who moved to the South and benefitted from the social and economic chaos

Compromise of 1877 : Agreement between Republicans and Democrats; federal troops removed from South, the South was given a post on the presidential Cabinet, and Republicans agreed to pull back on enforcing new Reconstruction laws in exchange for Republican Rutherford B. Hayes winning disputed presidential election

Freedman's Bureau : government organization formed to help newly freed slaves integrate into society

Ku Klux Klan : founded in 1865 by former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest; advocates for white supremacy and grew from a primarily southern group to a national organization known for using terror tactics and/or violence against African Americans or white supporters of African American civil rights

"The Lost Cause" : regional movement in which southerners looked back at pre-Reconstruction America with nostalgia and romanticized the Confederacy; led to Confederate generals such as Jackson and Lee taking on nearly mythological status

Military Reconstruction Act : divided the South into five districts, under occupation of federal troops; required southern states to ratify the 14th Amendment

scalawag : term used by southerners to describe white southerners who supported the Republican Party

sharecropping : credit system in which tenant farmers pay landlord with crops; allowed some African Americans to own property but also kept many poor whites and African Americans in debt for years

Ten Percent Plan : Abraham Lincoln's plan for allowing Confederate states back in the United States; 10 percent of adults in the state, according to the 1860 election, had to pledge allegiance to the U.S. and agree to abide by new anti-slavery laws; Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana entered the Union this way


Blanche Bruce : first African American to serve a full term for the U.S. Senate; represented Mississippi

Rutherford B. Hayes : 19th president of the U.S.; became president because of the Compromise of 1877

O.O. Howard : leader of Freedman's Bureau

Andrew Johnson : President of the U.S. from 1865 - 1869; a Southerner who wanted to make it easier for the Confederate states to re-enter the Union; impeached following battle with Radical Republicans but acquitted by one vote

Hiram Revels : first African American elected to Congress; completed the unexpired term of Confederate President Jefferson Davis for the state of Mississippi

Thaddeus Stevens : Republican who wanted Confederate land taken by the federal government to be given to African Americans

Samuel J. Tilden : Democrat from New York who defeated Hayes in the popular vote in the 1876 election but lost the presidency due to the Compromise of 1877

Related Links:
Reconstruction Quiz
AP US History Quizzes
AP US History Notes
Reconstruction Timeline
Reconstruction Quiz
Amendments Timeline
14th Amendment Timeline
U.S Constitution Timeline
Rise of Labor
The 1920s