The information students receive here will better help them to understand the multitude of problems that followed. As they learn the basic facts of this period, they will be motivated to write poetry related to the achievements that came about despite the crumbling of many hopes and the onslaught of legislative and personal attacks. The following is a brief summary of the material to be covered. Much of the poetry from the years that followed had their roots in the actions taken during these times.
Though free at last, former slaves received mixed blessings from Reconstruction. On the positive side, blacks gained some political power. For a time, they served on state legislatures and a few even became members of the U.S. Congress. The Freedmen's Bureau was established in 1865. It did provide general help to former slaves including food, some jobs, and the creation of hospitals, but its most significant work was in the field of education where it started day, night, industrial, and Sunday schools. In addition, it established institutions of higher learning such as Hampton, Fisk, and Atlanta universities. A large part of the Bureau's success was the result of the ambitions of striving African Americans, the work of some devoted Bureau agents, and the help of philanthropists.
It was not long before states began to enact "Black Codes," legislation, which restored many of the powers held by whites during slavery. As Northerners became more interested in restoring power to Southern businessmen, they increasingly ignored the terrorist methods of groups like the KKK, methods that allowed anti-black elements to regain control of the South. Most freedmen were never given land, a vehicle that might have led to some lasting economic and political power. The failure of Reconstruction to solve the problems and maintain its accomplishments led to the race problems that followed.